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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER I

Danger in the Fog

“SOMEBODY’S going to get hurt!” Frank Hardy exclaimed.

He and his four companions paused in the darkening woods and listened as rifleshots and loud laughter rang out from a nearby ridge.

“Careless hunters,” Frank’s brother Joe said grimly.

Joe was seventeen, tall and blond, and a year younger than Frank.

“Let’s go back to the cabin,” urged plump Chet Morton nervously. “I’m hungry, anyhow.”

Lanky Biff Hooper agreed. “We can look for a campsite tomorrow.”

“Unless Frank and Joe are called away to solve a mystery,” Tony Prito needled.

Frank chuckled. “There’s a chance we will-“

Smack! A bullet thudded into a tree an inch from Joe’s head!.

For a moment there was stunned silence. Then Frank asked quickly, “Joe, are you all right?”

His brother gulped and looked at the gash in the bark. “I’m okay. But one inch closer-“

Biff Hooper’s handsome face flushed with anger. “I’m going after those fellows!” he declared.

As he spoke, three hunters came into view.

“Hold it!” Frank hailed them. “You men nearly killed my brother!”

“Why don’t you be careful?” Joe shouted.

“Sorry, boys,” one of the men called back casually. He and his companions did not stop; instead, they moved on through the undergrowth.

“Is that all you’ve got to say?” Chet bellowed.

“Forget it, kid,” another of the hunters replied. “Nobody got hurt.”

“Stupid sportsmen!” growled Joe as the trio disappeared. He added to his companions, “You fellows nearly lost one business partner.”

The five boys had pooled money to build their own cabin and were exploring the deep woods north of Bayport looking for a campsite.To relieve the tension caused by the near accident, Tony Prito said jokingly, “We’re used to the idea of losing you and Frank. Every time we start a project, you two get involved in a mystery.”

Frank and Joe were the sons of Fenton Hardy, the well-known detective. They had solved many mysteries on their own and sometimes cooperated with their father on his cases.

Biff grinned. “Amazing! We’ve been here one whole day, and you Hardys are still with us!”

Frank winked at Joe. “We may have to leave,” he admitted. “Dad’s on a case out West and we’re hoping we’ll get a call to go and help him.”

The others groaned, then laughed. “In fact,” Joe added, “we might even find a clue right around here.”

“What!” chorused the Hardys’ pals.

“Remember when Frank and I inquired at the store about a man named Mike Onslow?” Joe went on, “Dad asked us to keep an eye out for him. Onslow lives somewhere in these woods, and he may have some useful information that ties in with Dad’s case.”

“Come on,” said Chet. “Let’s eat and talk later.”

The boys pushed on through the growing darkness. Fog was beginning to rise by the time they reached the edge of the clearing where their rented cabin stood. As they crossed to the crude log house, rifleshots sounded in the distance.

Chet winced. “Those careless hunters are still at it,” he remarked.

The boys were about to enter the cabin when Joe exclaimed, “Quiet!”

They all halted, listening intently. “It sounded like a cry,” Joe said.

The others had heard nothing, and finally went inside.

“Hope nobody was shot by those fools,” Tony remarked, lighting the oil lamp.

Frank and Joe built a fire in the fireplace, while Chet started supper on a wood stove.

“This is a bad place to get hurt,” Biff said.

The boys were ten miles from the nearest town, Clintville, and the only road was steep and rutted. They had borrowed Mr. Hardy’s car for the trip, but had left it in the Clintville Garage. George Haskins, owner of the town’s one hotel, had rented them the cabin, and his son Lenny had driven the boys to it in his jeep.

“It wouldn’t be easy to get help here,” Joe agreed.

“Dinner’s nearly ready,” Chet announced. “Bring chairs to the-“ He stopped short. From the clearing outside came the sound of running feet and then a frantic hammering on the door. Tony strode over and opened it. Lenny Haskins, a lanky boy, stood in the doorway, panting.

“What’s the matter?” Tony asked the youth.

“Frank and Joe Hardy have a long-distance call at the hotel,” the boy blurted, out of breath.

“From where?” Frank asked.”Don’t know,” Lenny said. “There’s trouble on the line and all I could make out was that the person would call back in an hour or so.”

“Maybe it’s Dad!” Frank exclaimed.

“I’ll bet you’re right,” Joe agreed. “We told him he could reach us through Mr. Haskins.”

“You fellows go ahead and eat,” said Frank. “Joe and I will return to the hotel with Lenny.”

With the Haskins boy leading the way, the Hardys hurried across the clearing and down a trail through the misty woods to the road. There they piled into the rattletrap jeep.

“Hang on!” said Lenny, as they started a bone-shaking ride downhill.

Twenty minutes later the car reached Main Street in Clintville and came to a stop in front of Haskins Hotel. The telephone was ringing as the boys rushed in.

Mr. Haskins seized the receiver from the wall telephone. “Yep!” he shouted into the mouthpiece, then handed the instrument to Frank.

“This is Hank Shale,” came a voice, barely understandable through the static. “Your pa asked me to call and say he needs your help pronto.”

“Is Dad okay?” Frank asked loudly.

The answer was drowned out by crackling noises over the wire. Then the voice said, “Get here to Lucky Lode,” and the line went dead.

“Hank Shale is the name of the old friend Dad told us he’d be staying with,” Joe recalled. “But how do we know that was really Shale?”

“I heard the operator say it was Lucky Lode calling,” put in Mr. Haskins.

“That settles it then,” Frank said urgently. “Something has happened. We must take off right away and help Dad!”

“There’s a morning flight to the West,” Joe said. “We’ll have to make it!”

