Judy Bolton Days

Judy Bolton Days
First annual in 1991!

Saturday, September 24, 2011


All chapters through chapter 8 are now available on this alternate site:




A Rick Brant fan-written adventure from 1959, a sequel to The Phantom Shark.
To get all the chapters, click on 'Golden Dragon' under Labels on side panel.


Rick Brant had driven the motorboat all night on the waters of the Solomon Sea, guided by the moonlight and the ever present shadow of the island of New Britain. He was filled with the exuberance of being free and the thrill of getting closer to Rabaul where the final plans would be laid in the search to find his father.

It was now early morning and the light of the moon high overhead drenched everything in silver. Far to the east on the starboard side Rick could see dawn's early bright, a peachy-pink glow slivered along the horizon. The compass on the dash pointed due north; the island coast had changed direction from east-west to north-south as it curved up toward its northeastern tip where lay Rabaul.

Scotty and Jimmy were sprawled out on the floor behind Rick, fast asleep. After their escape, when they knew the Mirandu to be far behind them, they had stopped to refuel from the supply in the storage locker. Then Rick's two friends had sacked out to rest as he piloted the craft for hours with the hot tropical wind ruffling his hair and the coconut palms swaying to and fro on the dark shore. Caught in the spell of the South Seas night, fueled by the urgency of his quest, Rick felt like he wouldn't need to sleep for the entire week to come!

The sea was calm now. The swells were gone, replaced by flat waters with barely a ripple. But Rick kept an eye out for broken water. It was unlikely there would be reefs this far out but he knew it was best to be on the safe side of caution so they'd get safely to the Meena Islands, which lay directly ahead.

"Just follow the coast." Jimmy had told him before falling asleep, "and you'll run right into them."

In Meena Town there would be a government official to talk to, someone to inform about the pirate attack on the Mirandu. And there might be a better connection to Rabaul, still a few hundred miles on, like a faster boat or even an airplane.

Rick grinned, thinking how great an airplane ride would be after this all-night escapade in the motorboat!

  Then, suddenly, he realized it was lighter. The peachy eastern horizon was streaming upward into a lemon-yellow glaze through which wispy cotton-like clouds were lazily drifting. The moonlight was gone and the few remaining stars could barely be seen in the milky glare.

With a catch of his breath, Rick slowed the boat as it unexpectedly came upon the Meena Islands, as if they had suddenly jumped out of the sea at him.  His dad and Dr. Warren had scheduled a visit to a plantation on the island of Meena in a couple weeks, the Meenas being an important station for copra and other products of the South Pacific. But Rick doubted that would happen now. His visit here today would be just a quick stop, instead.

The beauty of the islands was unearthly in the strange dawn light. He drove slowly past small atolls and coral rock islands, some with white sandy beaches where the palm trees leaned far over the shore. Low native huts hid in the foliage and shadows moved about from the rising sun and drifting clouds like players in a game of intrigue. With the sun's rays slanting on the waters, Rick could see coral gardens below of brilliant colors and fantasy formations as the skiff cruised right over them.

"Holy cow! Look at all that stuff down there!" he heard Scotty burst out from behind him.

Rick turned to see his friend still sprawled on the floor but leaning up on one of the seats looking over the side. "It'd sure be a great place to do some scuba diving," he said. "These must be the Meena Islands. They're pretty close to the coast of New Britain."

"Lots of them, too." Scotty pulled himself up to a sitting position and swept his eyes around at the island-dotted sea. "Hundreds probably."

"Three hundred and fifty-nine, to be exact," Jimmy spoke out with a chuckle, rolling over on his back to look up at the sky. "Wow, it's dawn. Sure is pretty. You've been driving all night, Rick! Tired?"

"No way. I'm too excited. How often do you get to escape from cutthroat pirates in the South Seas?"

Jimmy chuckled. "Not often. In fact, it's the first time for me, and I live here!"

"That's because," Scotty intoned in a superior voice, "you needed the company of Rick and me to qualify for such an experience. Why, we've had major adventures in such far-flung places as Tibet and New Caledonia and ... and ... and Connecticut!"

