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CHAPTER I

Spying by Telescope

“So YOU boys want to help me on another case?” Fenton Hardy, internationally known detective, smiled at his teen-age sons.

“Dad, you said you’re working on a very mysterious case right now,” Frank spoke up. “Isn’t there some angle of it that Joe and I could tackle?”

Mr. Hardy looked out the window of his second-floor study as if searching for the answer somewhere in the town of Bayport, where the Hardys lived. Finally he turned back and gazed steadfastly at his sons.

“All right. How would you like to look for some smugglers?”

Joe Hardy’s eyes opened wide. “You mean it, Dad?”

“Now just a minute.” The detective held up his hand. “I didn’t say capture them; I just said look for them.”

“Even that’s a big assignment. Thanks for giving it to us!” Frank replied.

The lean, athletic detective walked to a corner of the study where a long, narrow carrying case stood.

Tapping it, he said:

“You boys have learned how to manipulate this telescope pretty well. How would you like to take it out onto that high promontory above the ocean and train it seaward? The place I mean is two miles north of the end of the bay and eight miles from here.”

“That would be great!” said seventeen-year-old, blond-haired Joe, his blue eyes flashing in anticipation.

Frank, who was a year older than his brother and less impetuous, asked in a serious tone of voice, “Dad, have you any ideas about the identity of any of the smugglers?”

“Yes, I do,” Mr. Hardy answered his tall, dark-haired son. “I strongly suspect that a man named Felix Snattman is operating in this territory. I’ll give you the whole story.”

The detective went on to say that he had been engaged by an international pharmaceutical company to trace stolen shipments of valuable drugs. Reports of thefts had come from various parts of the United States. Local police had worked on the case, but so far had failed to apprehend any suspects.

“Headquarters of the firm is in India,” the detective told the boys. “It was through them that I was finally called in. I’m sure that the thefts are the result of smuggling, very cleverly done. That’s the reason I suspect Snattman. He’s a noted criminal and has been mixed up in smuggling rackets before. He served a long term in prison, and after being released, dropped out of sight.”

“And you think he’s working around Bayport?” Joe asked. He whistled. “That doesn’t make this town avery healthy place to live in!”

“But we’re going to make it so!” Mr. Hardy declared, a ring of severity in his voice.

“Just where is this spot we’re to use the telescope?” Frank asked eagerly.

“It’s on the Pollitt place. You’ll see the name at the entrance. An old man named Felix Pollitt lived there alone for many years. He was found dead in the house about a month ago, and the place has been vacant ever since.”

“It sounds as if we could get a terrific range up and down the shore from there and many miles across the water,” Frank remarked.

Mr. Hardy glanced at his wrist watch. “It’s one-thirty now. You ought to be able to go out there, stay a fair amount of time, and still get home to supper.”

“Oh, easily,” Joe answered. “Our motorcycles can really burn up the road!”

His father smiled, but cautioned, “This telescope happens to be very valuable. The less jouncing it receives the better.”

“I get the point,” Joe conceded, then asked, “Dad, do you want us to keep the information about the smugglers to ourselves, or would it be all right to take a couple of the fellows along?”

“Of course I don’t want the news broadcast,” Mr. Hardy said, “but I know I can trust your special friends. Call them up.”

“How about Chet and Biff?” Joe consulted Frank. As his brother nodded, he said, “You pack the telescope on your motorcycle. I’ll phone.”

Chet Morton was a stout, good-natured boy who loved to eat. Next to that, he enjoyed being with the Hardys and sharing their exciting adventures, although at times, when situations became dangerous, he wished he were somewhere else. Chet also loved to tinker with machinery and spent long hours on his jalopy which he called Queen. He was trying to “soup up” the motor, so that he could have a real “hot rod.”

In contrast to Chet, Biff Hooper was tall and lanky. To the amusement-and wonder-of the other boys, he used his legs almost as a spider does, covering tremendous distances on level ground or vaulting fences.

A few minutes later Joe joined his brother in the garage and told him that both Chet and Biff would go along. Chet, he said, had apologized for not being able to offer the Queen for the trip but her engine was “all over the garage.” “As usual,” Frank said with a grin as the two boys climbed on their motorcycles and set out.

Presently the Hardys stopped at Biff Hooper’s home. He ran out the door to meet them and climbed aboard behind Joe. Chet lived on a farm at the outskirts of Bayport, about a fifteen-minute run from the Hooper home. The stout boy had strolled down the lane to the road and was waiting for his friends. He hoisted himself onto Frank’s motorcycle.

“I’ve never seen a powerful telescope in operation,” he remarked. “How far away can you see with this thing?”

“It all depends on weather conditions,” Frank replied. “On a clear day you can make out human figures at distances of twenty-four miles.”“Wow!” Chet exclaimed. “We ought to be able to find those smugglers easily.”

“I wouldn’t say so,” Biff spoke up. “Smugglers have the same kind of boats as everybody else. How dose do you have to be to identify a person?”

“Oh, about two and a half miles,” Joe answered.

The motorcycles chugged along the shore road, with Frank watching his speedometer carefully. “We ought to be coming to the Pollitt place soon,” he said finally. “Keep your eyes open, fellows.”

The boys rode on in silence, but suddenly they all exclaimed together, “There it is!”