After some difficulty, the boys managed to place a call to Lucky Lode, notifying Hank of their plan to start out the next day.

“Better eat before you go,” the hotel proprietor said kindly.

Gratefully the hungry boys joined Mr. Haskins and Lenny at a table in the kitchen. While they ate, Frank and Joe made their plans. They asked Lenny to take them back to the cabin in his jeep and wait while they packed.

“Then we’ll pick up our car in the garage, drive all night, and make Bayport by sunup. Another car can be sent back later for the other fellows.”

After the meal, the Hardys thanked Mr. Haskins and hurried out with Lenny. Soon they were riding up the steep hill in the noisy jeep.

Joe shouted, “We’ll have to move fast to-“Crash! The oil pan of the jeep hit a rock in the road. The vehicle lurched into the ditch and stopped against a tree.

“We can soon push it back on the road,” Lenny said, as they climbed out.

“No use. We wouldn’t get far, the way it’s losing oil,” replied Frank when he saw the extent of the damage. “We’ll walk the rest of the way and you can go back for help or another car.”

Lenny agreed and hurried down the hill as the Hardys began hiking up the rugged road. Their flashlights were on, but the beams hardly penetrated the thickening fog. Often they stumbled over rocks and into ruts. The night was raw and damp.

Suddenly Joe stopped. “What’s that?”

For a second they both stood still and from the woods came a faint cry. “He-e-elp!”

“Come on!” Frank said tersely.

The boys cut into the woods on their right, and felt their way through the mist-shrouded trees. Low branches cut their faces, and once Joe tripped over a huge oak root.

Again they heard the thin call for help.

“Over there,” said Frank, “where the fog is denser.”

Cautiously they moved forward. Suddenly the cry came more loudly-from right below their feet!

“Careful,” warned Frank, feeling ahead with his foot. “There’s a ravine here.” Half sliding, the boys worked their way down the bank. At the bottom Frank stumbled over something bulky and there came another moan. He beamed his light on a prostrate figure.

“Here he is, Joe,” said Frank. The two boys knelt beside the victim.

“My leg,” the man groaned. “I’ve been shot.”

With extreme care Frank pulled aside the trouser cloth torn by the bullet. “Doesn’t seem to be much bleeding now, but there might be more when we move you.” Quickly the boys wound their handkerchiefs loosely around the man’s thigh to use as a tourniquet if necessary.

As they lifted the moaning figure, he fainted.

“No time to waste, Joe. He’s pretty weak.”

Joe peered around into the blanket of fog. “Suppose we can’t find our cabin?” he asked grimly.

“We must,” Frank replied. “This man may die if we don’t get him to shelter.”

CHAPTER II

A Suspicious SummonsTOGETHER, the boys eased the unconscious man up the bank. Then Frank hoisted him over one shoulder.

“Lucky he’s not a big fellow,” Joe commented.

He went ahead, beaming his light through the fog and leading Frank by one hand. Gradually the white mist grew less dense, and the Hardys could make out the shapes of trees.

“That looks like the oak where I stumbled,” Joe said. “I think we go left here.”

Progress was slow and uncertain. Finally Frank said, “If we don’t come to the road soon, we’d better Stop. We may have lost our bearings and be heading deeper into the woods.”

To the boys’ relief, the man’s wound bled little. Just as they were about to turn back, Joe felt rocky ruts underfoot and exclaimed, “Here’s the road!”

Carefully he and Frank began the climb uphill and struggled to the top. The fog had drifted and lightened in spots. The boys trudged on. Finally, Frank caught sight of the path which led to the clearing. A few minutes later the Hardys found the cabin, and Frank pounded on the door.

Biff opened it and exclaimed in amazement. Quickly he and the other boys helped carry the man to one of the bunks and covered him. When Tony brought the oil lamp from the table, they saw that the man’s face was deeply seamed by time and weather. Joe removed the man’s worn woolen hat, revealing a thick thatch of grizzled hair.

While Frank cut away the victim’s trouser leg and examined the bullet wound in his thigh, Joe quietly told the others all that had happened. Meantime, Biff unpacked their first-aid kit, and Chet began heating a can of soup.

“We must get this man to a doctor,” Frank said as he finished bandaging the leg. “The bullet will have to be removed.”

The victim groaned and his eyes fluttered open. “Wh-where am I?” he whispered.

Joe quickly explained what had happened.

“Sip this soup,” Chet told the patient, “and you’ll feel a lot better. I’ll feed it to you.”

When the stranger had finished the soup, he said in a stronger voice, “Thank you, boys, for a mighty good turn. I wish I could repay you.”

“The most important thing is to get you to a doctor. We’re expecting Lenny Haskins to come for-“ Frank broke off as the old man gave a start. “Is anything wrong?”

“Say! Would any of you boys be Frank and Joe Hardy?” the patient inquired in a feeble voice.

The two brothers identified themselves.

“I plumb forgot, gettin’ shot by that fool hunter and all,” the man went on, “but you’re the lads I was comin’ to see. The storekeeper in Clintville said you wanted to get in touch with me.”

“Are you Mike Onslow?” Frank queried.

“Yep, that’s me.”“We asked about you, but the storekeeper told us you’d probably be off tending your traplines,” Frank went on. “He doubted we’d catch you at home, even if we could find your cabin.”

Onslow nodded. “My shack’s pretty hard to get to if you don’t know these woods. I camp out quite a bit, anyhow, durin’ the trappin’ season.” He gave the brothers a quizzical look. “What you want to see me about?”

“You’d better not do any more talking till you’re stronger,” Joe advised.

But the trapper insisted he felt equal to it, so Frank explained that their father was a private detective and had been engaged to track down a gang of criminals in Montana.