Jimmy gaped at him, brows furrowed. "Connecticut?"

"You bet," Scotty grunted, shrugging his shoulders. "That's one of the forty-eight states. Strange things seem to happen to us everywhere." He pointed at Rick. "It has something to do with Junior Scientist there. He has weird karma or something."

"You're wrong about that, Mr. Scott," Rick tossed back. "It's good karma. We managed to get through it all unscathed - even last night, escaping the pirates. I'd say good vibrations are working on our side!"

 The boys all grinned for they did indeed feel lucky to have made such a clean getaway. Rick continued to navigate between the islands, some of them looming closer together now. Barriers of coral reef could now be seen forming protective lagoons to keep rough seas away, and the sun's rays on the aquamarine waters made the abundant coral gardens below sparkle with color.

Jimmy joined Rick on the front seat and pointed to a big island straight ahead. "That's Meena Town up there."

Rick could see a low huddle of buildings on the shore, the sun winking off of metal roofs. Broken water showed a barrier reef forming a sizable lagoon . A shipping channel had obviously been cut through the reef, as there were a number of boats docked at the two piers ashore - a schooner, trawlers, launches, and even a small tanker.

"I came here a couple of times with my dad when I was a kid," Jimmy said. "You can see the reef break where there isn't any foaming water. It's big. Just stay on center and you'll go right through it."

By the time they reached the reef the dawn had dissolved into a bright sunny day. Rick easily kept the boat on course through the break and they entered the big lagoon where signs of life were already beginning to appear in the port. Native workers could be seen on the piers and up by the sheds, and a couple small trawlers were already making their way out for the day's fishing.

Rick saw a church with a steeple on the road cutting through the town. There were European-style bungalows nearby it and many native homes leading up into the bush. As the skiff approached the nearest pier, the boys saw a man standing at the end of it dressed in an official-looking uniform. He pulled off his cap and waved it at them as they neared.

"Looks like we have a welcoming committee," Scotty said, leaning between Rick and Jimmy to get a better look. "Who is he, I wonder?"

"Could be the resident magistrate," Jimmy suggested, "the District Officer. But no need to worry, these Aussies are all pretty decent. Of course, we must look an awful sight riding in a stolen boat full of weapons!"

Scotty bopped Jimmy on the shoulder. "I'll hold you personally responsible if we end up in some kind of South Sea island prison!"

"Me?" Jimmy looked at him incredulously. "It's you guys that every black-hearted cutthroat in the Solomon Sea is after, not me!"

"Whoa!" Rick suddenly shouted excitedly as he gaped ahead. "Man, do you guys see what I see?"

Both boys followed his gaze and saw up ahead, moored to the pier, a bush plane on floats that until now had been hidden from view by the rusty old tanker.

"I see it!" Scotty enthused, grinning broadly. "And I want to be in it. Whoosh! Cruising high in the sunny blue sky!"

"It's a possibility," Jimmy declared. "Some of the islands have air service now and that one looks like it could hold all three of us and the pilot, too!"

"It can hold six to eight passengers," Rick told him. "That's a twin-engine DeHavilland Dragon, made in Canada. Wow, I'd sure like to take that baby for a spin!"

The light transport biplane had high and low wings and was painted a drab military green with orange call letters on its side and a colorful national flag on its tail.

"It could have been a war plane," Jimmy mused. "It's got New Zealand's flag on it."

"Rick actually owns an airplane," Scotty told him. "A Piper Cub. It's smaller than that one and only seats two, but we fly it all over the place at home."

"I wish we had it here today," Rick said, guiding the boat to the side of the pier. "We could stop here for breakfast and then head right up to Rabaul."

"Maybe we can get that Dragon." Jimmy looked hopefully up to the man awaiting them on the pier. "This fellow ought to be able to tell us if it's available."