At the entrance to a driveway thickly lined with trees and bushes was a stone pillar, into which the name “Pollitt” had been chiseled. Frank and Joe turned into the driveway. The only part of the house they could see was the top of the roof. Finally, beyond a lawn overgrown with weeds, they came upon the tall, rambling building. It stood like a beacon high above the water. Pounding surf could be heard far below.

“This place sure looks neglected,” Biff remarked.

Dank, tall grass grew beneath the towering trees. Weeds and bushes threatened to engulf the whole building.

“Creepy, if you ask me,” Chet spoke up. “I don’t know why anybody would want to live here.”

The house itself was in need of repair. Built of wood, it had several sagging shutters and the paint was flaking badly.

“Poor old Mr. Pollitt was probably too sick to take care of things,” Frank commented, as he looked at several weed-choked flower beds. To the Hardys’ disappointment, the sky had become overcast and they realized that visibility had been cut down considerably. Nevertheless, Frank unstrapped the carrying case and lugged it around to the front of the house.

He unfastened the locks and Joe helped his brother lift out the telescope and attached tripod, pulling up the eye-end section first.

Biff and Chet exclaimed in admiration.

“Boy, that’s really neat!” Chet remarked.

He and Biff watched in fascination as Frank and Joe began to set up the telescope. First they unfastened the tape with which the tube and tripod legs were tied together. Joe turned the three legs down and pulled out the extensions to the desired height. Then Frank secured the tripod legs with a chain to keep them from spreading.

“What’s next?” Biff asked.

“To get proper balance for the main telescope tube we slide it through this trunnion sleeve toward the eye end, like this.” After doing so, Frank tightened the wing nuts on the tripod lightly.

Joe picked up the balance weight from the carrying case and screwed it into the right side of the telescope tube about one third the distance from the eyepiece.

“This’ll keep the whole thing from being top heavy,” he pointed out.

“And what’s this little telescope alongside the big one for?” Chet queried.”A finder,” Frank explained. “Actually, it’s a small guide telescope and helps the observer sight his big telescope on the object more easily.”

“It’s as clear as mud,” Chet remarked with a grin. He squinted through the ends of both the large and the small telescopes. “I can’t see a thing,” he complained. Joe laughed. “And you won’t until I insert one of the eyepieces into the adapter of the big telescope and put another eyepiece into the finder.”

In a few minutes the Hardys had the fascinating device working. By turning a small knob, Frank slowly swung the telescope from left to right, and each boy took a turn looking out across the water.

“Not a boat in sight!” said Chet, disappointed.

Frank had just taken his second turn squinting through the eyepiece when he called out excitedly, “I see something!”

He now began a running account of the scene he had just picked up. “It’s not very clear . . . but I see a boat . . . must be at least six miles out.”

“What kind of boat?” Joe put in.

“Looks like a cruiser … or a cutter. . . . It’s not moving. . . . Want to take a look, Joe?”

Frank’s brother changed places with him. “Say, fellows, a man’s going over the side on a ladder . . . and, hey! there’s a smaller boat down below. . . . He’s climbing into it.”

“Can you see a name or numbers on the big boat?” Frank asked excitedly.

“No. The boat’s turned at a funny angle, so you can’t see the lettering. You couldn’t even if the weather was clearer.”

“Which way is the man in the small boat heading?” Biff asked.

“He seems to be going toward Barmet Bay.”

Joe gave up his position to Biff. “Suppose you keep your eye on him for a while, and also the big boat.

Maybe it’ll turn so you can catch the name or number on the box.”

Chet had been silent for several moments. Now he said, “Do you suppose they’re the smugglers?”

“Could be,” Frank replied. “I think we’d better leave and report this to Dad from the first telephone we-“

He was interrupted by the sudden, terrifying scream of a man!

“Wh-where did that come from?” Chet asked with a frightened look.

“Sounded as if it came from inside,” Frank answered.

The boys stared at the house on the cliff. A moment later they heard a loud cry for help. It was followed by another scream.

“Somebody’s in there and is in trouble!” Joe exclaimed. “We’d better find out what’s going on!”

Leaving the telescope, the four boys ran to the front door and tried the knob. The door was locked.

“Let’s scatter and see if we can find another door,” Frank suggested.Frank and Joe took one side of the house, Biff and Chet the other. They met at the rear of the old home and together tried a door there. This, too, was locked.

“There’s a broken window around the corner,” Biff announced. “Shall we climb in?”

“I guess we’d better,” Frank answered.

As the boys reached the window, which seemed to open into a library, they heard the scream again.

“Help! Hurry! Help!” came an agonized cry.

CHAPTER II

Thief at Work

JOE was first to slide through the broken window. “Wait a moment, fellows,” he called out, “until I unlock this.”

Quickly he turned the catch, raised the window, and the other three boys stepped inside the library. No one was there and they ran into the large center hall.

“Hello!” Frank shouted. “Where are you?”

There was no answer. “Maybe that person who was calling for help has passed out or is unconscious,”

Joe suggested. “Let’s look around.”

The boys dashed in various directions, and investigated the living room with its old-fashioned furnishings, the dining room with its heavily carved English oak set, the kitchen, and what had evidently been a maid’s bedroom in days gone by. Now it was heaped high with empty boxes and crates. There was no one in any of the rooms and the Hardys and their two friends met again in the hall.

“The man must be upstairs,” Frank decided.

He started up the front stairway and the others followed. There were several bedrooms. Suddenly Chet hung back. He wanted to go with his pals but the eeriness of the house made him pause. Biff and the Hardys sped from one to another of the many rooms. Finally they investigated the last of them.

