Judy Bolton Days

Judy Bolton Days
First annual in 1991!

Sunday, January 15, 2012


All chapters through chapter 9 are now available on this alternate site:

THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN DRAGON https://sites.google.com/site/rickbrantfanfiction/dragon


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.



South of the equator and north of Australia is the land of New Guinea, vaguely known around the world as the land of the headhunter and the missionary, the coconut plantations and steaming jungles, and nearly inaccessible mountain goldfields that attract not only gold seekers but also thieves, cutthroats, and all extreme and fanatical adventurers alike.

Rick Brant knew that before the First World War the islands had belonged to Germany and were known as the Bismarck Archipelago. After Germany’s defeat in that war, the land was given to Australia to govern as a 'mandated territory'.  Rabaul, the capital, had been a pivotal location in the recent Second World War. Occupied early on by the Japanese, tens of thousands of enemy troops and Allied prisoners of war had been present there. Not only was the town a constant destination for seekers of thrills and adventure of all kinds, but it also had proved historically important in the winning of world freedom from the aggressive governments that would have enslaved so many.

Rick tensed now as Pocka banked the Dragon and headed down toward the big bay off which lay the landlocked harbor guarded by the volcanoes and the forbidding background mountain ranges. He could see schooners, freighters, fishing trawlers and luggers, and even native outriggers as they moved through the aquamarine waters to and fro from the wharves and piers on the quay below the town. He suddenly realized that the airplane was heading directly toward the volcano that Jimmy had called Vulcan. The mountain’s monstrous plume of smoke and ash was billowing straight up into the sunny blue sky.

"Whoa ... Pocka!" Rick blurted out. "Don't go flying us into that volcano now!"

"Doncha worry, Jack!" the pilot shouted above the roar of the engine. "Just a little look-see, boys!"

"Wow!" Jimmy exclaimed, leaning over Rick to look out the port side window. "Vulcan is really blowin' his top today!"

The plane raced down toward the mountain as if Pocka were going to attack it. Vulcan's slopes were all of a dull brownish gray, probably leagues deep with ash, Rick figured. Banking even more steeply, the Dragon flew right to the rim of the volcano's pit.

"Yowzuz!" Scotty chuckled uneasily, peering into the very center as the plane wing-hopped the rim. "There's the fires of Hades, right down in there, chums!"

Rick caught a quick glimpse of what looked like 'fire and brimstone' before Vulcan's thundering plume got in the way and Pocka had to level off and fly outward to escape its massive width.

Then the Dragon shot across the harbor entrance and Pocka boomed, "Hey, you blighters! How about a couple rollovers on the way to Tavurver?"

"No way!" Jimmy exploded.

"You said more trick flying!" Rick reminded him.

"Nixit, buster! We've had enough," Scotty said in growling tones, leaning forward.

"Okay, okay," Pocka laughed, acing right straight down now at the smoking Tavurver. “No rollovers. Just a hop, a skip, and a jump!"

Then, before the boys even knew what was happening, the plane seemingly fell straight down with a mighty whoosh, banged hard as if it had hit a rock bottom, bopped back up high with a soaring climb, fell again in the same manner and then banked sharply as the boys all shouted and yelled and Pocka laughed at them.

"Sheez!" Rick couldn't help but start laughing too, even though every joint in his body felt like it had just been jarred loose. "Man, that was like a bucking bronco!"

Jimmy's eyes were wide with disbelief. "I thought the plane was gonna break in half!"

"The pilot is gonna get broke in half!" Scotty jeered, but a twinkling in his eyes belied his tone.

Pocka turned back to look at them with another wolfish grin. "Just a little dip into Tavurver, boys, and then I'll put a freeze on it."

And with that, he turned back to face the looming volcano and shot the plane down at its rim. The boys all pushed back, teeth gritting, hands gripping the arm rests, as the Dragon flew into the volcano, down past the rim and into its monstrous fiery pit.

Rick saw them engulfed by flaming light and shadow as the plane circled the mountain's interior, barely missing the billowing smoke rising from the cauldron below.

"Awesome ...," he heard Jimmy breathe, amazed, thrilled, frightened.

Scotty gaped around at the flickering flaming darkness, for once in his life totally speechless.

Rick's heart was thumping from the brazen danger and terror of flying into an active volcano and, too, from the absolute mind-boggling thrill of it!

"Way to go, Pocka!" he heard himself gush enthusiastically. "This is a total killer diller!"

Pocka kept on chuckling. "I knew I could get you to squeal happy. Whammo!"

