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Mr. Hardy now began work again on the knot of the rope that kept his left arm bound to the cot. In a matter of moments he succeeded in loosening it and the rope fell away from his arm.

After making sure the guard was still asleep, the detective sat up on the cot and struggled to release his feet. This was an easier task. The smugglers had merely passed a rope around the cot to hold the prisoner’s feet. A few minutes’ attention was all that was necessary for the boys’ father to work his way loose.

“Now he’ll release us,” Joe thought excitedly, “and we can escape from here!”

As Fenton Hardy tiptoed toward his sons, the board floor squeaked loudly. The guard muttered again, as if dreaming, shook his head, then sat up.

“Oh, no!” Frank murmured, fearful of what would happen. He saw his father pick up a white rag someone had dropped.

A look of intense amazement crossed Malloy’s face. As he opened his mouth to yell for help, Fenton Hardy leaped across the intervening space and flung himself on the smuggler.

“Keep quiet!” the detective ordered.

Malloy had time only to utter a muffled gasp before the detective clapped a hand over the guard’s mouth, jammed the rag in it, and toppled him to the floor. The two rolled over and over in a desperate, silent struggle. The boys, helpless, looked on, their fears mounting. They knew their father had been weakened by his imprisonment and hunger, and the guard was strong and muscular. Nevertheless, the detective had the advantage of a surprise attack. Malloy had had no time to collect his wits.

Frank and Joe watched the battle in an agony of suspense. If only they could join the fight! Mr. Hardy still had the advantage, for he could breathe better than his opponent. But suddenly Malloy managed to raise himself to his knees. He reached for the revolver at his hip.

“Look out, Dad!” Frank hissed. “He’s got his gun!”

Quick as a flash the detective landed a blow on the guard’s jaw. Malloy blinked and raised both hands to defend himself as he fell to the ground. Mr. Hardy darted forward and pulled the revolver out of the man’s side pocket.

“No funny business!” the detective told him in a low voice.

Without being told, Malloy raised his hands in the air. He sat helplessly on the floor, beaten.

“He’s got a knife too, Dad,” Joe said quietly. “Watch that.”

“Thanks, Joe,” his father replied. Then, motioning with the pistol, he said, “All right. Let’s have the knife!”

Sullenly the guard removed the knife from its leather sheath at his belt and handed it to Mr. Hardy.

Frank and Joe wanted to shout with joy, but merely grinned at their father.

Still watching Malloy, the detective walked slowly backward until he reached Joe’s side. Without taking his eyes from the smuggler, he bent down and with the knife sliced at the ropes that bound his son.

Fortunately, the knife was sharp and the ropes soon were cut.”Boy, that feels good, Dad. Thanks,” Joe whispered.

He sprang from the chair, took the knife, and while his father watched Malloy, he cut Frank’s bonds.

“Malloy,” Mr. Hardy ordered, “come over here!”

He motioned toward the bed and indicated by gestures that the smuggler was to lie down on the cot.

Malloy shook his head vigorously, but was prodded over by Joe. The guard lay down on the cot.

The ropes which had held Mr. Hardy had not been cut. Quickly Frank and Joe trussed up Malloy just as their father had been tied, making certain that the knots were tight. As a final precaution they pushed in the gag which was slipping and with a piece of rope made it secure.

The whole procedure had taken scarcely five minutes. The Hardys were free!

“What now?” Frank asked his father out of earshot of Malloy. “Hide some place until the Coast Guard gets here?” Quickly he told about Tony and Chet going to bring the officers to the smugglers’ hide-out.

“But they should have been here by now,” Joe whispered. “They probably haven’t found the secret door.

Let’s go down and show them.”

This plan was agreed upon, but the three Hardys got no farther than the top of the first stairway when they heard rough, arguing voices below them.

“They can’t be Coast Guard men,” said Mr. Hardy. “We’ll listen a few seconds, then we’d better run in the other direction. I know the way out to the grounds.”

From below came an ugly, “You double-crosser, you! This loot belongs to the whole gang and don’t you forget it!”

“Listen,” said the second voice. “I don’t have to take orders from you. I thought we was pals. Now you don’t want to go through with the deal. Who’s to know if we got ten packages or five from that friend o’

Ali Singh’s?”

“Okay. And the stuff’ll be easier to get rid of than those drugs. They’re too hot for me. Snattman can burn for kidnapin’ if he wants to-I don’t.”

The voices had now become so loud that the Hardys did not dare wait another moment. “Come on!” the boys’ father urged.

He led the way back to the corridor and along it to the door at the end. Suddenly Frank and Joe noticed him falter and were afraid he was going to faint. Joe recalled that his father had had no food except the candy bar. Ramming his hands into his pockets, he brought out another bar and some pieces of pretzel.

Quickly he filled both his father’s hands with them. Mr. Hardy ate them hungrily as his sons supported him under his arms and assisted him to the door.

As Frank quietly opened it, and they saw a stairway beyond, the detective said, “These steps will bring us up into a shed near the Pollitt house. There’s a trap door. That’s the way Snattman brought me down.

Got your lights? We haven’t any time to lose.” Mr. Hardy seemed stronger already. “I’ll take the lead.”

As they ascended, Frank and Joe wondered if they would come out in the shed where they had seen the man named Klein picking up small logs.

When the detective reached the top of the stairs he ordered the lights out and pushed against the trapdoor. He could not budge it.

“You try,” he urged the boys. “And hurry! Those men we heard may discover Malloy.”

