- زمان مطالعه 53 دقیقه
- سطح خیلی سخت
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
این فصل را میتوانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید
متن انگلیسی فصل
“JOE, how soon will you be ready to roll?” Frank Hardy burst into the garage where his brother was working on a sleek, black-and-silver motorcycle.
“Right now, if this machine kicks over,” Joe replied, putting down a wrench. “But what’s the rush? We’re not going to meet Chet and Biff for two hours.”
Joe looked up quizzically at his brother.
“Chief Collig phoned,” Frank said. “You’ll never believe it, but he has a case for us.”
“You’re sure he didn’t mean Dad?” Joe asked. Fenton Hardy was a widely known private investigator.
His sons had learned from him about sleuthing, and acquired a great deal of skill.
“Positive. He said he wanted the detective’s sons this time-and right away.”
“Wow!” Joe exclaimed happily. “What a break! Summer vacation and a mystery to solve!” He swung into the saddle and kicked down hard on the starter. A roar filled the garage and he grinned in satisfaction.
Dark-haired, eighteen-year-old Frank had jumped onto an identical motorcycle, standing beside that of his blond brother, who was a year younger. The two machines roared out into the hot morning sunlight.
Ten minutes later the boys arrived at police headquarters in downtown Bayport.
They were greeted by the desk sergeant. “Hello Frank-Joe!” He waved them toward the chief’s office.
“He’s waiting for you.”
“Come in, boys,” boomed Chief Collig through the open door. He was a vigorous, middle-aged man with iron-gray hair. “I’ll get right to the point. There’s something funny going on in the squatter colony at the end of the bay.”
“You mean Shantytown?” Joe asked, referring to a settlement of shacks on the ocean shore north of Bayport. The odd community was composed mostly of men who had seasonal or temporary jobs-and some who did not work at all.
Chief Collig nodded. “The men there seem to be in an ugly mood-violence and fighting at night. The charitable landowner who permits them to stay there wants us to investigate, but it’ll have to be an undercover job because those drifters recognize the police.”
“And that’s where we come in?” Frank guessed.
“Yes. I want you to put on old clothes, muss your hair, and hang around Shantytown for a while. See if you can discover what’s been stirring up the group. Will you do it?”“Will we!” Joe exclaimed without hesitation. He turned to Frank and added, “Chet and Biff aren’t due at the boathouse for an hour. Let’s take a look at Shantytown.”
“Thanks, boys. Be careful,” Chief Collig said as they hurried from the office. Outside, Frank and Joe mounted their motorcycles and rode through the downtown traffic to the Bayport waterfront.
Leaving the big commercial piers behind, they took the Shore Road, past a section of private docks to where the brothers kept their trim speedboat, the Sleuth. Driving on, the Hardys followed the road along the curve of the left bank of the bay to the mouth of the harbor. Here they turned north and continued parallel with the ocean.
Soon they saw a jumble of board shanties on the wide beach ahead. Some were nothing more than open lean-tos, but others had glass windows and stovepipes. Pieces of ragged clothing fluttered from ropes in the breeze. Smoke curled up lazily from a small fire around which three men lay, watching the steam from a black pot which hung on a tripod above the flames.
The boys parked a distance away and observed them intently. “Looks peaceful,” Joe commented.
“A lot of them must be away at work,” Frank remarked. “Remember, the trouble comes at night, when they’re all here together.”
After studying the quiet scene for a few more minutes, Frank said, “We’ll come back later.”
The brothers turned their motorcycles around and headed toward the outskirts of Bayport, where the many private docks lay. Brightly painted cabin craft and sailboats with slender masts rode at mooring floats.
Seeing a yellow jalopy parked in front of the Hardy boathouse, Joe remarked, “Chet’s here.”
Frank and Joe parked their motorcycles beside his car, named the Queen. A broad-shouldered, good-looking boy stepped through the small side door of the boathouse. He held a key, one of the duplicates the Hardys had given to their close friends.
“Hi, Biff!” Frank greeted him. “Where’s Chet?”
Biff Hooper answered in an unnaturally loud voice and winked at them. “Why-uh-he’ll see you soon.”
“What’s up?” Joe whispered.
Biff merely shrugged and kept on grinning. The Hardys knew some joke was in the making!
Frank asked in a low tone, “Have you opened the bay door yet?”