“Dad thinks they may be holed up somewhere in the country around Lucky Lode,” Frank went on. “He heard out there that you had prospected the whole area about twenty-five years ago and once tangled with crooks who had a secret hideout in those parts.”

Joe added, “He thought you might know of some likely spots to hunt for the gang.”

The elderly trapper sighed and settled back on the bunk. His eyes took on a faraway look.

“Yep, I know the Lucky Lode country like the palm of my hand,” he murmured. “Don’t reckon as I can help you much, though. But your pa’s right-I did run up against a gang o’ owlhoots.”

“Tell us about it,” Frank urged.

“Well,” Onslow began, “I was partners with two brothers, John and James Coulson, and a big redheaded daredevil, Bart Dawson. We were workin’ a claim in the Bitterroot Hills and we sure ‘nough struck it rich.”

“Gold?” Joe asked.

Onslow nodded. “Real pay dirt-we thought we were fixed for life. By the time the vein petered out, we had three bags o’ nuggets and one of old gold coins we found stashed behind a rock.”

“Wow! What happened?” put in Tony.

“The night we were ready to leave our claim, we were jumped by the toughest bunch o’ crooks in Montana-Black Pepper and his gang. They surrounded our cabin, and we knew we’d never get away with our skins and the gold.”

“How did you make it finally?” Chet asked.

“Well, Bart Dawson was an ex-pilot and he had an old, beat-up plane out on the plateau. We’d already put the gold aboard-easier than luggin’ it on horseback. While we lured Black Pepper and his boys around to the front of the cabin, Bart slipped out back and ran for his crate. The gang spotted Bart and chased him. We heard his motor, so we knew he got away okay. Before the varmints came back, the rest of us escaped from the cabin.”

“You met Dawson later?” Joe wanted to know.

Onslow’s face became bitter. “We were supposed to meet him up in Helena and split the gold four ways.

But we never saw Dawson or the gold again. Funny part of it is, Dawson was a good partner. I’d have staked my life we could trust him. But I was wrong.”

“Didn’t you ever hear of him afterward, or pick up his trail?” questioned Frank.”Nope. Never found hide nor hair o’ him. After that, I got fed up prospectin’. So I come back East and settled down to scratchin’ out a livin’ with my traplines. I lost track o’ the Coulson brothers.”

Everyone was silent and thoughtful for a moment. Then Joe asked Mike Onslow, “Have you any ideas as to where Dad might look for the criminals he’s after?”

The woodsman chuckled dryly. “Son, there’s a heap o’ places he might look-awful big country out Montana way. Them mountains is full o’ spots for a gang to hole up in.” The trapper frowned. “One likely place was in the Lone Tree area-a box canyon part way up Windy Peak. Accordin’ to rumors, that was Black Pepper’s hideout.”

The Hardys were excited by this information. “Thanks for the tip,” said Frank. “It’s tough luck, your getting shot tonight. It wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t started out to see us. But maybe we can make up for it.”

“Right!” Joe chimed in. “When we’re out West, we’ll try to find a clue to Dawson and your missing gold.”

“That’s kind of you, boys,” said the trapper, “but I don’t think there’s much use. If Dawson really stole that gold, there wouldn’t be much left after twenty-five years. All the same,” he added spunkily, “if you’re willin’ to try, I’ll help you if I can.”

Onslow scratched his head and was thoughtful for a moment. “Don’t know if it’ll do any good, but I’ll draw you a map of our claim.”

“That’ll be a starting point, anyhow,” Frank said.

While the boys packed the Hardys’ gear, On-slow drew a map for Frank and Joe. “Here’s where the claim was,” he said, marking an X. “This region was called the Lone Tree area because of a giant pine which stood all by itself on a cliff. Everybody out there knows Lone Tree,” he added.

As Joe tucked the map into his pocket, someone pounded on the door. It was Lenny. “Are you ready?”

he asked, panting. “The jeep’s fixed.”

Frank told him about finding Onslow with the gunshot wound. Then the boys improvised a stretcher, and Frank and Joe carried the injured trapper out to the jeep. While they were placing him on the back seat, Tony, Chet, and Biff collected and stowed the Hardys’ gear. A few moments later Lenny started the engine and they took off.

“So long!” Frank and Joe called from the jeep.

“Good luck!” chorused Chet and the others.

When Lenny reached town, he drove straight to the local doctor’s office. Despite their hurry, the Hardys waited to hear Dr. Knapp’s report after the bullet had been removed.

“He’ll have to stay off that leg and have nursing care,” Dr. Knapp advised as he washed his hands. “He ought to go to the hospital.”

“I have no money for that,” Mike spoke up. “I’ll look after myself.”

“No, you won’t,” Frank said with a smile. “We’ll take you back to Bayport with us.”

“You bet!” his brother added. “Mother and Aunt Gertrude will like having somebody to fuss over.”

The injured man protested that he did not want to be a nuisance, but the boys won their point. Afterpicking up their car at the garage, they drove all night and arrived in Bayport at dawn. Quietly they carried Onslow up to their room. Then Frank awakened his mother and explained what had happened.

She smiled understandingly and soon she and Mr. Hardy’s sister, Gertrude, were welcoming the woodsman warmly.

“You look as though you’re in need of a good meal,” Miss Hardy stated. She was a tall, spare woman with a tart tongue but a warm heart.

“We’ll fix something right now,” agreed the boys’ slim, attractive mother.

As Frank and Joe hurried downstairs after the women, Aunt Gertrude clucked disapprovingly. “Flying around in airplanes, traipsing about the Wild West chasing outlaws! You boys are headed for trouble again.”