He tossed a rope up to the official who had put his cap back on and seemed eager to help them. The man caught the rope and fastened it to a bollard as Rick maneuvered the motorboat into position next to a ladder. Scotty fastened a rope on the stern to an iron ring on one of the support posts. The man above placed his hands on his hips and looked down at them with interest. His gaze fixed on the rifles, machete, and cartridge belts laying on the floor of the skiff.

"Howdy!" Scotty called to him, as he stooped to stash the pirate weapons and their backpacks in the storage locker. "A fine morning, isn't it?"

"I daresay it's a real topper!" the fellow responded. He was a middle-aged man with slightly graying hair and a military bearing. But his smile was pleasant and his friendliness was genuine. "You must be the young chaps from the Mirandu, eh?"

Rick switched off the engine and looked up at him in surprise. "You know what happened? Already? The pirates ...?"

The official gave him a quick nod. "We received a dispatch from Captain Ambrose early this morning. Apparently the pirates were after you three lads. Once they learned you had gotten away with one of their boats, they abandoned ship. After, of course, they robbed a few unfortunate passengers of their valuables, the scum-bumbles!"

"Ha! I suppose they had to get something for their trouble," Jimmy scoffed as he climbed up the ladder to the pier deck. "Hello there." He proffered his hand, adding, "I'm Jimmy Timateo from Lateela Island. These two fellow are Rick Brant and Don Scott from Spindrift Island, way across the world in the USA."

The man grinned, shaking Jimmy's hand and Rick's and Scotty's in turn, as they climbed onto the pier. "Well, I guess we're all islanders, eh? Welcome to Meena Town, lads. I'm Fitzroy Manders, the District Officer, at your service!"

"That was quite a tale Captain Ambrose had to tell," he went on. "You three blokes are as game as young fighting cocks! First the pirates try to kill one of you, then you steal their very own boat to make a getaway. Good show! You ought to be dead fagged-out by now, eh?"

Scotty grinned at the friendly man. "Heck no. We're rarin' to go! We have to get to Rabaul as soon as possible."

Rick pointed to the floating Dragon moored up the pier. "Is that plane available?"

Manders nodded. "It may well be. It belongs to one of our residents. He transports freight and passengers all over the islands, so possibly he can accommodate you if he's not already booked today. I can take you to his place now, if you'd like. It's still early, but he's usually up at dawn and ready to fly."

"Excellent!" Rick was eager to get on with it. "The sooner we can get going, the better."

"Then come with me," the official said, gesturing up the pier. "Pocka Poco is the fellow's name and he flew transport throughout New Guinea during the war. He's a very experienced pilot."

The foursome walked up the pier past the boats and early morning workers, most of whom were kanaka natives or Oriental laborers. When they reached the Dragon, the boys had to stop to admire the biplane. Rick could feel himself just itching to get in the cockpit and take it up.

"I've never flown a plane quite that big," he said. "But I'd sure like to!"

"Pocka bought it after the war," Manders told them. "The New Zealand Air Force has a fleet of them for search and rescue in their rugged wilderness areas. It's perfect for island hopping. Pocka's an old campaigner. He'll get you there to Rabaul before you can say 'knife'!"

As they walked on toward town, they gave Manders a brief rundown of their activities the night before. He told them that the Mirandu had got its engines going again after the pirates had disembarked, and the ship had gotten back on course. It would stop in Meena Town later in the day, but outside the reef. The freighter was too big to come into the shipping channel and lagoon.

"Those scum-bucket pirates are nothing but a bunch of wankers," the magistrate declared. Then he looked at the boys curiously. "You never know when they are going to attack in these waters, but it sure crowns all that they have a personal vendetta against you fellows. You'd better keep on all fours!"

"We sure will," Rick nodded, glad that the man didn't pry further into their affairs and ask questions he didn't want to have to answer.

They walked up the main street of Meena Town past some commercial buildings and the government office, a couple hotels, and a handful of restaurants, mostly of the Chinese variety. It was early yet and the street was mostly deserted. Pigs wandered freely, grunting and rooting, and hens scratched about aimlessly as if they might actually find something edible in the hot dirt.

