The Flame-Throwing Roadeater
The Flame-Throwing Roadeater
Hot Rod Comics #4
There was a devilish smile on John Dunn's usually angelically freckled face as he gazed at his favorite hot rod. The tall lanky senior at Crestwood High School could work wonders with his rebuilt piece of junk. Even Luke Anders, who owned the Midway Junk Company, had to admit this youngster knew motors from A to Z. But just now John was busily engaged watching his pal, Pete Glemby, doing a yellow paint job on the side of the car. "You still think you got an inspiration with that name?" challenged a chubby boy with streaks of paint all over his old overalls. "Roadeater! Sounds something like a demon or a dragon. There must be a reason why you picked on the name. Hope Gladys likes it."
At the mention of the name of his favorite girl, John's heart skipped a beat or two. And now his expression became angelic as though he could think of no mischief in this world. There was a short knock on the door of his garage.
"Give the password and be sure it is the correct one. Otherwise we are not in but out somewhere else," said John.
"The only password is twenty miles to the gallon and spare the oil," replied a delightful feminine voice that could only be owned by Gladys McArdle.
Pete opened the door of the garage and then bowed low so that his chin almost hit his knee caps.
"Enter, oh fair Princess and see the chariot that will take you over mountains and across the plains. And your hero will guide it to the end of the rainbow."
The editor of the yearbook at Crestwood High School called Gladys "a dream come true." She was thin and small and her brown eyes and black hair reminded you of a page boy from the middle ages. She entered the garage and took one look at the hotrod and then gasped in pseudo anguish.
"Oh, no! That piece of junk belongs in the graveyard. And I gave up a date with Hy Orren to ride with you! I must be out of my mind. You said you had a secret. Out with it."
John went right into action. He opened the door of the car and helped Gladys into what had once been a first class seat. Then he went behind the wheel and started his car. To their utter amazement the motor turned over perfectly and the two were soon riding along the main avenue of the town.
"Was it accidental or just on purpose that you left Pete behind in the garage?" demanded the pretty young girl.
"There's a motive to my madness," snapped back John. "Wait till you see the commotion this hotrod will create in our home town." John pushed a button and from the exhaust of the car came shooting tongues of flame. As he increased the speed of the car, the flames extended almost fifteen feet.
Gladys didn't know whether to appear bored, frightened, or just slightly amused. At least she knew the reason the hotrod had been called "Roadeater."
"Unless it is a confidential secret," she demanded, "you can explain to me just how this dragon on four wheels manages to exhale flames."
"Very simple," replied John, "all I did was to tap the exhaust pipe, insert a spark plug and connect the plug to the auto's ignition system. This explodes the exhaust fumes. This brain storm of mine I have called a flame thrower conversion."
Suddenly Gladys nudged John in the side, for with a side glance she had noticed the man following them on a motorcycle and his uniform was that of a policeman.
"You better slow up a bit," she advised. "I think Jim Sanders wants you either dead or alive. Since you are going to take me out to the dance next week I have a selfish motive for wanting you alive."
Patrolman Jim Sanders was furious as he took out his book of tickets. The fact that he had known John as a baby was totally immaterial.
"You can't go around this town in a flame-throwing hot rod," he insisted with all the force and majesty of the law. "Just give me your license and I'll give you a ticket."
And then Gladys had to put her two cents in and wag her little tongue. She had studied American History and the United States Constitution with Mr. Rawley.
"You can't arrest a man or give him a ticket unless there is a violation of the law. Just what law was violated. I challenge you to quote it, word by word."
The officer looked stumped and rather sadly and slowly returned the book of tickets to his pocket.
"I guess you got me," he admitted, "but when I get back to the court house I'll have the Judge look up and find out if there is a law to cover this kind of insanity."
District attorney Wendell, Judge Steele and officer Jim Sanders were three tired people. On the table were fifteen law books covering all the recent statutes of the state.
"As far as I can find," conceded the D.A. "the only thing to cover a case like this would be section 23A which states that it is a misdemeanor to throw burning substance or articles from an automobile. If the kids out here try that idea with their hot-rods we will have to arrest them, but meanwhile we can call them up and give them a warning."
It was such a pleasant Saturday afternoon with the clouds on a vacation and Gladys sitting at John's side. Only she was a bit worried.
"How can you get to Tarington and back home before supper? I trust you, but not this chariot."
"Hold on for your dear life and don't look at the speedometer. I disconnected it. Watch the Roadeater eat up the road."
It seemed to Gladys at times the car was almost flying. She made no attempt to figure out the speed. But as she turned around she noticed three men on motorcycles catching up with the speeding car.
"Just like honey seems to attract flies, I believe this hot-rod of yours attracts motorcycle cops. I think we are being pursued by three of them. And it could be that one is your very very good friend Jim Sanders. Bet you get a double ticket."
John sighed. If he were arrested and had to pay a fine then he wouldn't be able to take Gladys out to that dance. There was the human temptation to push the hotrod for all she was worth. And then he did what every law abiding citizen should do, stopped the car and waited for the three officers.
No doubt about it, the leading officer was Jim Sanders and he got off his motorcycle and looked sharply at the culprit.
"Think I am going to give you a ticket," he said in as nasty a tone of voice as possible. "Just follow me back to the courthouse. His Honor is waiting for you, and the D.A. is also there. And in case you are curious there is a third party who wants the pleasure of seeing you."
John drove back at a speed of forty miles an hour. Passing motorists tried to make sense out of what they saw. A hotrod with an escort of three motorcycle officers.
As they walked up the steps of the courthouse, Gladys showed she really cared for John.
"I can do without that new dress," she whispered, "if you need the money for a fine."
There was a man in the judge's chamber with a white turban on his head. He was introduced to John and Gladys as Sir Rajanah Bawini, ruler of a small principality to the North of India.
"His Highness saw your flame throwing idea as he walked down the main street of our honored town," explained the Judge, "and thinks it is wonderful. It could be used to burn down the weeds that are cluttering up the roads of his kingdom. He requests a working diagram of your idea. In return you will receive the highest decoration of his kingdom for service to mankind."
At that moment there was a thud as John slumped to the floor in a dead faint. And Gladys had the perfect comment.
"Just like a man!" But in her heart she knew she was going to wear to the dance, not only her new dress, but that medal around her neck.
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