“We hope so, Aunty.” Joe laughed as his aunt sniffed and bustled into the kitchen with Mrs. Hardy.

Frank called the airport to check on their plane time and reported to Joe. “We have one hour to shower, dress, drive to the airport, and buy our tickets.”

“We can take our camping gear just as it is,” said his brother.

The boys wasted no time getting ready, and soon were on their way. They pulled up in the parking lot outside the air terminal with ten minutes to spare. Frank paid for their tickets and checked the baggage through to Cold Springs, the closest airport to Lucky Lode. Meantime, Joe wired their father.

As the brothers sank into their plane seats, Joe exclaimed with a grin, “We made it!”

“But we have to change at Chicago and Butte,” Frank reminded him.

As soon as the plane was airborne, a hot breakfast was served. After eating, the boys napped for a couple of hours. When they awoke, Joe took out the map Onslow had drawn.

“It shows the area around the claim,” he remarked, studying it closely. “But not how to get there from Lucky Lode.”

Joe was replacing the sketch in his wallet, when the pilot’s voice announced that they were coming into Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. After deplaning, Frank and Joe checked at the airline ticket counter. A clerk told them that the plane they were to board would be three hours late in taking off.

Just then a quiet voice behind them asked, “Are you the Hardy boys?”

The brothers turned to face the speaker-a well-dressed man in dark clothes. “Yes, we are,” Frank replied.

“My name is Hopkins,” the stranger said. “I’ve had word from your father that I’m to give you some important reports. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to stop by my office to get them, so I’ll have to ask you to come there with me.”

Frank looked at Joe. They had never heard the detective mention Mr. Hopkins. The man smiled. “I’m glad to see you’re cautious,” he said. “But I assure you this is on the level. Your father called me this morning.”

The boys realized they did not know all Mr. Hardy’s associates. It was possible the man was telling the truth. Both Frank and Joe reasoned that Hank Shale could have mentioned Mr. Hopkins over thetelephone, but they had missed it because the connection had been so bad.

“Whom is Dad staying with?” Frank asked as a test.

“Hank Shale,” Mr. Hopkins replied promptly. Then he added seriously, “The reports are very important, boys.” Frank and Joe knew they would have to risk accompanying him.

“All right,” Frank said. “Let’s go.”

“My car and chauffeur are right outside,” Mr. Hopkins told them, walking toward the door.

The brothers followed him to a large black sedan parked at the curb. The chauffeur leaned back and opened the rear door. The boys climbed in. Mr. Hopkins seated himself in front.

Suddenly, as the driver started the motor, both rear doors opened and two big, tough-looking men slid in, one on each side of the Hardys.

Instantly Frank and Joe realized this was a trap. Joe reached across to the dashboard in a desperate effort to switch off the engine. The two thugs pushed him back roughly.

“None o’ that!” one snarled as the car shot away from the curb. “From here on you kids’ll take orders from us. Don’t argue or we’ll shut you up in a way you won’t like!”

CHAPTER III

Shortcut to Peril

FRANK and Joe gritted their teeth, furious at having walked into a trap. The two thugs kept an iron grip on the boys.

“Where are you guys taking us?” Joe asked angrily.

Hopkins turned around in the front seat and gave a nasty sneer. “You’re both going on a little trip. You’ll soon find out where.” He added gloatingly, “We knew that you’d show up at the airport today.”

He now addressed one henchman, a flashily dressed fellow. “Robby, gag these kids if they squawk. And you, Zeke, let them see what you’ll use on them if you have to.”

Zeke, who was wearing a brown suit and shirt, opened his huge hand and revealed a small blackjack.

Without a word he gave the boys a threatening look and dosed his hand again.

The car moved smoothly through traffic and the boys’ captors never loosened their grasp. After a long ride, the car reached a wide, store-fronted avenue in one of the Chicago suburbs. Slowing up, it turned down a side street and pulled into the driveway of a very old house near the corner. The driver parked in back and the four men hustled the Hardys inside. They went upstairs to an open hallway protected by a railing.

“Get in there!” Zeke ordered, and pushed the boys into a room near the head of the stairs. There was one window with the shade drawn and a table.”What’s this all about?” Frank demanded.

Hopkins ignored the question. “Empty your pockets!” he barked.

Zeke opened his hand, disclosing the blackjack. Realizing that resistance was pointless, the brothers obeyed.

“You won’t need this stuff,” Hopkins said, as tickets, money, and keys were laid on the table.

Going through Joe’s wallet, Hopkins found the map which Mike Onslow had drawn. Hopkins gave the boys a hard look. “Where did you get this?”

“What do you want with us?” Frank countered.

Hopkins’ eyes glittered menacingly. “So you won’t talk about the map. Well, you will later.” He folded the map and put it into his pocket. “The boss’ll be interested to hear about this,” he said to his companions.

“Now tie up these smart alecks.”

With a sneer the driver of the car pulled several lengths of heavy cord from his pocket. Robby bound the Hardys’ wrists behind their backs, while Zeke began tying their ankles together.

As his henchmen finished, Hopkins snapped, “I have to get downtown. Nick, go out and start the car.”

When the chauffeur left, Hopkins said to Zeke and Robby, “Don’t forget-I’ll need one of you a little later.”

“How about me?” Robby asked hopefully.

“You’ll do.” Hopkins glanced at his wristwatch. “There’ll be a taxi here to pick you up at noontwenty-three minutes from now. Be ready.”

As Hopkins moved toward the door, Joe asked hotly, “How long are you going to keep us here?”

“Until your father drops the case he’s on.”