“And then things will start popping!” Frank murmured.

The boys heaved their shoulders against the trap door. In a moment there came the rumble of rolling logs.

The door went up easily.

Frank peered out. No one seemed to be around.

He stepped up into the shed and the others followed.

The three stood in silence. The night was dark. The wind, blowing through the trees, made a moaning sound. Before the Hardys rose the gloomy mass of the house on the cliff. No lights could be seen.

From the direction of the lane came dull, thudding sounds. The boys and their father assumed the smugglers’ truck was being loaded with the goods which were to be disposed of by the man named Burke.

Suddenly the Hardys heard voices from the corridor they had just left. Quickly Frank closed the trap door and Joe piled up the logs. Then, silently, the Hardys stole out into the yard.

CHAPTER XVII

Hostages

LITHE as Indians the three Hardys hurried across the lawn and disappeared among the trees. They headed for the road, a good distance away.

“I hope a bus comes along,” Frank said to himself. “Then we can get to a phone and report-“

His thought was rudely interrupted as the boys and their father heard a sound that struck terror to their hearts-the clatter of the logs tumbling off the trap door!

An instant later came a hoarse shout. “Chief! Red! The Hardys got away! Watch out for them!”

“He must be one of the men we heard coming up from the shore,” Joe decided. “They must have found Malloy trussed up!”

Instantly the place became alive with smugglers flashing their lights. Some of the men ran from the truck toward the road, shouting. Others began to comb the woods. Another man emerged from the trap door.

He and his companion dashed to the ocean side of the house.

Two burly smugglers flung open the kitchen door and ran out. One shouted, “They ain’t in the house!”

“And they’re not down at the shore!” the other yelled. “I just talked to Klein on the phone down there.”

“You guys better not let those Hardys get away!” Snattman’s voice cut through the night. “It’ll be the pen for all of you!”“Fenton Hardy’s got a gun! He took Malloy’s!” came a warning voice from the far side of the house. The two men who had gone to the front now returned. “He never misses his mark!”

When the fracas had started, the detective had pulled his sons to the ground, told them to lie flat, face down, and not to move. Now they could hear the pounding steps of the smugglers as they dashed among the trees. The boys’ hearts pounded wildly. It did not seem possible they could be missed!

Yet man after man ran within a few yards of the three prone figures and dashed on toward the road.

Presently Mr. Hardy raised his head and looked toward the Pollitt mansion.

“Boys,” he said tensely, “we’ll make a run for the kitchen door. The men won’t expect us to go there.”

The three arose. Swiftly and silently they crossed the dark lawn and slipped into the house. Apparently no one had seen them.

“When Snattman doesn’t find us outdoors,” Joe whispered, “won’t he look here to make sure?”

“Yes,” Mr. Hardy replied. “But by that time I hope the Coast Guard and State Police will arrive.”

“Joe and I found a hidden stairway to the attic,” Frank spoke up. “Snattman won’t think of looking in it.

Let’s hide up there.”

“You forget the ghost,” Joe reminded his brother. “He knows we found that stairway.”

“Nevertheless, Frank’s suggestion is a good one,” Mr. Hardy said. “Let’s go to the attic. Were any clothes hanging in the closet that might be used to conceal the door?”

“Yes, a man’s bathrobe on a rod.”

The Hardys did not dare use a light and had to make their way along by feeling walls, and the stair banister, with Frank in the lead and Mr. Hardy between the boys. Reaching the second floor, Frank looked out the rear window of the hall.

“The smugglers are coming back!” he remarked in a low voice. “The lights are heading this way!”

The Hardys doubled their speed, but it was still slow going, for they banged into chairs and a wardrobe as Frank felt his way along the hall toward the bedroom where the hidden staircase was. Finally the trio reached it. Just as Frank was about to open the door to the attic, a door on the first floor swung open with a resounding bang. “Scatter and search every room!” Snattman’s crisp voice rang out. “We’re trapped!” Joe groaned. “Maybe not,” Frank said hopefully. “I have a hunch Klein was the ghost. It’s possible that he’s the only one who knows about this stairway and he’s down at the shore.”

“We’ll risk going up,” Mr. Hardy decided. “But not a sound.” He slid the bathrobe across the rod, so that it would hide the door.

“The stairs creak,” Joe informed him. Mr. Hardy told his sons to push down the treads slowly but firmly with their hands and hold them there until they put one foot between them and then raised up to their full weight.

“And lean forward, so you won’t lose your balance,” he warned.

Fearful that he could not accomplish this, Frank opened the door carefully and started up in the pitch blackness. But the dread thought of capture made him use extreme caution and he reached the attic without having made a sound.After closing the door, Joe and his father quickly followed. The three moved noiselessly to a spot out of sight of the stairway behind a large trunk.

They sat down and waited, not daring even to whisper. From downstairs they could hear running footsteps, banging doors, and loud talk.

“Not here!”

“Not here!”

“Not here!”

The search seemed to come to an end, for the second-floor group had gathered right in the room where the secret stairway was.

“This is it! The end! They’re going to search up here!” Frank thought woefully.

His father reached over and grasped a hand of each of his sons in a reassuring grip. Someone yanked open the closet door. The Hardys became tense. Would the robe over the entrance to the secret stairway fool him?

“Empty!” the man announced and shut the door. The smugglers went downstairs.

There were fervent handshakes among the detective and his sons. Other than this they did not move a muscle of their bodies, although they inwardly relaxed.