The magistrate led them into the bush and coconut palms down a narrow lane that was barely a path. Here there were clusters of native homes hidden from the hot sun by the jungle foliage. Manders stopped in front a primitive bungalow similar to the ones where Jimmy lived on Lateela Island, and knocked sharply on the door.

He grinned at the boys. "Let me warn you. Pocka is a real character, capable of anything."

Rick nodded in return. "Good. Then we ought to really like him!"

The door was pulled open from within by a kanaka man dressed in short pants and a sleeveless tee-shirt. He looked to be in his thirties, tall, muscular and lean, and he had a bush of dark curly hair and bold native features. He nodded at Manders with a friendly smile and looked the boys over, his eyes resting on Jimmy.

"Gawd blimey, boy!" he rapped out, chuckling. "I've seen blond brothers before on these islands, all shades from pink to brown, but never one like you with blue Chinese eyes!"

Jimmy responded to this unexpected salutation with a proud beaming smile. "I am definitely one in a million, sir. There's nobody else like me in all of New Guinea!"

"You can bet money on that, buster. I've been all around and up and down this land, and you're an original," Pocka Poco's  laughing eyes then turned to Manders and he asked, "So what's up, boss? Where'd you dig these boys up, eh?"

"They've got pirates after them, Pocka. The no good freebooters boarded the Mirandu last night and were looking to kill them. Scotty here got shot at. Rick saved his life by thwarting the gunman." He gave him a brief rundown of the incident and the following escape from the freighter.

"Well, now you're talkin'!" Pocka grinned at the boys approvingly. "Anyone who outsmarts those wicked picaroons is a friend of mine. But what can I do for you blokes, eh? Sounds like you can sure as heck take care of yourselves."

"We have to get to Rabaul as soon as possible," Rick told him. "Like today. This afternoon. Can you fly us there in your Dragon?"

Pocka Poco looked at them with suspicious narrowed eyes. "Hmmmm ... runnin' away from pirates ... in a hurry to get to Rabaul? Are you guys on the level? Not in any trouble, are you?"

"We're as level as can be," Rick said in urgent tones. "We're on the trail of a couple missing people, my dad and his friend. We think the pirates got them and they obviously want us, too. Out of the way, you can bet!"

The native man let out a low whistle. "Blimey, but that's some pretty serious stuff!" Then he looked from Rick to Scotty and back again. "Are you boys American?"

"You bet," Scotty answered proudly. "We're from the state of New Jersey, near New York City."

Pocka nodded solemnly and then winked at Fitzroy Manders. "Then you're darn tootin' right-o I gotta help you out! If the Americans hadn't come here to New Guinea during the war, we'd all be speaking Japanese and bowing to each other all day long like a bunch of silly marionettes!"

"All right!" Rick couldn't help exclaiming, his face splitting into a big wide grin. "What time can we go? We're like totally in a hurry to get there."

Pocka checked his wrist watch. "How about in an hour? Go back to town and get some breakfast. Manders will show you where. Then I'll meet you on the pier at nine. I'll get you there hotfoot in a couple hours. We'll fly like the wind, chaps. Like the blimey wind!"

Little did the boys know how true his words would be!

Manders walked them back to town and deposited them at a small European-style hotel where the restaurant was just opening. While the boys awaited their order, the official took out a small notebook and pen from his pocket and took some statements from them about the pirate attack and attempted murder. He agreed to take care of the weapons and motorboat for them, obviously stolen pirate loot. They all agreed there was probably a stolen property report on the skiff somewhere in the islands. When their food was served the magistrate bid them good luck and left the boys to their breakfast, which they ravenously enjoyed after their long night's journey on the water.

At nine sharp the boys were back on the pier and, as Scotty went to retrieve the backpacks from the motorboat, Rick and Jimmy watched Pocka get his Dragon ready for flight. Soon it was fueled and the engine was ticking and the twin propellers whirling. Rick and Jimmy climbed down the ladder to the bottom wing and then up into the plane. There were four rows of double seats behind the solo-seat cockpit, and they took the seats in the first row behind the pilot.