Biff nodded. “And unmoored the Sleuth.”
Frank raised his voice and continued talking with Biff, at the same time motioning to his brother to tiptoe to the boat door.
Joe chuckled, took a bamboo pole from against the boathouse, and picked his way across the catwalk to the front. He peered in, then upward.
Jammed between the rafters and the ceiling was plump Chet Morton! He was looking the other way, toward the small door.
Silently Joe unmoored the Sleuth, and using the pole, pulled the craft halfway out of the boat-house,leaving a clear surface of water beneath Chet. Then Joe playfully jabbed at his friend with the bamboo pole.
“Yow!” Chet bellowed. There followed a great splash, and a geyser of water drenched the inside of the boathouse, as the chubby boy went under. A second later he popped to the surface, just as Frank and Biff ran in.
“Why, Chet, what are you doing in the water?” Frank asked, pretending astonishment.
“As if you didn’t know! Where’s Joe?”
“Right here, Chet,” he said.
“All right, you turned the tables,” Chet sputtered good-naturedly as they hauled him out of the water. “I was going to scare you. Biff, did you give me away?”
“Of course not.” Biff laughed. “If I’d known it was a swimming party, I’d have worn my trunks!”
Chet grinned and began peeling off his wet shirt. “Good thing I wore my trunks under my clothes,” he said.
In a few minutes his wet garments were drying in the stern of the Sleuth while the powerful craft, with Joe at the wheel, cut smoothly through the waters of Barmet Bay. The boys munched on sandwiches, which Chet had brought along.
“Say, how about a camping trip, fellows?” Biff suggested. “We could go to some of the islands along the coast.”
“This boat would hold plenty of provisions,” Chet chimed in.
“We can explore Hermit Island,” Biff went on. “I heard that the old man who owns it lives there all alone.”
“Afraid we can’t, fellows,” Frank answered. “We have a new case.” Quickly he told them about it.
Biff whistled appreciatively but Chet groaned. “Ever since you solved The Tower Treasure mystery, our lives haven’t been the same.”
With a twinkle in his eyes, Biff said, “Chet was hoping that would be your first and only case.”
“The last one you took on was nearly the death of me,” Chet grumbled. He was referring to his adventures with the Hardys while solving The Secret of the Old Mill. “From here on,” he declared, “just leave me out of any mysteries!”
His friends laughed, knowing how Chet hated to be left out of anything.
“Too late,” Joe told him. “We’re heading for Shantytown to take another look-see.”
By now the speedy craft was far out on the broad bay. The water had grown choppy and was turning from green to steely gray. In the distance the boys watched a cluster of white sails skimming before the breeze.
“A race,” Biff observed.
“Hey! Look out!” Frank cried sharply.A black hull, parting the water in white sheets at its prow, was bearing straight down on the Sleuth’s rear on the portside.
Frank shouted and waved frantically at the oncoming boat. “Cut her, Joe!”
Still the strange craft roared along toward the boys. At the last moment it came about, throwing a heavy bank of water aboard the Sleuth. For a moment the two boats sped forward, gunwale to gunwale. The name Black Cat was on the prow of the strange boat.
“Not so close!” Frank shouted angrily. The pilot ignored the warning. He was a swarthy man with black hair combed straight back. At his side sat a huge man with a bald head.
Calling on the Sleuth’s reserve of power, Joe shot the craft forward, veering to the right. The boys looked back with satisfaction as the black boat dropped behind.
Facing forward again, Joe caught his breath in horror. Directly ahead loomed the great white sails of the racers, bearing down on them swiftly. He cut the wheel frantically to the left. “Hang on!” he yelled.
“We’re going to hit!”
An Evening of Mystery
INSTANTLY Frank grabbed the steering wheel held by his brother. He twisted it violently and pulled out the throttle at the same time.
For a moment the Sleuth banked hard and balanced on her side, while the huge tilting sails hovered overhead!
One-two-three-four-dark sailboat hulls sliced safely across the speedboat’s boiling wake as she shot outward into the bay.
“Wow! That last one only missed us by a foot!” Biff exclaimed.
“Oh, boy, let’s not do that again!” Chet said shakily.
“You okay, Joe?” Frank asked as he slid back to his side of the boat.
“Yes, thanks to you! Where did the Black Cat go?”