Now new worries assailed the Hardys. It was possible that Snattman and his gang, having been alerted, would move out and disappear before the police or Coast Guard could get to the house on the cliff.

Frank’s heart gave a jump. He suddenly realized that his father was hiding to protect his sons. Had he been alone, the intrepid detective would have been downstairs battling to get the better of Snattman and break up the smuggling ring.

“What a swell father he is!” Frank thought. Then another idea came to him. “Maybe being here isn’t such a bad plan after all. Dad might have been fatally shot if he’d been anywhere else on the property.”

A moment later the Hardys again became aware of voices on the second floor. They recognized one as Snattman’s, the other as Klein’s.

“Yeah, there’s a secret stairway to the attic,” Klein announced. “I found it when I was playin’ ghost. And them Hardy boys-they found it too. I’ll bet my last take on those rare drugs we’re gettin’ tonight that the dick and his sons are up in that attic!”

The Hardys’ spirits sank. They were going to be captured again after all I They heard the door at the foot of the stairway open. “Go up and look, Klein,” ordered Snattman.

“Not me. Fenton Hardy has Malloy’s gun.”

“I said go up!”

“You can’t make me,” Klein objected in a whining tone. “I’d be a sure target ‘cause I couldn’t see him.

He’d be hiding and let me have it so quick I’d never know what hit me.”

Despite the grave situation, Frank’s and Joe’s faces were creased in smiles, but they faded as Snattmansaid, “I’ll go myself. Give me that big light!”

Suddenly a brilliant beam was cast into the attic. It moved upward, accompanied by heavy footsteps.

“Hardy, if you want to live, say sol” Snattman said, an evil ring in his voice.

No answer from the detective.

“We’ve got you cornered this time!”

Mr. Hardy did not reply.

“Listen, Hardy!” Snattman shouted. “I know you’re up there because you moved that bathrobe. I’ll give you just one minute to come down out of that attic!”

Still no answer and an interval of silence followed.

Then came Snattman’s voice again. “This is your last chance, Hardy!”

Nearly a minute went by without a sign from the two enemy camps. Then Snattman moved up the stairs a few more steps.

“Hardy, I have a proposition to make to you,” he said presently. “I know you don’t want to die and you want those boys of yours to live too. Well, so do I want to live. So let’s call it quits.”

The detective maintained his silence and Snattman continued up the steps. “Give you my word I won’t shoot. And I know you never fire first unless you have to.”

A moment later he appeared at the top of the stairs, empty-handed except for the light. In a moment he spotted the Hardys with his high-powered flashlight.

“Here’s the proposition-your lives in exchange for mine and my gang’s.”

“How do you mean?” Mr. Hardy asked coldly.

“I mean,” the smuggler said, “that you are my hostages.”

“Hostages!” Frank and Joe exclaimed together.

“Yes. If my men and I can get our stuff moved away before the police or the Coast Guard might happen in here, then you can leave a little later.”

“But if they do come?” Frank asked.

“Then I’ll bargain with them,” Snattman answered. “And I don’t think they’ll turn me down. They don’t know where you are, but I’ll make them understand I mean business. If they take me, you three die!”

Frank and Joe gasped. The famous Fenton Hardy and his sons were to be used as a shield to protect a ruthless gang of criminals I

The boys looked at their father in consternation. To their amazement he looked calm, but his mouth was drawn in a tight line.

“It won’t do you any good to shoot me, Hardy,” the smuggler said. “Mallory said all the chambers in that gat are empty but one. If the gang hears a shot, they’ll be up here in a minute to finish you all offproperly.”

The Hardys realized that if Snattman’s remark about the gun were true, they were indeed at the mercy of this cunning, scheming, conniving smuggler. He now started backing toward the stairway.

“I think I’m a pretty fair guy,” he said with the trace of a satisfied smile.

“And one to be hated and feared!” Joe thought in a rage. “We’ve got to outwit this man somehow!” he determined.

But at the moment the possibility of this looked hopeless.

CHAPTER XVIII

Coast Guard Action

WHILE the Hardy boys had been investigating the smugglers’ hide-out and had been captured, together with their father, Tony and Chet were trying their best to accomplish the errand which Frank and Joe had given them.

During the early part of their trip back to Bayport to contact the Coast Guard, the Napoli had cut through the darkness like a streak. Then suddenly Tony exclaimed, “Oh, oh! My starboard light just went out.”

Chet turned to look at the portside. “This light’s all right. Must be the bulb in the other one.”

“That’s what I was afraid of,” said Tony. “I’ll bet I haven’t another bulb.”

“You mean, somebody might not see the Napoli and ram us?” Chet asked fearfully.

“We’ll have to be careful,” Tony replied.

“Chet, take the wheel, will you? I’ll see if I can find an extra bulb.”

Chet changed places with Tony, throttled the motor, and gazed intently ahead. The moon had not yet risen and it was difficult to see very far ahead.

“Find anything?” Chet called out, as Tony finished his round of the lockers and was now rummaging in the last one.

“Not yet.” Tony pulled out a canvas bag, a pair of sneakers, and some fishing tackle. As he reached in for the last article in the locker, he gave a whoop of joy. “Here’s one bulb-just one-keep your fingers crossed, pal. If this isn’t any good, we’re in a mess.”

“And breaking the law besides,” Chet added.