After a short interval there came the sound of a car driving away. Within seconds Zeke said to Robby, “Let’s go downstairs and eat some lunch.”

“And leave these boys?” Robby asked. “Zeke, you’re crazy. They might get loose.”

A crafty look came into Zeke’s eyes as he gazed at a closet. It had an old-fashioned wooden latch.

“We’ll lock ‘em in there,” he said. “If they try to bust out, we’ll hear ‘em and come runnin’.”

“Okay,” Robby agreed. “And for safety we’ll lock the hall door.”

Frank and Joe were dragged into the closet and the latch was secured. The men left the room. At once the Hardys began trying to free themselves. Frank managed to back close to his brother, and with his fingers, work at Joe’s wrist bonds.

“We sure pulled a boner,” Frank said grimly. “Dad told us before he left that the gang he’s after is widespread.”

“What puzzles me,” Joe replied, as he finally extricated his hands from the loosened ropes, and untied Frank’s wrist cords, “is how they knew we were heading for the West?”Frank shrugged as he and Joe freed their ankles. “We’ll find out later. Right now we must escape.”

Joe was already feeling around the closet. On a hook hung a slender metal coat hanger. “I’ll try this,” he said. “The door crack by the latch is pretty wide. Hurray! The hanger goes through!”

It was only a matter of moments before the wooden latch had been pushed upward, and the boys stepped out of the closet. They pocketed the tickets, money, and wallets, which were still on the table.

Joe whispered, “The hall door won’t be so easy.”

Frank had tiptoed to the one window in the room. He pushed aside the shade and looked down onto a shabby backyard adjoined by empty lots.

“Too far to drop down there,” he muttered. “We’ll just have to rush those men when they come back.”

The next instant came the sound of heavy footsteps pounding up the stairs. Joe stepped to one side of the door while Frank crouched in the center of the room.

The key turned in the lock and the door burst open. Frank charged forward, butting Zeke squarely in the stomach. The blow sent the man reeling across the hall against the hallway railing. Zeke toppled over it backward with a shriek of panic and would have plunged to the floor below had he not grabbed one of the rails.

Enraged, Zeke’s partner seized Frank by the shoulder and swung him around for a punch. Joe rushed out through the doorway. His fist landed hard on the back of Robby’s skull and the man collapsed in a heap.

“Come on! Let’s go!” Frank exclaimed.

Zeke snarled and tried desperately to pull himself back up over the railing as the two boys dashed downstairs and out the front door. To their relief, they saw a taxi waiting at the curb, its motor idling.

“Boy! We timed things just right!” Joe exclaimed gleefully.

The driver, a thin-faced, hawk-nosed man, looked at the boys in surprise as they yanked open the car door and climbed in.

“O’Hare Airport,” Frank ordered. “Fast as you can make it!”

The driver threw the car into gear and pulled away from the curb. Frank and Joe looked back at the house. As the taxi reached the corner and swung onto the avenue, the boys caught a glimpse of Robby rushing from the house.

“I’ll bet he’s mad enough to chew nails!” Joe thought with a chuckle.

“I’d like to see Hopkins’ face when Robby reports what happened,” Frank whispered.

“Can’t you go any faster?” Joe asked the driver. “We have to catch a plane.”

The taxi driver glanced at the Hardys in his rearview mirror. “Sure. I’ll take a shortcut.”

He turned right at the next corner. After threading his way through several narrow side streets, the driver came to another avenue. Here he swung right again.

The Hardys were puzzled. Although the side streets had slanted and twisted somewhat, it seemed as if they were now heading back in the same direction from which they had come! Joe was about to protestwhen Frank clutched his arm.

He pointed furtively to the taxi driver’s identification card. The photograph on the card showed a chubby man with a small button nose. He looked nothing like the hawk-featured driver.

Joe gulped as he realized that this driver was an impostor-most likely one of Hopkins’ thugs! The boys had escaped from Zeke and Robby only to fall straight into the clutches of another member of the gang!

CHAPTER IV

A Painted Warning

THE Hardys looked at each other, speechless. No wonder the taxi driver had seemed surprised! He must have guessed they had escaped from Zeke and Robby. But he had not dared risk any strong-arm tactics in full view of the neighboring houses.

Probably, Frank thought, he had driven around to gain time while figuring out his next move. Maybe the driver, too, had glimpsed Robby and was circling back to the house for help.

Joe wondered, “Could we tackle this hood without causing an accident? I’m afraid not.”

As if reading his brother’s mind, Frank scribbled a note on his plane-ticket envelope: Hop out at first stoplight!

Joe nodded tensely. Two blocks later a traffic signal loomed. It was just changing to yellow. The driver tried to beat the light, but an oncoming car made a left turn, blocking his way, and he had to slam on the brakes. Frank nudged his brother toward the right-hand door and Joe jerked it open.

“Hey! What’s the idea?” the driver snarled as the boys leaped out. “Come back!”

Frank and Joe sprinted across the street. Reaching the curb, they glanced back. The driver was still snarling at them, but they could not hear what he was saying. Then the light changed and he was forced to move on in the surge of traffic.

“He may try a U-turn!” Frank said. “Let’s go!”

“Wait! Here comes another taxi!” Joe exclaimed. They flagged it down and jumped in. “O’Hare Airport!

Step on it!” Frank ordered.

As the taxi sped off, the boys watched out the rear window. But no one was in pursuit.

“Whew!” Joe said, giving a sigh of relief. “Good thing you spotted that identification photo!”

Frank nodded. “That thug must have stolen the car from the real driver-and not just to trap us,” he whispered. “I’ll bet it was to be used for pulling another job!”