“Nobody here! What do you make of it?” Biff asked, puzzled.

Chet, who had rejoined the group, said worriedly, “M-maybe the place is haunted!”

Joe’s eyes were searching for an entrance to the third floor. Seeing none, he opened three doors in the hall, hoping to find a stairway. He saw none.

“There must be an attic in this house,” he said. “I wonder how you get to it.”

“Maybe there’s an entrance from one of the bedrooms,” Frank suggested. “Let’s see.”

The boys separated to investigate. Suddenly Frank called out, “I’ve found it.”The others ran to where he had discovered a door behind a man’s shabby robe hanging inside a closet.

This in turn revealed a stairway and the group hurriedly climbed it, Chet bringing up the rear.

The attic room was enormous. Old newspapers and magazines were strewn around among old-fashioned trunks and suitcases, but there was no human being in sight.

“I guess that cry for help didn’t come from the house at all,” Biff suggested. “What’ll we do now? Look outdoors?”

“I guess we’ll have to,” Frank answered.

He started down the steep stairway. Reaching the foot, he turned the handle of the door which had swung shut. To his concern he was not able to open it.

“What’s the matter?” asked Chet from the top of the stairway.

“Looks as if we’re locked in,” Frank told him.

“Locked in?” Chet wailed. “Oh, no!”

Frank tried pulling and pushing the door. It did not budge.

“That’s funny,” he said. “I didn’t see any lock on the outside.”

Suddenly the full import of the situation dawned on the four boys. Someone had deliberately locked them in! The cries for help had been a hoax to lure them into the house!

“You think somebody was playing a joke on us?” Biff asked.

“Pretty rotten kind of joke,” Chet sputtered.

Frank and Joe were inclined to think that there was more to it than a joke. Someone had seen a chance to steal a valuable telescope and two late-model motorcycles!

“We’ve got to get out of here!” Joe said. “Frank, put your shoulder to the door and I’ll help.”

Fortunately, the door was not particularly sturdy and gave way easily. Frank glanced back a moment as he rushed through and saw two large hooks which he had not noticed before. They had evidently been slipped into the eyes and had been ripped from the framework by the crash on the door.

The other boys followed, running pell-mell through the hallway and clattering down the stairway. They dashed out the front door, leaving it open behind them. To their relief, the telescope still stood at the edge of the cliff, pointing seaward.

“Thank goodness!” said Joe. “I’d hate to have had to tell Dad the telescope was gone!”

Frank rushed over to take a quick look through the instrument. It had occurred to him that maybe some confederate of the smugglers had seen them spying. He might even have tricked them into the house during the very time that a smuggling operation would be within range of the telescope!

When Frank reached the edge of the cliff and tried to look through the instrument, he gasped in dismay.

The eyepieces from both the finder and the telescope tube had been removed!

As he turned to tell the other boys of his discovery, he found that they were not behind him. But a moment later Joe came running around the corner of the house calling out:”The motorcycles are safe! Nobody stole them!”

“Thank goodness for that,” said Frank.

Chet and Biff joined them and all flopped down on the grass to discuss the mysterious happenings and work out a plan of action.

“If that thief is hiding inside the house, I’m going to find him,” Joe declared finally.

“I’m with you,” said Frank, jumping up. “How about you, Biff, guarding the motorcycles and Chet taking charge of the telescope? That way, both the front and back doors will be covered, too, in case that thief comes out.”

“Okay,” the Hardys’ friends agreed.

As Frank and Joe entered the front hall, Joe remarked, “There’s a back stairway. If we don’t find the person on the first floor, I’ll take that to the second. You take the front.”

Frank nodded and the search began. Not only the first, but the second and attic floors were thoroughly investigated without results.

“There’s only one place left,” said Frank. “The cellar.”

This area also proved to have no one hiding in it. “I guess our thief got away,” Frank stated.

“And probably on foot,” Joe added. “I didn’t hear any car, did you?”

“No. Maybe he went down the cliff and made a getaway in a boat,” Frank suggested.

In complete disgust the Hardys reported their failure to Biff and Chet. Then they packed up the telescope and strapped it onto Frank’s motorcycle.

“We may as well go home,” Joe said dolefully. “We’ll have a pretty slim report for Dad.”

“Slim?” said Biff. “I haven’t had so much excitement in six months.”

The boys climbed aboard the motorcycles. As the Hardys were about to start the motors, all four of them froze in the seats. From somewhere below the cliff came a demoniacal laugh. Involuntarily the boys shuddered.

“L-let’s get out of here!” Chet urged.

Frank and Joe had hopped off the motorcycles, and were racing in the direction from which the eerie laughter was coming.

“It may be another trap!” Chet yelled after them. “Come back!”

But the Hardys went on. Just before they reached the edge of the cliff they were thunderstruck to hear the laughter coming from a completely different area. It was actually in back of them!

“What gives?” Joe asked.

“Search me,” his brother answered. “The ghost must have a confederate.”

The brothers peered over the edge of the cliff but could see only jagged rocks that led to the booming surf below. Frank and Joe returned to then, chums, disappointed that they had learned nothing and hadno explanation for the second laugh.

“I’m glad it stopped, anyhow,” said Chet. “It gave me goose pimples and made chills run up and down my spine.”

Biff looked at his wrist watch. “I really have to be getting home, fellows. Sorry to break up this man hunt.

Maybe you can take me to a bus and come back.”

The Hardys would not hear of this and said they would leave at once.