Pocka was now wearing a colorful Hawaiian shirt and pilot goggles and he turned to give Rick and Jimmy a nod and a thumb-up sign as Scotty untied the moorings outside and shoved the plane away from the dock.

"Hey, Pocka," he asked, after he had climbed into the cabin and taken a seat behind Rick. "What are you wearing goggles for? Your cockpit isn't outside like on the old-fashioned planes."

As they fastened their seat belts, Pocka looked back with a wolfish grin. Rick thought he looked like a bug in a flower garden with his bushy hair and big round goggles atop the colorful flower-patterned shirt.

"I gotta look cool for the ladies, man," he rapped. "When I walk around Rabaul Town dressed like this, the marys  all come over squealin'!"

Then, he looked back ahead through his windshield and shouted, "Chins up, chaps! Time to put the ol' iron up our backs!"

The Dragon shot ahead with such a sudden thrust of power that the boys were pressed back hard against their seats. Rick's mouth fell open as the plane's upper wing missed the rusty tanker moored next to it only by inches. His hands gripped the arms of the seat and his eyes bulged as the plane shot out into the lagoon and Pocka let out a wild "Yahoo!" and pointed the craft at the reef.

"Hey, you'll crash right onto that coral reef!" Scotty was saying at the same time Rick was saying, "Jeez, man!", and Jimmy cried out, "Yow! Where ya goin'?"

Pocka guffawed as he horsed back the stick. "Up, brother Blue Eyes! Up, up, and awaaaaaay!"

The Dragon lifted in such an unexpected sharp steep climb that the thrust almost dropped the boys' stomachs right out of them. Rick had never experienced such a quick sudden take-off and all he could do was look ahead out the windshield at the blue sky above that they were screaming up into.

"For cryin' out loud," he grunted. "This is like a rocket to the moon!"

Scotty snorted, his blood leaping in his veins. "The Spindrift rocket to the moon didn't even go this fast!"

Jimmy sat open-mouthed, gripping the arm rests. "If you keep this up, that breakfast I just ate will be all over this cabin!"

"Thought I'd hit the reef, didn't ya, eh?" Pocka's voice slapped out. "This sweetie-pie can take off on a dime. If you know how to do it, that is. Whammo! Right up into the pretty blue! Howzabout it, you blokes?"

The airplane leveled off and Rick felt a moment's relief as the pressure eased. But the next thing he knew, the Dragon went into a straight line rollover and he and Scotty and Jimmy were all shouting:

"Whoa ... oa ... oa ... oa!"

"Yow! Yikes! You're killin' me!"

"Aaaaghh! Aaaiiiieeee ...."

Pocka Poco was chuckling and hooting away and he banged happily on the instrument panel as he leveled the plane. "And you boys thought the pirates were somethin', eh? Five makes you ten you'll remember this better!"

And with that, the Dragon went into a sudden downward spiral, spinning and spinning as it headed straight down toward the blue waters. Gritting his teeth, Rick could feel zero gravity as the plane plunged and spun around and around as he and Scotty and Jimmy were yelling:

"Stop it, man! Stop it!"

"Yo-o-o-o-o-o! If I get my darn hands on you, buster ...."

"Yow! We're gonna hit that water, you ... you ...!

But Pocka pulled back the Dragon and leveled her off at what looked to Rick like five feet above the water and then shot ahead seeming almost to touch the pristine blueness of it.

Rick's heart was banging. "How the heck can you do that with those big floats on the plane?"

"Skill. Total skill, chum," the pilot chuckled, and he pulled back on the stick, heading the plane skyward again.

Jimmy was groaning. "That's enough to make me want to jump out and swim back to shore!"

"C'mon, don't let it beat your ears down," Pocka jeered. "I was just sayin' goodbye to my neighbors on the island. They've grown to expect some kind of antics from me."

"Talk about beating ears down," Scotty whispered to Rick. "Wait till I get him on some solid ground!"

"You don't do that every time you leave with passengers, do you?" Rick asked in astonishment.