He held his breath as Tony went forward and crawled inside the prow of the Napoli. With a flashlight, Tony found the protecting shield for the bulb and unfastened it. After removing the dead bulb, he screwed in the new one. As the light flashed on, Tony breathed a sigh of relief and started to crawl out of the prow.”Good work!” Chet said. “It’s lucky we-“

Chet never finished the sentence. At this instant he saw another speedboat loom up in front of him. Like lightning he swung the wheel around, missing the oncoming craft by inches!

“You fool!” the driver of the other boat shouted. “Why don’t you look where you’re going?”

Chet did not reply. He was quivering. Besides, he had stalled the motor, which had been throttled so low it had not been able to take the terrific swerving. “Oh, now I’ve done it!” the stout boy wailed.

There was no response from Tony for several seconds. He had been thrown violently against the side of the boat and was dazed. But he quickly collected his wits and crawled down beside Chet.

“What happened?” he asked.

Chet told him, then said, “You’d better take over. I’m a rotten pilot.”

Tony took the seat behind the wheel, started the motor, and sped off toward Barmet Bay.

“We’ve sure wasted a lot of time,” he remarked. “I wonder how Frank and Joe are making out.”

“Hope they found Mr. Hardy,” Chet added.

There was no more conversation until the boys turned into the bay. The Coast Guard station for the area was a short distance along the southern shore of the bay and Tony headed the Napoli directly for it. He pulled up at the dock, where two patrol boats and a cutter were tied.

The two boys climbed out and hurried up to the white building. As they were about to enter it, Chet and Tony were amazed to find Biff Hooper

and Phil Cohen coming out of it. Jerry Gilroy, another Bayport High friend, was with them.

“Well, for Pete’s sake!” the three cried out, and Biff added, “Boy, are we glad to see you! Where are Frank and Joe?”

“Still hunting for the smugglers,” Chet replied. “What brings you here?”

Biff explained that an hour ago Mrs. Hardy had telephoned him to see if he had heard from Frank and Joe. She confessed to being exceedingly worried about her sons. Mrs. Hardy knew they had gone to look for their father and she was in a panic that they had been captured by the same men who were possibly holding her husband.

“I told her I’d round up a couple of the fellows and go on a hunt,” Biff went on. “Jerry thought maybe Frank and Joe had come back to town and were somewhere around. We looked, but we couldn’t find them anywhere, s(r) we borrowed Mr. Gilroy’s car and came out here to tell the Coast Guard. They’re going to send out boats. You’d better come in and talk to Chief Warrant Officer Robinson yourself.”

The boys hurried inside. Quickly Chet and Tony told of the Hardys’ suspicion that they had found the entrance to the smugglers’ hide-out.

“Can you send help out there right away?” Chet asked. “We’ll show you where the secret tunnel is.”

“This is astounding,” said Chief Robinson. “I’ll order the Alice out. You can start within five minutes.”

“I’ll phone Mrs. Hardy right away,” Jerry offered. “I’m afraid, though, that the news isn’t going to makeher feel too good.”

While Jerry was gone, Chet told the chief warrant officer that the Hardys thought they knew the names of two of the men who were involved in the smuggling racket. Chet revealed the Hardy suspicions about Snattman being one and Ali Singh the other.

“We think Ali is a crewman on the Marco Polo that’s going to dock early tomorrow morning in Bayport,”

Chet continued. “Frank and Joe got a tip that makes them think this is the deal: While the ship is offshore, Ali Singh pitches stolen drugs overboard and one of the smugglers picks the package up in a speedboat.”

Robinson raised his eyebrows. “Those Hardy boys certainly take after their father,” he remarked. “They have the makings of good detectives.”

Biff told the Coast Guard officer of the boys’ adventure at the haunted house on their first visit to the Pollitt place. “Frank and Joe are sure there is some connection between the house and the smugglers.”

“And they are probably right,” the chief remarked. “I’ll call the State Police at once and tell them the latest developments in this case.”

The boys waited while he made the report. Jerry, who had just finished telephoning Mrs. Hardy, said that she seemed even more worried than before but relieved that the Coast Guard was going to take a hand.

The chief warrant officer then told the boys he would get in touch with the captain of the Marco Polo at once by ship-to-shore telephone. The connection was made and the boys listened with great interest to the conversation. The captain had a booming voice which they could hear plainly.

“Yes, I have a sailor named AH Singh,” he replied in answer to Chief Robinson’s question. “He’s a member of the kitchen crew.”

After he had been told that Ali Singh was suspected of stealing drug shipments and dropping them overboard to a confederate, he said, “That would be pretty easy for him to do. Singh probably throws them out when he dumps garbage into the water, even though he’s not supposed to do it. The drugs could be in an inflated waterproof bag.”

“Captain, will you have someone keep an eye on this Ali Singh without his knowing he’s being watched?”

Chief Robinson requested. “I’ll send a patrol boat out from here to watch for any of his gang who may be in a small boat waiting to pick up something he dumps overboard. How far offshore are you?”

“About sixteen miles from your headquarters,” was the answer.

“Will you keep in touch with the patrol boat?” Robinson requested. “It’s the Henley, in charge of Chief Petty Officer Brown.”

“I’ll do that.”

“Ali Singh can be arrested when your ship docks.”

As the conversation was concluded, a uniformed coastguardman came in. He was introduced as Chief Petty Officer Bertram in charge of the Alice, which would follow Tony and Chet to the smugglers’

hide-out.

“I’m ready, sir,” he told his chief, after a short briefing. He turned to the boys. “All set?”Chet and Tony nodded. As they turned to follow Bertram, Biff, Phil, and Jerry looked glum.