They had gone scarcely a mile when the motor on Frank’s cycle sputtered and backfired, then died. “A swell time for a breakdown,” he said disgustedly as he honked for Joe to stop.

Joe turned around and drove back. “What’s the matter?”

“Don’t know.” Frank dismounted. “It’s not the gas. I have plenty of that.”

“Tough luck!” Joe said sympathetically. “Well, let’s take a look at the motor. Better get out your tools.”

As Frank opened the toolbox of his motorcycle, an expression of bewilderment came over his face.

“My tools!” he exclaimed. “They’re gone!”

The others gathered around. The toolbox was indeed empty!

“Are you sure you had them when you left Bayport?” Chet asked.

“Of course I did. I never go anywhere without them.”

Biff shook his head. “I suppose the guy who took the eyepieces stole your tools too.”

Joe dashed to the toolbox on his own motorcycle and gave a cry of dismay.

“Mine are gone, too!”

CHAPTER III

Landslide!

“THAT’S a shame, fellows,” Chet Morton said. “This is sure your day for bad luck. First the eyepieces from your telescope are taken and now the tools from your motorcycles.”

“And all by the same person, I’m sure,” Frank remarked grimly.

“Some slick operator, whoever he is,” Joe added gloomily.

Chet put his hands into his trouser pockets and with a grin pulled out a pair of pliers, a screw driver, and a wrench.

“I was working on the Queen this morning,” he explained. “Good thing I happened to put these in my pocket.”“I’ll say,” Frank declared gratefully, taking the tools which Chet handed over.

He unfastened the housing of the motor and began checking every inch of the machinery. Finally he looked up and announced, “I guess I’ve found the trouble-a loose connection.”

Frank adjusted the wires and a moment later the vehicle’s motor was roaring normally. The housing was put back on, Chet’s tools were returned with thanks, and the four boys set off once more.

“Let’s hope nothing more happens before we get home,” Biff said with a wry laugh.

“I’ll second that,” Joe said emphatically.

For five minutes the cyclists rode along in silence, their thoughts partly on the passing scenery, but mostly on the mystery in which they had become involved.

Joe’s mind was racing with his throbbing motorcycle. In a few minutes he had far outdistanced his brother. Frank did not dare go any faster because of the telescope strapped onto his handle bars.

Presently Joe reached a spot in the road where it had been cut out of the hillside on the right. There was a sharp curve here. The motorcycle took it neatly, but he and Biff had scarcely reached the straightaway beyond when they heard a thunderous sound back of them.

“What’s that?” Joe cried out.

Biff turned to look over his shoulder. “A landslide I” he shouted.

Rocks and dirt, loosened by recent heavy rainstorms, were tumbling down the steep hillside at terrific speed.

“Frank!” Joe cried out in horror. He jammed on his brake and disengaged the engine. As he ran back to warn his brother, Joe saw that he was too late. Biff had rushed up and both could only stare helplessly, their hearts sinking.

Frank and Chet came around the corner at good speed and ran full tilt into the landslide. Its rumbling sound had been drowned out by the pounding surf and their own roaring motor.

The two boys, the motorcycle, and the telescope were bowled over by the falling rocks and earth. As the rain of debris finally stopped, Joe and Biff reached their sides.

“Frank! Chet!” they cried out in unison. “Are you hurt?”

Frank, then Chet, sat up slowly. Aside from looking a bit dazed, they seemed to be all right. “Rock just missed my head,” Frank said finally.

“I got a mean wallop on my shoulder,” Chet panted gingerly, rubbing the sore spot.

“You fellows were lucky,” Biff spoke up, and Joe nodded his intense relief.

“How about the telescope?” Frank asked quickly. “Take a look at it, will you, Joe?”

The battered carrying case, pushed out of the straps which had held it in place on the motorcycle, lay in the road, covered with stone and dirt. Joe opened the heavily lined box and carefully examined the telescope.

“It looks all right to me,” he said in a relieved voice. “Of course we won’t know for sure until we try othereyepieces in it. But at least nothing looks broken.”

By this time Frank and Chet were standing up and Biff remarked, “While you two are getting your breath, Joe and I can take the biggest rocks out of the way. Some motorist may come speeding along here and break his neck or wreck his car unless this place gets cleaned up.”

“Oh, I’m okay,” Chet insisted. “The rock that hit me felt just like Bender, that big end on the Milton High team. He’s hit me many a time the same way.”

Frank, too, declared that he felt no ill effects. Together, the boys flung rock after rock into the field between the road and the water and, in pairs, carried the heavier rocks out of the way.

“Guess we’re all set now,” Frank spoke up. “Biff, I’m afraid you’re going to be late getting home.” He chuckled. “Who is she?”

Biff reddened a little. “How’d you guess? I have a date tonight with Sally Sanderson. But she’s a good sport. She won’t mind waiting a little longer.”

Again the four boys straddled the motorcycles and started off. A few minutes later a noise out in the ocean attracted Frank’s attention and he peered across the rolling sweep of waters. A powerful speedboat came into view around the base of a small cliff about a quarter mile out. It was followed at a short distance by a similar, but larger craft. Both boats were traveling at high speed.

“Looks like a race!” Joe called out. “Let’s watch it!”

The Hardys ran their motorcycles behind a clump of trees and stopped, then walked down to the shore line.

The boats did not appear to be having a friendly speed contest, however. The first boat was zigzagging in a peculiar manner, and the pursuing craft was rapidly overtaking it.