“Right! That’s why Hopkins told Robby exactly when it would arrive-they may be planning a carefully timed holdup!”It was only a few minutes before takeoff when the boys dashed into the air terminal. Frank made a hasty call to Captain Jaworski of the Chicago Police, an old friend. Frank quickly explained what had happened and told the chief their theory that the gang might be planning to use the stolen taxi for some crooked job.

“The name on the real driver’s identification card was Ira Kleeder,” Frank added.

“Good enough. We can get the license number from the taxi company. And thanks for the tip!”

Joe, who was standing watch outside the telephone booth, rapped on the glass and pointed frantically to his wristwatch. Frank rang off, and the boys raced to the loading gate.

“We nearly left without you,” the stewardess said as she welcomed them aboard the plane. The Hardys smiled and found seats.

Soon they were airborne. The two boys settled back as the plane headed west.

“I’d sure like to know how Hopkins got word we were on our way to Lucky Lode,” Frank mused.

“The gang out there must have informed him,” Joe said. “Remember-he even knows that Dad is staying with Hank Shale.”

“Another thing,” Frank went on, “why should they be interested in that map? Is there some connection between Onslow’s claim and the gang? We’d better ask Mike to send us another map.”

“I can remember it pretty clearly,” Joe assured him, then added soberly, “Why didn’t Dad call us himself?

I hope he’s not hurt.”

Frank nodded, troubled. Lunch was served aboard the plane. Afterward, the boys dozed.

At Butte they were wary, staying close to other passengers as they changed planes. No one bothered them, however. Soon they were winging their way in a two-motored craft over the frozen ridges of the Rockies toward Cold Springs, the small airport serving Lucky Lode.

The plane set down bumpily on a snow-covered landing strip. As the Hardys came out and gazed around, a sharp, biting wind hit their faces.

“Wow! This sure is different!” said Frank.

Pine woods surrounded the bleak, windswept field with its Quonset hut terminal and hangar. A helicopter and a tiny single-engine aircraft were parked near the edge of the field. To the west loomed the snowy Bitterroot mountain range.

“Brr!” Joe shivered. “Lonely looking, eh?”

“Sure is.” Frank replied.

As the brothers headed for the terminal, a hatless man in a plaid mackinaw strode toward them. “Frank and Joe Hardy?” he boomed.

He was a tall, handsome, ruddy-faced man. His white hair blew about in the wind. “I’m Bob Dodge,” he added, shaking hands with the boys heartily. “Your father’s working on a case for me in Lucky Lode. I came over in my helicopter to pick you up.”

“Why didn’t Dad come?” Frank asked.”He had an accident-broke a couple of ribs.

Nothing serious,” Dodge added, “but the doctor taped his chest and wants him to keep quiet.”

Seeing a look of suspicion on the boys’ faces, Dodge took a picture from his pocket. “Your father gave me this.” He held out a snapshot of the Hardys’ house with Aunt Gertrude standing on the lawn. “That’s your father’s sister,” Dodge said.

“Okay.” Frank knew that if the detective had been forced to hand over the picture, he would not have given Aunt Gertrude’s true identity. Mr. Dodge must be all right.

“We have to be careful,” Joe explained.

“I understand.” Dodge smiled. “There’s some stuff in the terminal I want to pick up. You two go on aboard.” He gestured toward the helicopter.

The boys started across the field. They were still some distance from the craft when a tall, thin man suddenly jumped out of the ship and walked rapidly away.

“Wonder who he is?” Joe asked.

“Maybe an airport attendant,” Frank guessed.

“If so, why is he heading for the woods?”

Frank frowned. When they reached the helicopter, he said, “I wish we knew what that fellow was doing aboard.”

Joe pulled back the door and looked inside cautiously. The boys searched the helicopter but found nothing.

Frank chuckled in relief. “Okay, we didn’t get booby-trapped. Let’s stow our gear.”

They climbed out and Joe was about to open the access hatch to the baggage compartment, just aft of the cabin, when Frank stopped him.

“Let’s play safe and check this door.”

“Good idea.” Frank took a rope from his gear and tied one end to the hatch handle. The boys backed off to one side. Frank tugged the rope.

Boo-o-om! A deafening blast rocked the craft and knocked the boys off their feet. An acrid smell of gunpowder assailed their nostrils.

“Good grief!” Joe whispered.

Pale and shaken, they examined the baggage compartment. A sawed-off shotgun had been wired and propped into position inside, evidently by someone working through a removable panel in the forward wall. The gun had been triggered by a cord tied to the door latch.

Meanwhile, the explosion had brought Bob Dodge and an older man running from the terminal. “What happened?” they yelled together.

Frank explained, and the two men examined the deadly setup with dismayed looks. Joe cautioned them not to touch the weapon so it could be checked for fingerprints. Dodge’s companion, who proved to bethe airport manager, went off to report the incident to the police.

Frank and Joe took out their fingerprint kit and dusted the shotgun. No prints appeared.

“The man we saw at the copter wore gloves,” Frank recalled, “but I was hoping something might show up, anyhow.”

“The gun must have been wiped clean beforehand,” Joe deduced.

Soon two police officers arrived. The Hardys described their near-fatal experience, and reported the results of their fingerprint check.

“You’re detectives?” one officer asked.

Frank introduced himself and his brother as Fenton Hardy’s sons. “I see,” said the officer. “I’ve heard of him-rarely fails to solve a case. So you’re following in his footsteps. Well, good luck!”

The brothers turned over the weapon to the policemen, who then, with the boys assisting, made a thorough check of the helicopter. They found no clues, however, so the Hardys stowed their gear and followed Dodge aboard the whirlybird.