Noting the expressions on the three boys, Chief Robinson leaned across his desk and said, “I guess you fellows were hoping to be in on this too. How would you like to go on the Henley with Chief Petty Officer Brown and watch the fun?”

The eyes of the three boys lighted up and Phil said, “You mean it?”

“Do you want a formal invitation?” Chief Robinson asked with a laugh.

He rang for Chief Petty Officer Brown, and after introducing the boys, he explained what the mission of the Henley was to be.

“I understand, sir,” Brown replied. “We’ll leave at once.”

The three boys followed him down to the dock and went aboard. They met the other Coast Guard men and the fast patrol boat set off. It seemed to the boys as if the sixteen miles were covered in an incredibly short time. The lights of the Marco Polo loomed up in the distance.

“She’s moving very slowly, isn’t she?” Biff asked their skipper.

“Yes, she’s making only about four knots.”

“So it would be easy for a small boat to come alongside and take something from her?” Phil suggested.

“Yes, it would.” Quickly the officer picked up a telescope and trained it on the large craft. “The galley hatches are on the left and the tide is coming in,” he reported. “Anything thrown overboard will float toward shore.”

He ordered the wheelsman to go past the Marco Polo, come down the other side, and approach within three hundred yards, then turn off the engine and lights.

When they reached the designated spot, Petty Officer Brown ordered everyone on board the Henley not to talk or to move around. The Marco Polo’s decks, as well as the water some distance from the craft, was illuminated by light from some of the stateroom portholes. Biff, Phil, and Jerry crowded close to the chief as he trained his powerful binoculars on the galley hatches, so he could give them a running account of anything that might happen. The officer reported little activity aboard the Marco Polo and the boys assumed that the passengers either were asleep or packing their luggage in anticipation of landing the next morning.

Suddenly Petty Officer Brown saw one of the hatches open. A small man, with a swarthy complexion and rather longish coal-black hair, appeared in the circular opening. He looked out, then raised a large pail and dumped its contents into the water. Quickly he closed the hatch.

“Ali Singh!” the three boys thought as Brown reported what he had seen.

They watched excitedly to see what would happen now.

Suddenly Biff grabbed Phil’s arm and pointed. Vaguely they could see a long pole with a scooping net fastened to the end of it appear from outside the circle of light and fish among the debris. Petty Officer Brown reported that apparently the person holding the pole had found what he wanted, for he scooped something up and the pole vanished from sight.

The boys strained their ears for the sound of a small boat. It did not come and they were puzzled. Theyalso wondered why Petty Officer Brown seemed to be doing nothing about trying to apprehend the person.

The tense skipper suddenly handed the binoculars to Phil. Without a word the puzzled boy looked through them at the spot where Brown had been gazing. To his amazement he could make out the dim shape of a speedboat with two figures in it. Each held an oar and was rowing the small boat away from the Marco Polo as fast as possible.

“We’ve got the smugglers dead to rights!” Petty Officer Brown whispered to the boys.

“Aren’t you going to arrest them?” Phil asked.

“Not yet,” the officer told him. “I’m afraid we can’t do it without some shooting. I don’t want to scare the passengers on the Marco Polo. We’ll wait a few minutes.”

Suddenly the engine of the smugglers’ speedboat was started. Tersely, Brown began issuing orders to his men. The motors roared into action.

The chase was on!

CHAPTER XIX

The Chase

IN A few minutes the Henley’s brilliant searchlight was turned on. It picked up the speedboat which was racing toward shore at full power. But gradually the Coast Guard boat lessened the distance between them.

Chief Petty Officer Brown picked up a megaphone and shouted for the fleeing men to stop. They paid no attention.

“We’ll have to show them we mean business,” the officer told Biff, Phil, and Jerry. “We’ll shoot across their bow.”

He ordered the boys out of the line of fire, in case the smugglers should attempt to retaliate. They obeyed, and though from their shelter the three could not see the speedboat, they listened intently to what was going on.

The Henley plowed ahead and presently the boys heard a shot whistle through the air.

“Stop your engine!” Brown commanded. A second later he added, “Drop those guns!”

The smugglers evidently did both, for Skipper Brown said to the boys, “You fellows can come forward now.”

The three scrambled to his side. Biff was just in time to see one of the two captured men half turn and slyly run his hand into the large pocket of his sports jacket. Biff expected him to pull out a gun and was about to warn Brown when the smuggler withdrew his hand and dropped something into the water.

“The rare drugs!” Biff thought.Instantly he began peeling off his clothes, and when the others asked him what he was doing this for, he merely said, “Got an underwater job to do.”

Biff was over the side in a flash and swimming with strong, long strokes to the speedboat. He went beyond it and around to the far side.

In the meantime, Petty Officer Brown had ordered the smugglers to put their hands over their heads. As the Henley came alongside, two of the enlisted coastguardmen jumped across and slipped handcuffs on them. Brown instructed one of the enlisted men to take their prisoners back to Coast Guard headquarters in the smugglers’ boat.

“You got nothin’ on us! You ain’t got no right to arrest us!” one of the captured men cried out.

At that moment Biff Hooper’s head appeared over the side of the speedboat and a moment later he clambered aboard. He called out, “You’ve got plenty on these men! Here’s the evidence!”

He held up a waterproof bag, tightly sealed. It was transparent and the printing on the contents was easily read. “I happen to know that what’s in here is a rare drug,” Biff added. “I heard our doctor mention it just a few days ago.”