“See! That second boat is trying to stop the other one!” Frank exclaimed.

“It sure is. Wonder what’s up,” said Joe tensely. “I wish that telescope was working. Can any of you fellows make out the names on the boats?”

“No,” the others chorused.

The two men standing in the bow of the pursuing craft were waving their arms frantically. The first boat turned as if about to head toward the shore. Then, apparently, the helmsman changed his mind, for at once the nose of his boat was pointed out into the ocean again.

But the moment of hesitation had given the pursuers the chance they needed. Swiftly the gap between the racing craft grew smaller and smaller until the boats were running side by side. They were so close together that a collision seemed imminent.

“They’ll all be killed if they aren’t careful!” Frank muttered as he watched intently.

The lone man in the foremost craft was bent over the wheel. In the boat behind, one of the two men suddenly raised his right arm high. A moment later he hurled an object through the air. It landed in back of the engine housing in the center of the craft. At the same time the larger boat sped off seaward.

“What was that?” Chet asked. “I-“

Suddenly a sheet of flame leaped high into the air from the smaller boat. There was a stunning explosionand a dense cloud of smoke rose in the air. Bits of wreckage were thrown high and in the midst of it the boys saw the occupant hurled into the water.

Swiftly the whole boat caught fire. The flames raced from bow to stern.

“That man!” shouted Frank. “He’s alive!”

The boys could see him struggling in the surf, trying to swim ashore.

“He’ll never make it!” Joe gasped. “He’s all in.”

“We’ve got to save him!” Frank cried out.

CHAPTER IV

The Rescue

THE Hardy boys knew that they had no time to lose. It was evident that the man in the water had been injured by the explosion and could not swim, much longer.

“We’ll never reach him!” Chet said, as the four boys dashed across the rocks and grass to the shore.

Suddenly Frank cried out, “I see a rowboat up on the beach.” His sharp eyes had detected a large rowboat almost completely hidden in a small cove at the bottom of the cliff. “We’d make better time in that!”

A huge rock jutting out of the water cut the cove off from the open part of the beach.

“We’d have to go up to that ridge and then down,” Joe objected. “I’ll swim out.”

“I will too,” said Biff.

The two plunged into the water and struck out for the stricken man.

Meanwhile, Frank and Chet sped up the slope, cut across a strip of grass, and began running down the embankment toward the rowboat.

“That man’s still afloat,” Frank shouted as he looked out over the water.

Joe and Biff were making good time but were a long way from the man, who seemed now to be drifting with the outgoing tide. The explosion victim, fortunately, had managed to seize a piece of wreckage and was hanging onto it.

Slipping and scrambling, Frank and Chet made their way down the slope. Rocks rolled and tumbled ahead of them. But finally they reached the bottom safely and examined the boat. It was battered and old, but evidently still seaworthy. There were two sets of oars.

“Grab hold!” Frank directed Chet.

The boys pulled the boat across the pebbles and into the water. Swiftly they fixed the oars in the locksand took their places. Pulling hard, Frank and Chet rowed toward the distressed swimmer. Presently they overtook Joe and Biff, who clambered aboard. The man had seen the boys and called feebly to them to hurry.

“Faster!” Joe urged. “He looks as if he’ll go under any second!”

The motorboat in the background was still blazing fiercely, flames shooting high in the air. The craft was plainly doomed.

The boys pulled harder and the rowboat leaped across the water. When it was only a few yards away from the man, he suddenly let go his hold on the bit of wreckage and slipped beneath the waves.

“He’s drowning!” Chet shouted, as he bent to his oar again.

Joe made a tremendously long, outward dive and disappeared into the water where the man had gone down. Frank and Chet rowed the boat to the spot and leaned over the side to peer down.

Just then, Joe and the stranger broke the surface of the water, with the boy holding an arm under the man’s shoulders. His head sagged.

“He’s unconscious!” Biff whispered hoarsely, as he helped pull the victim into the boat. The man sprawled helplessly on the bottom, more dead than alive.

“We’d better revive him and get him to the hospital,” said Frank.

He applied artificial respiration, forcing a little water from the man’s lungs, but the stranger did not regain consciousness.

“I think he collapsed from exhaustion,” Joe spoke up.

Frank and Chet took off their jackets and wrapped them around the wet figure.

“How about taking him to that farmhouse over there-along the road?” Chet suggested.

The others agreed. As Frank and Chet rowed toward the farm, the boys discussed the mystery. Who was the victim of the explosion and why had the men in the other motorboat tried to kill him?

The man they had rescued lay face downward in the bottom of the boat. He was a slim, dark-haired man with sharp, clean-cut features, and his clothes were cheap and worn. Biff looked in his pockets for identification but found none.

“Wonder if he’s a local man,” Joe said. “Never saw him around town.”

The other boys declared they never had either.

By this time the boat was close to shore. Joe and Biff leaped out and dragged it part way up on the beach. Then the four boys carried the unconscious man up the rocky shore toward the farmhouse.

At their approach a plump woman came hurrying out of the house. From the orchard nearby a burly man in overalls came forward.

“My goodness! What has happened?” the woman asked, running toward them.

“We just pulled this man out of the water,” Frank explained. “We saw your house-““Bring him in,” boomed the farmer. “Bring him right in.”

The woman ran ahead and held the door open. The boys carried the stranger into the house and laid him on a bed in the comfortably furnished first-floor bedroom. The farmer’s wife hastened to the kitchen to prepare a hot drink.