“There she is!” Biff shouted.
Looking around, the brothers saw that the other speedboat had veered in plenty of time to run easily before the sail craft. The big, bald man was pointing to the boys and laughing.
“Bank her again, Joe!” Frank cried angrily. “We’re going after those men!”
“I can’t!” Joe shouted back over the roar of the engine. “She won’t respond to the wheel.”
Already a quarter of a mile of open water separated the two boats. Helpless, the four friends watchedthe black craft race away.
Meanwhile, the Sleuth shot ahead at full speed, her handsome prow lifted clear of the water.
“Do something!” Chet cried. “We’ll run aground!”
“No, we won’t,” said Frank, who had noticed the curving white swath of their wake. “We’re going in circles.”
The Sleuth, her steering mechanism disabled by Frank’s emergency turn, was clearly completing a wide circuit.
“We might as well save gas,” Joe said, throttling down. “One thing’s sure. We won’t make Shantytown today.”
Glumly the four sat still while the distant shores seemed to rotate around them. To the east, where the bay opened toward the sea, a grayish mist lay over the black water.
“Look at that fogbank,” Biff said. “I hope we’re not stuck here when it rolls in. It would be mighty hard for anybody to find us.”
“I don’t think that pea soup will move in before dark,” Frank said, but there was a note of concern in his voice.
“We’re supposed to go to Callie’s costume party tonight,” Chet reminded the others, “so we’d better get out of this mess soon!”
Suddenly the boys’ attention was diverted by the high whine of a motorboat plowing toward them across the water.
“More trouble?” Chet muttered.
“Trouble, nothing!” Joe exclaimed. “It’s the Napoli! Hi,Tony!”
The four companions waved wildly at their friend and in a few minutes a yellow speedboat idled up alongside the Sleuth.
“Thought it was you,” said dark-haired Tony Prito from behind the wheel.
“Why are you fellows running in circles?” asked Jerry Gilroy, who sat beside Tony.
“Our steering’s fouled up,” Joe reported briefly. “Give us a tow, will you, Tony? I’ll tell you about it on the way in. Chet, let’s have that line back there!”
Taking a coil of rope from the stout boy, Joe scrambled onto the prow of the Sleuth. He secured the line at the bow, passed it to Jerry in the Napoli, and then climbed into Tony’s boat himself. While the Sleuth bobbed along toward Bayport in the wake of the Napoli, Joe told the newcomers of the near collision.
Twenty minutes later the six friends stood together on the dock of the Bayport boatyard while a mechanic examined the Sleuth.
“You think the fellow tried to sideswipe you on purpose?” Tony Prito asked.
“Yes, I do,” Frank said. “They saw us clearly and heard us shouting, but they came straight at us, anyhow.”“Maybe something went wrong with their boat,” Tony suggested. “It could have been an accident.”
“Accident!” Chet Morton snorted. “You should have seen the look on the bald man’s face after we skinned past that last sailboat. They were out to get us all right.”
“But why?” Jerry inquired. “Did you ever see them before?”
“Never!” Joe stated positively. “But I certainly hope we see them again!”
“We’ll report this to the Coast Guard,” Frank said. “They may want to talk to those two men.”
Just then the young mechanic joined the group. “You have a damaged rudder,” he reported to the Hardys. “I’ve fixed it temporarily, but you’ll need a new part to do the job right. It’ll take a day or two for me to get it. Bring your boat back then.”
“I’ll follow while you take the Sleuth to your boathouse,” Tony volunteered. “Then we can all go to the Coast Guard station in the Napoli.”
After the Hardys’ craft -had been safely moored in their boathouse, Tony headed the Napoli out into the bay. He turned and followed the shoreline to the long jetties where the freighters were docked.
Soon the Napoli passed under the gray bow of a big cutter moored at the Coast Guard pier. Tony made his boat fast, and the six boys climbed up a steel ladder onto the dock. They entered the small, neat station office, which had a short-wave tower on its roof.
The officer on duty rose from his desk. “Hello, Frank-Joe-fellows,” he greeted them. The personnel at the Bayport station knew the Hardys well. More than once they had cooperated with the boys and their father on cases.
“Hello, Lieutenant Parker,” Frank said gravely. “We want to report a near collision caused by a powerboat named the Black Cat. Can you tell us who owns her?”