This announcement took the bravado out of the smugglers. The two men insisted they were only engaged to pilot the speedboat and deliver the drugs. But they would not give the name of the person who had hired them, nor the spot to which they were supposed to go.

“We know both the answers already,” Petty Officer Brown told the smugglers. Then he said to his wheelsman, “Head for the house on the cliff 1 They may need a little more help over there.”

Biff was hauled aboard, and as he put his clothes back on, the Henley shot through the water. He whispered to his pals, “We’ll see some more excitement, maybe.”

Some time before this, Chet and Tony had reached the area where the secret tunnel was. The patrol boat which had been following them turned on its great searchlight to pick out the exact spot.

“Look!” Chet cried out.

A speedboat with two men in it had just entered the choppy, rocky waters in front of the tunnel.

“Halt!” Skipper Bertram of the Alice ordered.

The man at the wheel obeyed the command and turned off his motor. But instead of surrendering, he shouted to his companion, “Dive, Sneffen!”

Quick as a flash the two smugglers disappeared into the water on the far side of their boat. When they did not reappear, Chet called:

“I’ll bet they’re swimming underwater to the tunnel. Aren’t we going after them?”

“We sure are,” Petty Officer Bertram replied. “Tony, can you find the channel which leads to that tunnel?”

“I think so,” Tony answered, eying the smugglers’ speedboat which now, unattended, had been thrown violently by the waves onto some rocks.

“Then we’ll come on board your boat,” the chief petty officer stated. He left two of his own men aboard the Alice to guard it and to be ready for any other smugglers who might be arriving at the hide-out.The rest of the crew, including Bertram himself, climbed aboard the Napoli, and Tony started through the narrow passage between the rocks leading to the tunnel. One of the enlisted men in the prow of the boat operated a portable searchlight. Everyone kept looking for the swimmers, as they went through the tunnel, but did not see them. When the Napoli reached the pond, the man swung his light around the circular shore line.

“There they are!” Chet cried out.

The two smugglers, dripping wet, had just opened the secret door into the cliff. They darted through and the door closed behind them.

Tony pulled his boat to the ledge in front of the door, turned off the engine, and jumped ashore with the others. To their surprise the door was not locked.

“I’ll go first,” Bertram announced.

“But be careful!” Chet begged. “There may be a man with a gun on the other side!”

The officer ordered everyone to stand back as he pulled the door open. He beamed the searchlight inside. No one was in sight I

“Come on, men!” the skipper said excitedly.

The group quickly went along the route the Hardys had discovered earlier. When they reached the corridor and saw the three doors, Tony suggested that they look inside to see if the Hardys were prisoners. One by one each room was examined but found to be empty.

The searchers hurried on down the corridor and up the stairway which led to the woodshed of the Pollitt place. They pushed the trap door but it did not open. Their light revealed no hidden springs or catches.

“The two smugglers that got away from us may have sounded an alarm,” Bertram said. “They probably set something heavy on. top of this trap door to delay us.”

“Then we’ll heave it off!” Chet declared.

He and Tony, with two of the enlisted men, put their shoulders to the trap door and heaved with all their might. At last it raised a little, then fell back into place.

“It isn’t nailed shut from the other side at any rate,” Bertram said. “Give it another shovel”

The four beneath it tried once more. Now they all could hear something sliding sideways.

“All together now!” Chet said, puffing. “One, two, three!”

The heave that followed did the trick. A heavy object above toppled with a crash, and the trap door opened. As before, Chief Petty Officer Bertram insisted upon being the first one out. There was not a sound from the grounds nor the house and not a light in evidence. He told the others to come up but cautioned:

“This may be an ambush. Watch your step and if anything starts to pop, you two boys go back down through the trap door.”

Suddenly there was a sound of cars turning into the lane leading to the Pollitt place. The vehicles’ lights were so bright that Bertram said, “I believe it’s the police!”A few moments later the cars reached the rear of the old house and state troopers piled out. Chief Petty Officer Bertram hurried forward to introduce himself to Captain Ryder of the State Police. The two held a whispered conversation. From what the boys overheard, they figured that the troopers planned to raid the house.

Just as the men seemed to have reached a decision, everyone was amazed to see a man appear at the rear window of the second-floor hall. He held a gun in his right hand, but with his left he gestured for attention.

“My name’s Snattman,” he announced with a theatrical wave of his hand. “Before you storm this place, I want to talk to you! I know you’ve been looking for me and my men a long time. But I’m not going to let you take me without some people on your side getting killed first!” He paused dramatically.

“Come to the point, Snattman,” Captain Ryder called up to him. He, too, had a gun poised for action should this become necessary.

“I mean,” the smuggler cried out, “that I got three hostages in this house-Fenton Hardy and his two sons!”

Chet and Tony jumped. The boys had found their father, only to become captives themselves. And now the three were to be used as hostages!

“What’s the rest?” Captain Ryder asked acidly.

“This: If you’ll let me and my men go, we’ll clear out of here. One will stay behind long enough to tell you where the Hardys are.” Snattman now set his jaw. “But if you come in and try to take us, it’ll be curtains for the Hardys!”

Chet’s and Tony’s hearts sank. What was going to be the result of this nightmarish dilemma?

In the meantime Frank, Joe, and their father, for the past hour, had despaired of escaping before Snattman might carry out his sinister threat. After the smuggler left the attic, they had heard hammering and suspected the smugglers were nailing bars across the door. The Hardys tiptoed to the foot of the stairway, only to find their fears confirmed.