“That scattergun could have been meant for me,” Dodge remarked worriedly, as he started the motor.

“Or for us,” Frank said.

As the helicopter rose and soared toward the Bitterroot mountain range, Frank told Dodge of their being kidnapped in Chicago.

“What is the case Dad is working on for you?” Joe asked.

“I’ve been running an armored-car service for ten years,” the big man explained. “Recently one of my trucks was hijacked and a money shipment stolen. Both guards aboard were shot. The money was insured, of course, but I wanted those hijackers caught to avoid any future holdups, so, knowing your father’s reputation for tracking down hijackers, I engaged him to investigate. My men’s safety is important to me. The police have worked on the case, too. They and your father managed to recover the money and catch two of the gang, but the others escaped. Someone reported seeing them in Canada.”

“Then why has Dad stayed here?” Frank asked.

“Because he believes the leader of the gang, Big Al Martin, is still in this area. Your father refuses to leave until he is found.”

“How did Dad get hurt?” Joe questioned.

“He was thrown from a horse yesterday afternoon,” Dodge replied, “while chasing a fellow he thinks is one of Big Al’s men.”

“And now Dad wants us to try to find the outlaws,” Frank surmised.

“Yes,” Dodge said, “and the sooner the better. Big Al’s dangerous-he belongs behind bars. The police know he has henchmen in other cities.”

As Dodge spoke, the helicopter shook and rattled in the wind. Below them, the boys saw wild, rugged country. Snow-covered buttes stood like gaunt sentinels overlooking heavily wooded valleys.Presently Dodge shouted, “It won’t be long now!”

Ahead, in a mountain cleft, the pilot pointed out the tiny town of Lucky Lode. “Over to the left is Windy Peak-the highest in the range.”

“Have you been flying long, Mr. Dodge?” Joe asked.

“I started taking lessons a couple of years ago and it came easily to me.”

“Have you always lived in the West?” Frank asked, but Dodge did not reply.

“Here we go!” he said, and began setting the helicopter down. Frank wondered if Dodge had not heard his question or did not want to discuss his past.

The pilot landed expertly in a clearing at one end of Lucky Lode. Then he helped the boys lug their gear to Hank Shale’s cabin at the foot of a Steep hill on the outskirts of the town.

When Frank knocked, the door was opened by a tall, skinny man with thinning red hair. His wrinkled face split into a grin when he saw the trio.

“Come in and thaw out!” he exclaimed. “I’m Hank Shale. Your pa and I’ve been waitin’ for you!”

The boys entered to find their father seated before a roaring fire. Fenton Hardy was a trim, athletic-looking man. His keen eyes lighted up when he saw his sons.

“Hello, boys,” said the detective, and moving carefully, shook hands with them. “Thanks for giving up your camping trip.”

“We’d rather work with you any day,” Joe said, grinning.

Mr. Hardy smiled and turned to Dodge. “I appreciate your bringing my sons.”

Hank announced that he was going to the kitchen and rustle up some grub.

“I’ll help you,” Dodge volunteered. “The three detectives can sit by the fire and exchange news.”

In low voices the boys told their father all that had happened since they had left Bayport.

Mr. Hardy looked grave. “I agree with you that someone here must have informed Al’s Chicago henchmen that you were coming. But who?” He glanced toward the kitchen and called, “Hank!”

When the red-haired man appeared in the doorway, Mr. Hardy asked him, “Who was in Burke’s general store when you phoned my sons last night?”

“Just the usual crowd o’ fellers sittin’ around the stove,” Hank replied. “I had to holler on account o’ that bad connection, so they all heard every word.”

“Someone on the line might have been listening, too,” Joe remarked.

“I smell somethin’ burnin’!” Hank exclaimed and bolted into the kitchen.

“We’ll have to be on guard,” said Frank. “Someone probably will be watching every move we make.”

“Dad,” Joe asked, “what made you so sure Big Al didn’t go to Canada?”

“I was working with the police,” Mr. Hardy said, “when we caught two of the gang week before last.One of them told us Big Al was hiding out here, and meant to attend to some unfinished business. The police thought he was lying in order to sidetrack us while Al made an escape. I had a hunch it was the truth.”

“Why?” asked Frank.

“Because the man seemed scared and appeared to be hoping for a break at his trial. I started riding the hills trying to pick up Al’s trail. Yesterday I followed a rough-looking fellow on horseback. He met another man in a small clearing. I heard them talking and caught the words ‘Big Al’ and ‘hideout.’ Just then my horse Major whinnied and the men galloped off. I gave chase, but Major stumbled and I took a spill.”

The detective smiled ruefully. “Now I’m stuck here! Boys,” he added seriously, “your job is to find that hideout.”

Frank and Joe, greatly excited by this challenge, discussed it all during a supper of thick western steaks, beans, and biscuits.

“We’ll have to get a line on what Big Al’s unfinished business is,” Frank said, when they were seated around the fireplace later.

“In any event, it’s probably illegal,” his father rejoined.

Presently Dodge got up. “Guess I’d better get back to the hotel.”

“Are your offices in Lucky Lode?” Joe asked.

“No, in Helena. I’ve been staying in town to watch developments on the case. If there’s any way I can help you, boys,” the big man added, “just let me know.”

After Dodge had left, Mr. Hardy remarked, “Bob strikes me as a fine man. Never mentions his early days, but I’m told he started his business on a shoestring and built it up by hard work.”

“Speakin’ o’ work, who wants to wash dishes?”

Laughing, the boys took Hank’s hint and before long the kitchen was shipshape.

Finally the brothers went to bed in one of two small rooms which led off the big one. Weary, the boys fell asleep immediately.