Quickly Frank gave an account of the incident while the officer took notes. Then a seaman who had been listening brought over a heavy ledger, which he spread open on the desk.
Lieutenant Parker ran his finger down the list of names and licenses of speedboats on the bay. “Nothing here, fellows,” he announced, looking up. “She must have come in from an outside port. Have you noticed a boat like that in the last week or so, Thompson?”
The seaman thought for a moment. “No, sir,” he answered. “But there’s been a big regatta going on up the coast for a couple of days. She may have run down from there.”
“We’ll go up and find her!” Joe put in eagerly. “What town is it?”
“Not so fast,” Frank said. “Don’t forget our other business, Joe.”
“You win,” Joe replied with a rueful grin, “but I hate to see-“
“We’ll have our patrol boats keep a lookout for the craft,” the officer promised. “If we find it, I’ll call you.”
It was late afternoon when the Napoli plowed through rough water on her return to the Hardy boathouse.
To seaward, the wall of mist had mounted higher and moved in closer, so that now it seemed almost atthe harbor’s mouth.
“The fog’s coming in fast,” Jerry remarked as Frank, Joe, Chet, and Biff disembarked. The Hardys thanked Tony for his help.
“That’s okay,” he replied. “It’s getting late. We’d all better go home and get ready for Callie’s party.”
“Don’t forget your costume,” Joe called as the Napoli churned away. He turned to Chet and Biff. “How about you, fellows? Are you all set for the masquerade?”
“I am!” The fat boy chuckled in anticipation. “Wait’ll you see what I’m going to wear!”
Biff grinned. “Even you detectives won’t know us.”
“We just have time to pick up our costumes from Mr. French before he closes,” Frank noted.
A few minutes later there was a clatter as Chet backed his jalopy onto Shore Road and he and Biff drove off.
The Hardys kicked their motorcycles into life and started toward town. When they reached Bayport’s main street most of the stores were closing.
“We’re in luck!” Frank declared as he parked in front of the costume store. “It’s still open. Mr. French has a couple of customers in there!”
The boys hurried toward the door. Through the wide shopwindow they could see the tall, spare proprietor, with thinning blond hair and a small graying mustache. He was talking earnestly to two men whose backs were turned. None of them noticed the boys.
As Frank pushed open the door, Mr. French stopped speaking. The taller of the strangers raised his voice and said in an ugly tone:
“Well, you’re in this now, French, and don’t you forget it!”
Faces in the Fog
THE door clicked shut behind the Hardys and the speaker whirled. He was a slight man with gray hair, pale skin, and small dark eyes. His brow was furrowed in a deep scowl, but in a flash he assumed a genial smile.
“Hello there. You startled me. I didn’t hear you come in.”
His companion was short and darkly tanned, with almost white-blond hair. He gave a little laugh and nodded. Even Mr. French assumed a thin smile, though his eyes had a worried and uncertain look.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Frank said, “but we’ve come for our costumes.”“You didn’t interrupt anything, fellows,” the blond man assured them. “Just a little standing joke we have with Mr. French. We’ve known him for years. But every time we come to town he says he won’t go out for a good time with us. So we have to get tough with him. Isn’t that right, French?”
The shopkeeper smiled weakly and stammered, “Yes … of course . . . that’s right.” Nervously he fingered a small costume box on the counter in front of him. Then, to Frank and Joe’s surprise, he added, “These are the sons of the famous detective, Fenton Hardy. Excuse me, I’ll get their costumes.” He hurried into the back room.
Both strangers looked steadily at the boys a few moments before the gray-haired man spoke up. “I recollect that your father was once an eminent member of the New York City police force.”
“That’s right,” Frank replied.
“And haven’t you young lads received attention in the public eye for your own exploits?”
Frank and Joe looked uncomfortable at the flattery. Before they could answer, Mr. French returned with two cardboard boxes. He opened one and took out a hairy-skinned gorilla costume. Its ferocious head was a rubber mask to fit over Frank’s head.
“Going to a party, eh?” asked the white-haired man.
“Where will the festivities be held?” inquired the other.
“At a friend’s house,” Frank replied evasively.
“Of course.” The man gave him a hard look.
Then, taking the small costume box from the counter, he said, “Well, we wish you a pleasant evening, young gentlemen. Good night, Mr. French!”