“If those bars are made of wood,” Frank whispered, “maybe we can cut through them with our knives without too much noise.”

“We’ll try,” his father agreed. “Joe, take that knife I got from Malloy.”

As Detective Hardy sat on the steps, leaning weakly against the wall, his two sons got to work. They managed to maneuver the knives through the crack near the knob. Finding the top of the heavy crossbars, the boys began to cut and hack noiselessly. Frank’s knife was already dull and it was not long before Joe’s became so. This greatly hampered their progress.

Half an hour later the boys’ arms were aching so badly that Frank and Joe wondered how they could continue. But the thought that their lives were at stake drove them on. They would rest for two or three minutes, then continue their efforts. Finally Joe finished cutting through one bar and started on the second of the three they had found. Ten minutes later Frank managed to cut through his.

“Now we can take turns,” he told his brother.

Working this way, with rest periods in between, the boys found the task less arduous.”We’re almost free!” Joe finally said hopefully.

Just then, the Hardys heard cars coming into the driveway. They were sure that the police had arrived because of the illumination flooding the place even to the crack under the attic door.

It was less than a minute later that they heard the cars come to a stop outside and then Snattman’s voice bargaining for his own life in exchange for his hostages!

“Let’s break this door down and take our chances,” Frank whispered hoarsely.

“No!” his father said. “Snattman and his men would certainly shoot us!”

At this instant Frank gave a low cry of glee. His knife had just hacked through the last wooden bar.

Turning the knob, he opened the door and the three Hardys stole silently from their prison.

From the bedroom doorway they peered out to where Snattman was still trying to bargain with the police. No one else was around. The boys and their father looked at one another, telegraphing a common thought.

They would rush the king of the smugglers and overpower him!

CHAPTER XX

The Smuggler’s Request

AS THE three Hardys crept forward, hoping to overpower Snattman before he saw them, they heard a voice outside the house say, “You’ll never get away with this, Snattman! You may as well give up without any shooting!”

“I’ll never give up!”

“The house is surrounded with troopers and Coast Guard men!”

“What do I care?” Snattman shouted, waving his arms out the window. “I got three hostages here, and I’ve got one of the Coast Guard.”

“He’s in the house too?”

Snattman laughed. “Trying to catch me; eh? Well, I’m not going to answer that question.”

There was silence outside the house. This seemed to worry the man. He cried out, “It won’t do you any good to talk things over! I got you where I want you and-“

Like three stalking panthers Frank, Joe, and their father pounced upon the unwary smuggler. Mr. Hardy knocked the man’s gun from his hand. It flew out the window and thudded to the ground below. The boys pinned his arms back and buckled in his knees.

From below came a whoop of joy. “The Hardys have captured Snattman!” The voice was Chet Morton’s.”My men will never let you in here!” the victim screamed. He snarled, twisted, and turned in his captors’

grip.

Mr. Hardy, fearful that Snattman would shout to order his men upstairs, clamped a hand over the smuggler’s mouth. By this time there was terrific confusion inside and outside the Pollitt place. State troopers and the Coast Guard men had burst into both the front and rear doors.

Others guarded the sides of the house to prevent any escape from the windows. A few shots were fired, but soon the smuggling gang gave up without fighting further. The capture of their leader and the sudden attack had unnerved them.

The Hardys waited upstairs with their prisoner. In a few moments Chet and Tony appeared and behind them, to the utter astonishment of Frank and Joe, were Biff, Phil, and Jerry.

Stories were quickly exchanged and Mr. Hardy praised Frank’s and Joe’s chums for their efforts.

All this time Snattman glowered maliciously.

In a few moments chief petty officers Bertram and Brown appeared in the second-floor hall with Captain Ryder. Immediately the state trooper fastened handcuffs onto the prisoner. He was about to take him away when Frank spoke up:

“There’s someone else involved in this smuggling who hasn’t been captured yet.”

“You mean the man who got away from here in the truck?” Officer Ryder asked. “We’ve set up a roadblock for him and expect to capture him any minute.”

Frank shook his head. “Ali Singh, the crewman on the Marco Polo, has a friend who owns a small cargo ship. Right now, it’s lying somewhere offshore. Snattman was thinking of putting my dad, Joe, and me on it and arranging things so that we never got home again.”

The king of the smugglers, who had been silent for several minutes, now cried out, “You’re crazy! There’s not a word of truth in it! There isn’t any boat offshore!”

The others ignored the man. As soon as he stopped yelling, Joe took up the story. “I have a hunch you’ll find that your Coast Guard man is a prisoner on that cargo ship. The name of the captain is Foster.”

“You mean our man Ayres is on that ship?” Petty Officer Brown asked unbelievingly.

“We don’t know anyone named Ayres,” Frank began. He stopped short and looked at his brother. They nodded significantly at each other, then Frank asked, “Does Ayres go under the name of Jones?”

“He might, if he were cornered. You see, he’s sort of a counterspy for the Coast Guard. He pretended to join the smugglers and we haven’t heard from him since Saturday.”

“I found out about him,” Snattman bragged. “That name Jones didn’t fool us. I saw him make a sneak trip to your patrol boat.”

Frank and Joe decided this was the scene they had seen through the telescope. They told about their rescue of “Jones” after a hand grenade had nearly killed him. They also gave an account of how his kidnapers had come to the Kane farmhouse, bound up the farmer and his wife, and taken “Jones.”