Suddenly they awoke with a start. A rumbling noise was coming from behind the cabin, growing louder every moment. The brothers leaped from bed. At the same instant, the cabin was jarred with a deafening crash.

Frank and Joe heard Hank yell as they rushed into the living room. “Look! Fire!” He pointed to the kitchen where a bright red glow was visible.

The trio dashed in. By the light of the flames they could see that a huge boulder had crashed through the back wall, overturning the stove and spewing burning firewood over the floor.

The boys raced back to their bedroom to get blankets. Spreading them over the fire, they began smothering and stamping out the flames. Mr. Hardy had hurried from his room, but the boys would not allow him to help. Meanwhile, Hank had filled a bucket at the kitchen pump and was dousing water over the hot stove. The fire sizzled angrily but gradually died out.

“Tarnation!” Hank exclaimed. “Nearest thing to an avalanche we’ve ever had around here.” He lighted anoil lamp, and everyone surveyed the damage.

“What a mess!” Joe grimaced.

The cabin owner sighed. “A whoppin’ big hole in the wall, and some burnt floorin’. Well, I reckon I can fix it tomorrow.”

Frank and Joe started to push the boulder out through the hole, then Joe gasped in surprise. On the huge stone were brightly painted red letters. Rolling the boulder a bit farther, the boys made out a crudely painted message:

HARDYS-LEAVE TOWN! “A warning from Big Al!” Frank said grimly.

CHAPTER V

The Strange Blue Light

THE three detectives and Hank examined the warning message on the huge rock.

“Big Al is a rough customer,” Mr. Hardy said, frowning. “Be on your guard at all times.”

“We’ll watch out, Dad,” Frank promised.

He and Joe shoved the boulder outside and looked up the hill. The moon had set and the mountainside was shrouded in darkness.

“No telling if anyone’s up there,” Joe muttered.

The two brothers shivered in the icy wind, and then squirmed through the hole into the burned kitchen.

Meanwhile, Hank pulled on warm clothes, went out to a lean-to, and brought back a tarpaulin. The boys helped him nail it over the hole in the wall, then set the stove up.

“That’ll do till mornin’,” Hank said.

Frank and Joe were up as soon as it was light. After a quick breakfast they climbed the steep, snow-covered slope behind the shack, following the trail plowed by the huge boulder. The boys soon found a deep gouge where the stone had been pried out of the hillside.

“Somebody used a crowbar to get it going,” Joe said, kneeling on the ground.

“And here are some traces of red paint,” Frank pointed out.

They scouted around thoroughly, and noticed the snow had been disturbed, as if to cover tracks.

“Whoever pried that stone loose,” Frank said thoughtfully, “may have come from town rather than from a hideout in the hills.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s not likely that anyone hiding up in the mountains would have red paint on hand. The personwho did this probably got it at the village store.”

“Maybe Big Al has an agent in Lucky Lode,” Joe suggested.

The boys walked on up the hill. The undergrowth at the top was parted and broken.

“Someone forced his way through here,” Frank said.

They followed the trampled brush to a trail which led along the wooded ridge, paralleling the main street of Lucky Lode below them. Soon they spotted a narrow path leading down into the small community.

“The man we’re after could have come this way,” Frank said. “We’d better scout for clues.”

Slowly he and Joe walked down the steep, narrow trail. There were footprints, but these were too jumbled to be of any significance. They reached the bottom without finding anything else, then climbed back to the top and continued along the ridge.

After a while the boys emerged into a clearing. Before them lay an old cemetery. They crawled through a gap in the dilapidated wooden fence and walked silently among the gravestones. From the bleak, windswept spot they could see all of Lucky Lode in the valley below. The old part of town ended directly under the cemetery.

“Look at these, Frank,” called Joe, from where he knelt beside a double headstone.

“‘John and James Coulson’!” Frank read. “Mike Onslow’s partners!”

“I guess they came to Lucky Lode to try for another stake,” Joe said.

“You’re probably right,” Frank replied.

The boys decided to go into town and headed for the cemetery gate. Coarse brush grew up around the ornate posts. Frank passed through, but Joe was pulled up short.

“Wait!” he said. “I’m caught!”

Big burrs clung to his trousers. Fumbling with heavily gloved fingers, he managed to get free. Together, he and Frank pulled out all the burrs and the brothers scrambled down the slope.

At the foot they saw the deserted gray-weathered buildings. As they walked along the old wooden sidewalk, the boards creaked and the wind rattled the loose doors and shutters.

“This end of Lucky Lode’s a real ghost town,” Frank remarked.

“Somebody lives here, though,” Joe replied. He pointed ahead to a tumbledown house. A pale stream of smoke issued from the chimney.

Suddenly the door opened a crack and a rifle muzzle poked out. It was aimed straight at the boys!

Frank and Joe halted, not knowing whether to drop to the ground or run. But nothing happened. At last they moved forward cautiously.

The muzzle followed the Hardys until they came abreast of the porch. Then the door was kicked open and an old man jumped out, aiming the weapon at them. Frank and Joe stopped.

“What are you doin’ here?” the white-haired man demanded curtly, his eyes squinting suspiciously.”Just visiting,” Frank said in a friendly tone.

“We’re from the East,” Joe went on. “Staying with Hank Shale.”

The old man lowered the rifle. “Oh,” he said, relieved. “Any friend of Hank Shale is a friend of mine.

Come on in.”

“Did you expect somebody else?” Frank asked, as the boys followed the old man into the shack.

“Don’t know!” he snapped. “A fella can’t be too careful around here now. There’s funny things happenin’

up on Cemetery Hill.”

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