And with that, he hugged the Dragon close to the shaft of hot billowing ash and flew circling around it up and out of the cone into the blue sunny daylight. As the plume widened even further, he flew off away from it and over the tops of the other volcanoes that surrounded the harbor.

Rick, Scotty, and Jimmy exchanged glances, grinning at each other.

Scotty shrugged his shoulders. “He's a one-man airshow!"

Jimmy pulled at his restraining safety belt. "With a really captive audience."

Rick felt himself still tingling all all over. "He takes really reckless chances. But I sure have to give him a big tip for that inside-the-volcano dip!"

Pocka's voice clapped out as the Dragon shot downward. "Rabaul town, dead ahead!"

The plane zoomed down so fast it took the little that was left of their breath away, and Pocka tree-topped right over the town seemingly so close they could almost touch the coconut palms. Over the quay and wharves the Dragon flew, out to the waters of the harbor, close enough to see the eyes of the people below. He flew circles around the harbor, swooping and dipping, obviously announcing to the citizens of Rabaul that he had come back.

"Where are you going to land?" Rick asked, now noticing that the plane was headed back toward the smoking Tavurver.

"Lukanai Airport." Pocka pointed straight ahead.

Rick blinked. He could see the small airport just a little on the town side of the volcano where a handful of light aircraft were parked around a small wooden terminal building. He could feel himself tense up again.

"But Pocka! You have floats on this plane!"

"Yeah, man!" Jimmy joined in. "You need to land on water!"

"Right! Not on the land!" Scotty cried, as the Dragon rushed onto the shore and quickly ate up the terrain below on its way to the airport.

Pocka chuckled and guffawed and slapped heartily at his instrument panel. "One last surprise, chaps!"

The boys looked at each other in confused and anxious wonder, not knowing what to think, except that in a minute the plane, fitted with floats, would be landing on what looked like a paved runway!

Rick vaguely remembered hearing that you could land on grass with some floats, but that was pavement of some kind ahead - tarmac, gravel, or stone. It sure as heck wasn't grass!

"Wheels, fellas, wheels!" Pocka chirped out. "These floats are fitted with wheels!"

Then he flipped down a lever and seconds later made the smoothest landing possible on the primitively paved runway, chuckling to himself as the boys slumped back in relief.

"That's right," Rick sighed. "Some floats have wheels in them. Flip the switch and they come out for landing on land."

"Which, of course," Scotty jeered, "'Whammo Man' here doesn't tell us till the last possible second!"

Jimmy grinned. "Heck no. He's intent on giving you your money's worth! That or a nervous breakdown!"

The boys and Pocka were still laughing as he pulled the Dragon to a stop by the small terminal. "Well here you are, eggheads," he said, pointing down a dirt road that led along the shore. "It's about a half mile to town down that track. I don't see any taxis here so you'll have to walk. Then you can begin the old beguine and get on with finding your missing friends."

"A walk will do us good," Scotty remarked as the boys loosened their belts. "We've been riding in boats and planes for two days!"

Rick turned to Jimmy and asked, "How do we get to Storms End from here?"

"We can go around the peninsula by boat or drive up through the mountains. The roads should be dry and graded this time of year."

"Is there somewhere around to rent a car or a jeep?" Rick then asked the pilot.

Engine off, Pocka stood up and turned to face them. "There's a garage by Ho Wah's Hotel in Chinatown. They usually have some to let, left over Japanese war trucks and jeep-like vehicles."

"And what about the European Hotel?" Scotty asked. “That's where Rick's dad and his friend would have checked in."

"Stay right on that shore road," Pocka instructed, "and you'll run right into it. But let me tell you," he paused and frowned a little and scratched his mop of hair. "If you're going to drive up into the hills, you'd better be careful and armed. I know you boys know the score, but there's been lots of trouble up there lately near the goldfields with the Wambutu tribes."

Jimmy nodded. "I've read about it in the papers. They don't like the gold hunters digging up all their land, or what they consider to be their land," he explained to Rick and Scotty. "They're pretty primitive up there, the Wambutu, and they've been raiding the gold camps causing trouble."

“We’ll just stay on the roads and steer clear of them,” Rick said with finality. There would be no reason to linger in the mountains and the bush unless they found a clue of some sorts that would support doing so.

The boys climbed out of the airplane and exchanged farewells with Pocka, Scotty pounding the pilot’s shoulders a few times just for the heck of it. Rick paid the man and gave him a generous tip.

“That’s for all the stunts,” Rick told him. “You scared the heck out of us but it sure was fun and totally worth it.”