“Rub his ankles and wrists, and get those wet clothes off him,” the farmer told the boys. “That will step up his circulation. I’ll get him some pajamas.”

“How about calling a doctor?” Frank asked.

“No need. He’ll be okay,” the farmer declared.

The victim was soon under the covers. Frank and Joe continued to massage his wrists and ankles.

At last the stranger stirred feebly. His eyelids fluttered. His lips moved, but no words came. Then his eyes opened and the man stared at those around him, as though in a daze.

“Where am I?” he muttered faintly.

“You’re safe,” Frank assured him. “You’re with friends.”

“You saved me?”

“Yes.”

“Pretty near-cashed in-didn’t I?”

“You nearly drowned, but you’re all right now. When you feel like talking, you can tell us the whole story,” said Frank. “But, in the meantime, we’ll call the police or the Coast Guard and report those men who tried to murder you.”

The man in the bed blinked and looked out the window. Finally he said, “No, no. Don’t do that.”

The boys were shocked. “Why not?” Joe burst out.

The man was thoughtfully silent for a moment, then said, “Thanks, but I’d rather let matters stand as they are. I’ll take care of it as soon as I get my strength back.” The rescued man turned to the farmer. “Okay with you if I stay here overnight? I’ll pay you, of course.”

The farmer put out his hand. “The name’s Kane and you’re welcome to stay until you feel strong. Nobody can say I ever turned a sick man away. And what’s your name?”

The patient hesitated a moment. “Jones. Bill Jones,” he said at last.

It was so evidently a false name that the Hardys glanced knowingly at each other. Mr. Kane did not seem to realize that his guest was apparently trying to hide his identity.

Mrs. Kane appeared with hot broth and toast. She suggested that her husband and the boys let the patient rest for a while. When she joined them in the living room she invited the boys to have a snack.

Chet readily accepted for all of them.

The snack consisted of sandwiches of home-cured ham with cheese, glasses of fresh milk, and rich lemon pie, frothy with meringue. Chet beamed. “Mrs. Kane, you ought to open a restaurant. I’d be a steady customer. You’re the best pie maker I’ve ever met.”Frank, Joe, and Biff chuckled. How often they had heard their stout, food-loving chum make similar remarks! But in this case they had to agree with him and told Mrs. Kane so.

She smiled. “It’s the least I can do for you boys who just saved someone’s life.”

Her young guests said nothing of their early afternoon’s adventure inside the Pollitt house, but Frank casually asked the Kanes if they had known the deceased owner and if anyone were living there now.

“Sure I knew Felix Pollitt,” the farmer replied. “Closemouthed old codger, but I did hear him once say somethin’ about havin’ a no-good nephew. Pollitt said he was his only livin’ relative and he supposed he’d have to leave the property to him.”

“But who’d want the place?” Mrs. Kane spoke up. “It’s falling apart and would cost a mint of money to fix up.”

Joe grinned. “Sounds like a haunted house,” he remarked pointedly.

“Funny you should say that.” Mrs. Kane looked at Joe. “There was a family stopped here the other day.

Wanted to buy some eggs. One of the little girls said they’d had a terrible scare. They’d stopped at the old Pollitt place to have a picnic, and were scared out of their wits by moans and groans and queer laughs from the house.”

Mr. Kane’s face broke into a grin. “The kid’s imagination sure was runnin’ away with itself.”

“I’m not so sure of that,” his wife disagreed. “I think some boys were in there playing pranks.”

After Frank and Joe and their friends had left the farmhouse, they discussed the strange noises at the Pollitt place from this new angle.

Biff frowned. “If those ghosts are from Bayport High, they’ll sure have the laugh on us,” he remarked.

“They sure will,” Chet agreed. “I’d hate to face them on Monday.”

Frank and Joe were not convinced. After they had dropped their chums at the Morton and Hooper homes, they discussed the day’s strange and varied adventures all the way to the Hardy house.

“I’m sure that ghost business was meant to be something more than a prank,” Frank stated.

“Right,” his brother agreed. “I just had an idea, Frank. Maybe nobody was in the house, but he could have rigged up a tape recorder to make those sounds and a remote control to start it.

What say we go back sometime and take a look?”

“I’m with you.”

By this time the boys had turned into the long driveway of the Hardy home, a spacious, three-story clapboard house on the corner of High and Elm streets. The large two-story garage at the rear of an attractive garden had once been a barn.

Frank and Joe parked their motorcycles, unstrapped the telescope, and carried it to the back porch. As they entered the kitchen, they found their mother, a pretty, sweet-faced woman, with sparkling blue eyes, preparing supper.

“Hello, boys,” she greeted them. “Did you have a good day? See any smugglers?”They kissed her and Frank said, “We have a lot to tell you and Dad.”

“He’s in the study upstairs. I’ll go up with you right away and we can talk while the chicken’s roasting and the potatoes baking.”

The three hurried up to the room where Mr. Hardy was busy looking in a large metal file in which he kept important records. The detective stopped his work and listened with rapt attention as Frank and Joe gave a detailed account of their adventures.

“We sure fell for that cry for help,” Joe explained. “I’m sorry about the stolen eyepieces from the telescope.”

“And I hope it wasn’t damaged when I had my spill,” Frank added. He smiled wanly. “You’ll probably want to dismiss us from your detective force.”