With a cheery wave of the hand, the gray-haired stranger went out the door, followed by his short companion. As they walked past the window, the Hardys looked them over carefully.
“Is my suit ready too, Mr. French?” Joe asked, after the men had passed from sight.
“Yes-the magician’s outfit. Here it is.”
The shopkeeper opened the other box and held up a rubber mask with a long nose, sinister slanting eyes, black mustache, and goatee. Joe looked at it for a moment with approval, then returned it to the box.
“We’ll bring the costumes back tomorrow,” he promised, and the brothers left the shop.
“Something queer was going on in there,” Frank said as they placed the boxes in the carriers of their motorcycles.
“I think that gray-haired fellow was threatening Mr. French,” Joe declared. “Old friends, my foot! Did you notice how Mr. French tried to cover it up?”
“Maybe he didn’t dare do anything else,” Frank suggested. “He looked scared to me. Let’s ask him about it tomorrow. He might be in some kind of trouble.”
“Okay,” his brother agreed as they mounted their motorcycles. “But we’re going to be busy on that Shantytown case.”Minutes later, the two motorcycles swung into the Hardy driveway. “Say, I have an idea!” Joe said, as the boys left the garage together. “Let’s put on our masks and give Mother and Aunt Gertrude a surprise.”
Frank chuckled. “I’ll ask what’s new at the zoo.”
The brothers pulled the false faces over their heads and went to the front door. As Joe pressed the doorbell, chimes sounded within. The boys thrust their faces forward.
After a pause the door was opened by a tall, thin woman whose angular frame froze momentarily to stiff attention. Her mouth opened and closed twice. On the third try her voice succeeded.
“You’re repulsive! Go away!” she cried and slammed the door.
The brothers burst into laughter. “Poor Aunt Gertrude!” said Frank. “It isn’t often we can fool Dad’s smart sister!”
The door opened again, revealing a handsome man with the build of an athlete. “What’s going -?” Then he began to laugh. “Okay, you nuts. Come in.” Frank and Joe ripped off the masks and walked into the living room.
“You!” Aunt Gertrude exclaimed.
“We’re sorry, Auntie,” Frank said. “Joe and I didn’t mean to scare you so badly. These are masks we’re wearing to a masquerade party tonight.”
Mrs. Hardy, their slim, attractive mother, smiled. “They are realistic. No wonder you were frightened, Gertrude!”
When Miss Hardy was mollified, the family sat down to a delicious chicken dinner. Between mouthfuls, Frank and Joe told about the near collision on the bay and of their conference with Chief Collig.
“It could be an important case,” Mr. Hardy said. “Good luck “
But his sister had other ideas. “I don’t like it in the least,” she declared. “Two young boys among those roughnecks in Shantytown!”
“Frank and Joe know how to take care of themselves,” Mrs. Hardy said. “Don’t worry.”
“I’m warning you,” Aunt Gertrude said to the boys. “One of these days something terrible will happen to you! Just remember I told you so.”
Seeing the teasing twinkle in Joe’s eye, Mrs. Hardy spoke up quickly before he could reply. “Where’s the big party tonight?”
“Callie Shaw’s,” Joe answered. “Frank can’t wait to see her.”
“Oh-ho!” his father teased. “And I suppose you, Joe, won’t look for Iola Morton as soon as you get there?”
The brothers grinned at the mention of the two girls they liked best.
“Callie and Iola are giving the party together,” Frank explained. “That reminds me, Joe. We’re supposed to pick up the ice cream!”A short time later, as Frank and Joe stepped from the house, they noted the gray, leaden sky overhead.
“Looks as if that fogbank has moved in from the bay,” Joe commented. “It’ll be thick downtown.”
After stowing their costumes in the carrier behind Frank’s motorcycle, the two boys set off for the center of Bayport. White wisps of fog swirled in the glare of their headlights and almost blotted out traffic. Both riders slowed to a cautious pace.
At last the boys maneuvered to a stop in Milton Place just off Main Street. Through the fog and gathering dusk, vague lights could be seen in the big brick building on the opposite corner.
“They’re working overtime at the bank,” Joe pointed out and grinned. “Counting the extra money they took in during evening hours.”