Scotty and Jimmy slung the backpacks over their shoulders and the threesome crossed the runway and headed to the shore road in the blazing heat. Rick glanced around at the surrounding hills and smoking volcanoes.

“Yow!” He expounded emphatically. “It’s hotter here than ever! Do these volcanoes add to the temperature, Jimmy?”

Jimmy looked across the harbor to Tavurver and then back ahead to Vulcan. “Probably not, Rick. The smoke and ash go way up into the atmosphere and don’t normally come back down here unless it’s a really super eruption. But we’re several hundred miles closer to the equator here than down on Lateela Island, so it’s probably just that much hotter.”

The hike down the shore road offered pleasant vistas of the busy Simpson Harbour and the ring of volcanoes that surrounded it. A couple old British-make cars passed them by and also a pickup truck, its bed filled with laughing and waving kanaka children whose curly mops of hair were every shade from blond to black.

Jimmy waved at them and shouted, “Yo brotha kiddo! Dis fellas belongem allatogetha Rabaul Town lots much!”

Rick raised his brows with a grin. “You mean we’re official citizens of Rabaul?”

Jimmy laughed happily. “You betcha. For today at least.” He pointed to the town ahead and then up beyond it to the mountains. “See those ridges? The Japs dug out around three hundred miles of tunnels in those hills. They hid out in them during the Allied bomb raids in the war. They had almost one hundred thousand Japanese soldiers and countless prisoners of war holed up in there. There were so many Japanese military here it took two years to evacuate them after the war ended.”

Scotty shuddered. “I was in some island caves in the war during bombing raids and didn’t like it at all. Small caves! Ugh! I’d rather be out in the jungle facing the bombs!”

The rumblings of the volcanoes could be heard along with clangs and horns and bells from boats out on the water. From the hills up behind the town came the steady beating of drums.

“That’s the jungle wireless,” Jimmy said, noticing Rick cock his head to listen. “You don’t hear it on Lateela because the native population is small. But here the numbers are big and they communicate all day long by drum.”

The barren fields soon gave way to lovely tree-lined streets leading up into town from the water. A beautiful white sand beach led along to the quay section of the harbor with its piers and wharves and cargo sheds. European-style bungalows lined the streets shaded by high coconut palms and flowering trees, and exotic hedges of flowering shrubs fenced the perimeters. The perfume of flowers was heavy in the air.

Young colorful natives in lap-laps, sarongs, the Mother Hubbard dresses, or shorts and jerseys milled around, some with colorful flowers behind their ears and their woolly mops died a rainbow of colors. Police boys in white caps and blue shorts directed traffic on street corners and society matrons in the latest fashions from Sydney mingled with planters and businessmen in their white tropical suits.

“What a fine town this is!” exclaimed Rick, looking up the wide Causarina Avenue where they had stopped to get their bearings.

“Sort of looks like a little London,” Scotty suggested, eying the traditional-looking commercial and government buildings.

Jimmy chuckled. “Right. A little London, a little Paris, a little Sydney. And a whole lot New Guinea. That’s Rabaul!”

Flashy modern British and American cars were driving in the wide avenue. Trucks, war vehicles, and carts pulled by horse and oxen were carrying cargo up from the wharves.

“There it is!” Rick pointed out the European Hotel on the next corner. It was a large bungalow affair, shaded by coconut palms and high grotesque Australian pines. Thick flowering hedges surrounded the building giving it a measure of privacy from the busy street.

A police boy at the corner halted the traffic so they could cross and Rick led them over to the hotel. They stopped in front of the establishment and Rick pulled some bills out of his wallet and handed them to Jimmy.

“These are American dollars. They ought to go far here. Go to that garage in Chinatown and see about getting us a vehicle. Scotty and I will check out the hotel.”

Jimmy nodded and pocketed the money. “Aye, aye, suh! Meet me up there when you’re done.” He pointed vaguely to the northwest. “Chinatown is two blocks up and two blocks over. You can’t miss Ho Wah’s Hotel. It’s the center of everything.”

Jimmy took off and Rick and Scotty walked through the break in the hedge down a crushed coral path to the large veranda of the hotel. The front yard was festooned with shrubs and hedges all bearing a cornucopia of lush blooming flowers.

Scotty grunted and twitched his nose. “Sheez! This place smells as awful as the perfume counters at Saks Fifth Avenue!”

Rick chuckled, looking around at all the exotic plants. “These flowers are probably all rare tropical varieties that most Americans would go bananas for.”