“Nothing of the kind,” his father said. “But now, let’s discuss what you saw through the telescope. You said you spotted a man who climbed down the ladder of a boat and went off in a smaller one. Could he have been this same fellow who calls himself Jones?”

“We couldn’t identify him,” Joe replied, “but he might be.”

Frank snapped his fingers. “Yes, and he could be one of the smugglers.”

“But who threw that hand grenade at him?” Joe asked. “Not one of his own gang, surely. And those guys in the other speedboat-they couldn’t have been Coast Guard men, even in disguise. They wouldn’t use grenades.”

“Joe’s right on the second point,” Mr. Hardy agreed. “But Jones may still be a smuggler.”

“You mean he might have done something to make his boss mad and the boss sent out a couple of men to get him?” Joe asked.

The detective nodded. “If this theory is right, and we can persuade Jones to talk before he either rejoins the gang or starts trying to take revenge, then we might get him to turn state’s evidence.”

The boys were excited. Both jumped from their chairs and Joe cried out eagerly, “Let’s go talk to him right away! By morning he’ll be gone!”

CHAPTER V

Pretzel Pete

“Just a minute!” Mrs. Hardy said to her sons. “How about supper?”

“We can eat when we come back from our interview with Jones,” Joe answered. “Mother, he may decide to leave the farmhouse any time.”

Despairingly Mrs. Hardy returned to her husband. “What do you think, Fenton?”

The detective gave his wife an understanding smile, then turned to Frank and Joe. “Didn’t you say Joneswas in pretty bad shape?”

“Yes, Dad,” Frank replied.

“Then I doubt very much that he’ll try to leave the Kanes’ home before the time he set-tomorrow morning. I’m sure that it’ll be safe for us to eat Mother’s good supper and still see our man in time.”

Joe subsided, and to make his mother feel better, said with a smile, “Guess I let this mystery go to my brain for a minute. As a matter of fact, I have an empty space inside of me big enough to eat two suppers!”

Mrs. Hardy tweaked an ear of her energetic son, just as she had frequently done ever since he was a small boy. He smiled at her affectionately, then asked what he could do to help with supper.

“Well, suppose you fill the water glasses and get milk for you and Frank,” Mrs. Hardy said, as she and Joe went downstairs together.

At the table, as often happened at meals in the Hardy home, the conversation revolved around the mystery. Frank asked his father if he had made any progress on his part in the case concerning the smugglers.

“Very little,” the detective replied. “Snattman is a slippery individual. He covers his tracks well. I did find this out, though. The law firm which is handling old Mr. Pollitt’s affairs has had no luck in locating the nephew to whom the property was left.”

“Mr. Kane said he’d heard Mr. Pollitt call his nephew a no-good,” Frank put in.

“That’s just the point,” Mr. Hardy said. “The lawyers learned from the police that he’s a hoodlum and is wanted for burglary.”

Frank whistled. “That puts the nephew in a bad spot, doesn’t it? If he shows up to claim the property, he’ll be nabbed as a criminal.”

“Exactly,” Mr. Hardy answered.

“What will become of the property?” Joe queried.

His father said he thought the executors might let the house remain vacant or they might possibly rent it.

“They could do this on a month-to-month basis. This would give added income to the estate.”

“Which wouldn’t do the nephew much good if he were in jail,” Mrs. Hardy put in.

“That would depend on how long his sentence was,” her husband said. “He may not be a dangerous criminal. He may just have fallen into bad company and unwittingly become an accessory in some holdup or burglary.”

“In that case,” Frank remarked, “he may realize that he wouldn’t have to stay in prison long. He may appear to claim the property, take his punishment, and then lead a normal, law-abiding life out at his uncle’s place.”

“Well, I sincerely hope so,” Mr. Hardy replied. “The trouble is, so often when a young man joins a group of hoodlums or racketeers, he’s blackmailed for the rest of his life, even though he tries to go straight.”

The detective smiled. “The best way to avoid such a situation is never to get into it!”

At this moment the phone rang and Frank went to answer it. “It’s for you, Dad!” he called, coming backto the table.’

Mr. Hardy spent nearly fifteen minutes in conversation with the caller. In the meantime, the boys and Mrs. Hardy finished their supper. Then, while Mr. Hardy ate his dessert, he told his family a little about the information he had just received on the phone.

“More drugs have disappeared,” he said tersely. “I’m positive now that Snattman is behind all this.”

“Were the drugs stolen around here?” Frank asked.

“We don’t know,” his father answered. “A pharmaceutical house in the Midwest was expecting a shipment of rare drugs from India. When the package arrived, only half the order was there. It was evident that someone had cleverly opened the package, removed part of the shipment, and replaced the wrapping so neatly that neither the customs officials nor the post office was aware that the package had been tampered with.”

“How were the drugs sent to this country?” Joe queried.

“They came by ship.”

“To which port?”

“New York. But the ship did stop at Bayport.”

“How long ago was this?”

“Nearly two months ago. It seems that the pharmaceutical house wasn’t ready to use the drugs until now, so hadn’t opened the package.”

“Then,” said Joe, “the drugs could have been removed right on the premises, and have had nothing to do with smugglers.”

“You’re right,” Mr. Hardy agreed. “Each time drugs are reported missing, there’s a new angle to the case.

Although I’m convinced Snattman is back of it, how to prove this is really a stickler.”

Mr. Hardy went on to say that the tip he had received about ‘Snattman being in the Bayport area had been a very reliable one. He smiled. “I’ll tell you all a little secret. I have a very good Mend down on the waterfront. He picks up many kinds of information for me. His name is Pretzel Pete.”