Skipper Brown said he would send a patrol boat out to investigate the waters in the area and try to find Captain Foster’s ship.”We’ll wait here for you,” Captain Ryder stated. “This case seems to be one for both our branches of service. Two kidnapings on land and a theft from the Marco Polo, as well as an undeclared vessel offshore.”

While he was gone, the Hardys attempted to question Snattman. He refused to admit any guilt in connection with smuggling operations or the shipment of stolen goods from one state to another. Frank decided to talk to him along different lines, hoping that the smuggler would inadvertently confess something he did not intend to.

“I heard you inherited this house from your uncle, Mr. Pollitt,” Frank began.

“That’s right. What’s it to you?”

Frank was unruffled. “I was curious about the tunnel and the stairways and the cave,” he said pleasantly.

“Did your uncle build them?”

Snattman dropped his sullen attitude. “No, he didn’t,” the smuggler answered. “My uncle found them all by accident. He started digging through his cellar wall to enlarge the place, and broke right through to that corridor.”

“I see,” said Frank. “Have you any idea who did build it?”

Snattman said that his uncle had come to the conclusion that the tunnel and pond had been discovered by pirates long, long ago. They apparently had decided it would be an ideal hide-out and had built the steps all the way to the top of the ground.

“Of course the woodshed wasn’t there then,” Snattman explained. “At least not the one that’s here now.

The trap door was, though, but there was a tumble-down building over it.”

“How about the corridor? Was it the same size when your uncle found it?”

“Yes,” the smuggler answered. “My uncle figured that was living quarters for the pirates when they weren’t on their ship.”

“Pretty fascinating story,” Tony Prito spoke up.

Several seconds of silence followed. Snattman’s eyes darted from one boy to another. Finally they fastened on Frank Hardy and he said:

“Now that I’m going to prison, the eyepieces to your telescope, and your motorcycle tools, won’t do me any good. You’ll find them in a drawer in the kitchen.”

“Thanks a lot,” said Frank.

There was another short silence. Then the smuggler went on, his head down and his eyes almost closed, “Mr. Hardy, I envy you. And I-I never thought I’d be making this kind of a confession. You know almost everything about what I’ve been doing. I’ll tell the whole story later. Since they’re going to find that Coast Guard officer, Ayres, on Foster’s ship there’s no use in my holding out any longer.

“I said I envy you, Mr. Hardy. It’s because you brought up two such fine boys and they got swell friends.

Me-I wasn’t so lucky. My father died when I was little. I was pretty headstrong and my mother couldn’t manage me. I began to make the wrong kind of friends and after that-you know how it is.

“My uncle, who owned this place, might have helped me, but he was mean and selfish and never gave usany money. The most he would do was invite my mother and me here once in a while for a short visit. I hated him because he made my mother work very hard around the house all the time we were here. It wasn’t any vacation for her.

“One of the times when I was here my uncle showed me the pirates’ hide-out and I never forgot it. After I got in with a gang of hoods I kept thinking about this place, and what a swell hide-out it would be for smugglers. I was afraid to try it while my uncle was alive. But when I heard he was dead, I thought that was my chance.

“You see, I didn’t dare go to claim the property as the rightful heir. But now I’m planning to take it over.

Of course it won’t do me any good, because I know I’ll have to do a long stretch in the pen. But I’m going to ask those executors to use my uncle’s money to run this place as a boys’ home-I mean a place where boys without proper home training can come to live.”

The group listening to Snattman, king of the smugglers, were too overwhelmed by his complete change of heart to say anything for a few seconds. But when the man looked up, as if pleading for his hearers to believe him, Mr. Hardy said, “That’s a very fine thing for you to do, Snattman. I’m sure that the boys who benefit from living here will always be grateful to you.”

The solemn scene was suddenly interrupted by the return of Chief Petty Officer Brown. He reported that another patrol boat had picked up his message about Captain Foster’s ship and within a few minutes had reported sighting it. Then, within a quarter of an hour, word came that Captain Foster had been put under arrest, and that the missing Coast Guard man had been found on the ship, as well as a quantity of merchandise which the captain had expected Snattman to remove.

The prisoners were now taken away from the Pollitt home and the Hardys and their friends found themselves alone.

Chet asked suddenly, “How do we get home?”

Tony grinned. “I guess the Napoli will hold all of us.”

The group went to the woodshed, opened the trap door, and started down the secret passageway to the pond below. They climbed into the Napoli and Tony slipped behind the wheel. The Coast Guard men thoughtfully had left the portable searchlight on the prow and Tony was able to make the trip through the tunnel and the narrow channel out to the ocean without accident.

Suddenly Frank spoke up, “Dad, what happened to your car?”

Mr. Hardy smiled. “It’s in Bayport in a garage. I was being followed, so I shook off the shadowers and took the bus.” He added ruefully, “But it didn’t do me much good. Snattman’s men attacked me and took me prisoner on the road.”

The famous detective now said, “While I have the chance, I want to thank each of you boys individually for what you did. Without the seven of you, this case might never have been solved and I might not have been found alive.”

Modestly Frank and Joe and their friends acknowledged the praise, secretly hoping another mystery would come their way soon. One did and by learning The Secret of the Old Mill the Hardy boys encountered a cunning gang of counterfeiters.

Suddenly Joe remarked, “Compliments are flying around here pretty thick, but there’s one person we forgot to mention. Without him, Frank and I might never have found Dad.”“Who’s that?” Biff asked.

“Pretzel Pete!” Joe replied.

“That’s right,” said Frank. “All together, fellows! A rousing cheer for Pretzel Pete!”

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