Scotty grinned. “Bananas I’m all for. At least you can eat them. But all these flowers here do is … smell!

They climbed the steps to the veranda where guests were relaxing in the shade and a little breeze off the harbor offered pleasant refreshment. The front door was propped open and Rick pushed in the screen door as the boys entered the quiet lobby.

The place was nicely fitted with a blend of South Pacific and traditional European furnishings, and it looked like someone’s home. A young Chinese woman in a fashionable frock was behind the counter across the room and the boys walked over to her. She greeted them formally with a little bow and Rick said hello and then got right down to business.

“I’m looking for my dad, Mr. Hartson Brant,” he told her, “and his companion Dr. Paul Warren. It’s possible they checked in here recently, within the last several days. They were bound here for Rabaul the last time we saw them.”

The woman looked at them with wide eyes for a moment, then did another little bow. “Ah yes, Mr. Brant. He was here with Dr. Warren, I remember.” She stepped back a few paces, adding, “I will go get Mr. Wong. He talked to them on several occasion and can tell you more.”

With that, she turned and walked off into the back office. Rick leaned on the counter and let out a sigh of relief.

“Wow, Scotty,” he breathed. “At least we know they got here safe and sound.”

Scotty’s face was all screwed up and he frowned, looking around. He shuddered. “I just don’t like this, Rick. Nothing is as it seems to be. You gotta be suspicious of everything. You …”

His voice trailed off as an elderly Chinese man walked out from the back, dressed in the obligatory white tropical suit. He bowed politely to the boys and identified himself as Mr. Wong. Rick repeated what he had told the woman.

Mr. Wong nodded. “Yes, your father and his friend were here a few days ago. They spent one night as I recall.” He stepped over to a large registry on the counter and flipped back several pages. “They stayed here one night,” he added, telling Rick the date. “They departed the following morning, early and in quite a hurry.”

“That’d be four days ago,” Rick said to Scotty. “Gosh, I wonder where they went?”

Scotty shrugged, feeling uncomfortable in the stylish lobby, so different from what they’d been used to the last few weeks. Mr. Wong gently cleared his throat, then said:

“Perhaps I can help you, young man. Your father asked about acquiring a vehicle to go up into the mountains. I advised him to visit the garage in Chinatown.”

“The mountains, Scotty!” Rick said breathlessly, glancing pointedly at him. “Perhaps they started out to Storms End, too?”

Rick could feel his heart begin to thud in excitement. He struggled to control himself and was about to thank Mr. Wong when the man said:

“And there is more that I can tell you.”

Rick’s eyes widened. “What is it, sir?”

“The two men asked about Coastwatchers Hill, how to get there. It is up on the first ridges of the hills behind Vulcan. It is where the Japanese caves are, and your father and his friend wanted to go there.”

Rick and Scotty quickly exchanged puzzled expressions.

“What’s up there?” Scotty asked, frowning.

“Miles and miles of caves,” Mr. Wong answered in his sing-song voice. “Some are filled with munitions left over from the war, others are empty.” He lowered his eyes and added, “Still others bear the remains of prisoners of war.”

“P.O.W.’s!” Scotty exclaimed. “And men still missing in action. Maybe that’s what they’re looking for after all, Rick. Some mystery in connection with them.”

Mr. Wong shook his head. “No, they did not mention that. They were looking for something specific. They wanted to find the madman of Coastwatchers Hill.”

Rick swallowed hard, his eyes agog as he looked at Scotty yet again in consternation and they shared baffled expressions. Turning back to Mr. Wong, he repeated, slowly, “the madman of Coastwatchers Hill?”
The elderly Chinese man nodded. “He is a local legendary figure. One is not quite sure to this day if he really exists, although plenty people claim to have seen him over the years. He is an old Chinese man who lives up in the caves on that ridge, from long before the Japanese came. He is said to have survived even their occupation and excavation of the catacombs, so clever he is. Mr. Brant and Dr. Warren wanted to find him.”

Rick huffed out a couple breaths, literally scratching his head in wonder. He turned once again to Scotty as if the boy could possibly offer him an explanation.

“I am totally stumped, buddy,” he said, with a shrug of his shoulders, after Scotty just stared at him blankly. “I thought it was mysterious when Dad and Dr. Warren wanted to find the old American woman Annie Welles on Lateela Island. But this beats that all to pieces! What in the world could they want with an old madman who lives in mountain caves up above a volcano on this God-forsaken jungle island in the very exact middle of nowhere?”

Chapter 10 coming soon!