“Pretzel Pete!” Frank and Joe cried out. “What a name!”

“That’s his nickname along the waterfront,” Mr. Hardy told them. He laughed. “During the past few years I’ve munched on so many of the pretzels he sells, I think I’m his best customer.”

By this time the boys’ father had finished his dessert, and he suggested they leave at once for the Kane farmhouse. He brought his black sedan from the garage and the boys hopped in. It did not take long to cover the six miles to the place where Jones was spending the night.

“Why, the house is dark,” Frank remarked, puzzled.

“Maybe everyone’s asleep,” Joe suggested.

“This early?” Frank protested.

Mr. Hardy continued on down the lane. There was no sign of anyone around the place. Frank remarkedthat perhaps the farmer and his wife had gone out for the evening. “But I’m surprised that they would leave Jones alone in his condition,” he added.

“I’m quite sure they wouldn’t,” his father averred. “If they’re asleep, I’m afraid we’ll have to wake them.”

He pulled up in front of the kitchen entrance. Frank was out of the car in an instant, the others followed.

He rapped on the door. There was no answer.

“Let’s try the front door,” Joe suggested. “Maybe that has a knocker on it.”

The boys walked around to the ocean side of the house. Although they banged loudly with the brass door knocker, there was still no response.

“The Kanes must have gone out,” said Joe.

“But what about Jones? Surely he’s here.”

“And too weak to come to the door,” Frank surmised. “But he could call out. I can’t understand it.”

The brothers returned to the back door and i reported to their father. Then, as Joe rapped several more times without response, a sinking feeling came over the brothers.

“I guess Jones recovered fast and has gone,” Joe said dejectedly. “We’ve goofed.”

“Try the knob. The door may not be locked,” Mr. Hardy ordered. From his tone the boys knew that he shared their fears.

Frank turned the knob and the door swung open. Mr. Hardy felt around for a light switch on the wall.

“We’ll go in,” he murmured. “If Jones is here we’ll talk to him.”

By this time the detective had found the switch. As the kitchen became flooded with light, the boys gasped, thunderstruck. On their previous visit they had been impressed by the neatness of the room.

Now the place looked as though an earthquake had shaken it.

Pots and pans were scattered about the floor. The table was overturned. A chair lay upside down in a corner. Shattered bits of cups and saucers were strewn on the floor.

“What happened?” Frank exclaimed in bewilderment.

“There’s been a fight-or a struggle of some kind,” said Mr. Hardy. “Let’s see what the rest of the house looks like.”

The boys opened the door to the adjoining living room. Frank snapped on the wall switch.

There a horrifying sight met the Hardys’ eyes.

The farmer and his wife, bound and gagged, were tied to chairs in the middle of the room!

Swiftly Frank, Joe, and their father rushed over to Mr. and Mrs. Kane. They had been tied with strong ropes and so well gagged that the couple had been unable to utter a sound. In a minute the Hardys had loosened the bonds and removed the gags.

“Thank goodness!” Mrs. Kane exclaimed with a sigh of relief, stretching her arms.

Her husband, spluttering with rage, rose from his chair and hurled the ropes to one side. “Thosescoundrels!” he cried out.

Frank hastily introduced his father, then asked, “What happened?”

For several moments Mr. and Mrs. Kane were too upset to tell their story. But finally the farmer staggered over to the window and pointed down the shore road.

“They went that way!” he roared. “Follow them!”

“Who?”

“Those thugs who tied us up! They took Jones!”

CHAPTER VI

The Strange Message

“How long ago did those kidnapers leave?” Frank asked the Kanes quickly.

“About ten minutes,” replied the farmer. “Maybe you can catch them if you hurry!”

“Come on, Dad!” Frank cried. “Let’s go after them!”

Mr. Hardy needed no further urging. He and his sons ran out of the house and jumped into the car.

“That’s rough stuff,” Joe said to his father as they turned onto the shore road, “barging into house, tying up the owners, and kidnaping a guy!”

“Yes,” Mr. Hardy agreed. “It looks as though ‘your friend Jones is mixed up in some kind of racket.

Those men must have been pretty desperate to risk breaking into an occupied house.”

The boys’ father was able to follow the tracks of the car from the tread marks in the dusty road. But soon there were signs that another car had turned onto the shore road from a side lane and the trail became confused.

The Hardys passed the lane that led into the Pollitt place and continued on until they came to a hilltop.

Here they could get a clear view of the road winding along the coast for several miles. There was no sign of a car.

“We’ve lost them, I guess,” said Frank in disappointment, as Mr. Hardy brought the sedan to a stop.

“They had too much of a head start,” Joe remarked. “If only we’d gotten to the farm sooner. Well, we may as well go back.”

Mr. Hardy agreed, turned the car around, and once more the Hardys headed for the farm. On the way they discussed the mysterious kidnaping, and speculated on the identity of those responsible.

“I’ll bet those men in the other motorboat saw us rescue Jones, or else they heard somehow that he’d been taken to the farmhouse,” Joe surmised.”If they are the kidnapers, I wonder what will happen to Jones now,” Frank said gravely. “They tried to kill him once.”

“Maybe they’ll just hold him prisoner,” Mr. Hardy stated thoughtfully. “They were probably afraid he’d tell all he knew, and couldn’t afford to leave him at the farmhouse.”

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