"Naw, nobody'd fly with me." Pocka turned to look at them. "I'm hip, boys. That scares the heck out of people.  I just figured you guys would like it!"

The three boys exchanged glances. Rick rolled his eyes. Scotty grinned and shrugged his shoulders. Jimmy made a sour expression and grunted.

"You could've warned us first," he said, managing an ornery smile. "If you're gonna do any more stunts, let us know beforehand! Jeez!"

Then Rick and Scotty and Jimmy all looked at each other and burst out laughing, but hooting even louder was Pocka, and a couple times he banged on his instrument panel for effect.

The boys knew that he was right; they would indeed remember Pocka and his Dragon even better than the pirates!

But the rest of the flight to Rabaul went without event, and the boys stomachs and heartbeats soon settled down. The Dragon flew as smooth and steady as an albatross as the boys gazed out the side windows at the scenery below. The Solomon Sea stretched starboard to the east as far as the eye could see, blue and endless in the glare of the tropical sun. Port side was New Britain, relentless jungle and mighty mountain peaks. It was a land of eerie mystery to the outer world, Rick knew, but merely plain old home to area natives like Jimmy and Pocka.

The pilot from Meena Town gave them a running commentary about the coastline and rapped out stories about his flying experiences during the war. "That's how I learned daredevil stunts," he explained. "You had to be pretty clever to stay away from those Japanese kamikaze pilots!"

He told them that he had bought the Dragon from the New Zealand Air Force after the war and was one of the first practicing bush pilots in modern New Guinea. Rick was impressed with the man's prowess in the cockpit, but he had no desire himself to learn any daredevil stunt flying.

At length, another large island came into view starboard, all dense green jungle and high mountain ranges. It was New Ireland, Pocka told them, another province of New Guinea, and they flew up the St. George's Channel which separated it from New Britain. This eventually opened into The Straits of Bismarck, a vast sea between the islands dotted with thousands of smaller islands. Rick knew that one of them, hoped that one of them, was their destination Palua Pae.

On the Gazelle Peninsula, at the very tip of New Britain as it opened to the Bismarck Straits, lay the city of Rabaul. The first sight of its incredible harbor from the sky was thrilling.

"Check it out!" Scotty pointed out the port side window. "Lookit! It doesn't look real."

Rick peered through the glass. "Volcanoes! Man, there's two, no four, no five of them! Wow, and all smokin' like crazy!"

"It's a caldera," Pocka explained, banking the plane so they'd get a better view. "A bowl-like ring of volcanoes wrapping around the harbor. They say there's no other place like it in the world!"

The beautiful harbor was indeed shaped like a bowl, surrounded three-quarters of its perimeter by mountains and five active volcanoes spewing out clouds of ash high into the sky.

"That's Vulcan," Jimmy said, pointing out the window. "There, on the southwestern edge of the harbor. And the big one on the other side, northeast there, that's Tavurver. They're the biggest and most dangerous of the volcanoes, blowing all the time."

"Vulcan used to be an island,' he went on, "but about ten years ago it blew its top and grew into a mountain from the ash and rock it spewed up. The fallout destroyed the town, buried it. But the people came back and rebuilt it. How could they stay away from such a beautiful place, eh?"

"They'll always come back to Rabaul Town," Pocka tossed in. "It could happen again and again but the people would always return. There's no other paradise like it!"

Rick totally agreed. He had never seen such a beautiful sight as the jungle island harbor below surrounded with smoking volcanoes. It was a perfect circle of deep blue waters, dazzling in the sunlight, a sight worth coming all this way just to see it. On the beach in the center was the town, and behind it the jungle easing up in waves of green darkness to the thick dense highlands beyond.

The sight gripped him strongly and he felt a sudden pang in his breast, a quick unwelcome fear. Would they find his dad and Dr. Warren here? If not, would they at least unearth a clue to help guide them on their quest?

The irony of the situation was not lost on him. Here was one of the true beauty spots of the world, glorious under the blazing tropical sun, but it was only the ugliness of evil that followed behind them and almost certainly that awaited ahead!

Coming Soon: Chapter Nine!