The brothers walked around the corner onto Main Street and entered a soda shop. Minutes later they emerged, each carrying a two-gallon drum of ice cream packed in dry ice.
“Wow! This is cold!” said Joe, as they turned into the alley.
Frank and Joe placed the cylinders in Joe’s carrier. “Now for the party!” Frank grinned.
Suddenly they heard a harsh grating noise and looked down the narrow street to see a heavy side door swing open in the bank building. There was a clatter of footsteps on concrete, and four men hurried from inside, carrying white sacks. Their faces looked like those of hideous beasts!
For an instant the Hardys stood paralyzed with surprise until Frank cried out, “It’s a bank robbery!”
In a split second the men dived into a waiting sedan. Its powerful engine roared. As the getaway car moved down Milton Place through the mist, a bank custodian raced out and fired his revolver at one of the car’s tires, but missed.
“Let’s tail ‘em, Joe!” cried Frank, leaping onto his motorcycle.
A Daring Getaway
FRANK and Joe gunned their motors and took off down the narrow street after the bank robbers. Tires screamed as pursuers and pursued careened through the fog-filled streets toward the Bayport waterfront district. Through the haze, the boys could see the red taillights of the bank robbers’ car.
“They’re heading for the docks!” Joe shouted as he recognized the long, dark shapes of warehouses on both sides of the murky street.
The fleeing car shot out onto a wide pier, lighted at intervals by yellow fog lamps. Ahead, a four-foot wire fence barred motorists from the pier’s end.
Brakes squealed sharply. In the amber glow, the Hardys saw the four doors of the thieves’ car pop open at once. Five dark-coated figures piled out and jumped the fence.The Hardys’ motorcycles screeched to a halt behind the empty getaway car. “Stop!” shouted Frank, leaping off. “Help! Police!”
A clatter of footsteps sounded far out on the jetty. Frank and Joe vaulted the fence and sprinted in pursuit.
The sound of heavy breathing told them they were nearing their quarry. But as the boys reached the end of the long pier a powerful boat engine suddenly roared to life.
There was a churning of water, a whiff of gasoline smoke, and the sound of men jumping into the boat.
Then the craft gained headway in the darkness of the bay.
“We can still stop them!” Frank exclaimed. “The Coast Guard station’s on the next pier. Come on, Joe!”
The boys dashed back, cleared the barrier, and ran past their motorcycles. Suddenly they heard shouts and footfalls approaching along the pier.
Omph! With stunning impact, Joe collided head-on with a running man.
“Look out!” Frank shouted as strong arms grasped him.
“Halt!” a voice ordered. “We’ve got you!” A whistle pierced the air. For a moment all was confusion.
“Now-what’s going on here?” demanded the authoritative voice.
“Let us go! Bank robbery! We need the Coast Guard!” Frank said, gasping.
“We are the Coast Guard,” replied the voice, and a flashlight shone through the fog. “Why, it’s the Hardy boys. Release them, men,” said Lieutenant Parker.
“We heard somebody shouting for police,” he added. “What’s this about bank robbers?”
After Frank had explained, the officer said, “I’ll dispatch a cutter after the bandits right away.” Lieutenant Parker and his men raced off.
Moments later, a police car sped onto the pier, its siren wailing and red top light blinking. It stopped and three uniformed men leaped out.
“There’s the car!” cried one of the men. Even in the heavy fog, Frank and Joe recognized him as the bank guard who had fired the shots after the fleeing robbers. “The crooks got into that car, and then these motorcycles raced off with them.”
Suddenly he spotted Frank and Joe. “Those are the bodyguards who rode the motorcycles. Grab ‘em!”
A grim-faced policeman, gun in hand, ordered Frank and Joe to come forward. Apparently he and the officer with him were new members of Bayport’s police department, for the boys had never seen them before.
“All right, what do you two have to say about this?” the patrolman demanded. Again Frank told what had happened.
The policeman turned to the guard. “Is that the way it was?”
“Yes-no-“ the man stammered, highly excited. “The robbers had on hats and pea jackets. And they wore horrible-looking masks.”“Look at this!” called the second policeman, who had been examining the car and the motorcycles. He came over, holding up the gorilla face in one hand and the magician mask in the other. “These were in the carrier of that cycle. I guess we’ve got two members of the gang.”
“Now wait a minute!” Joe began, but the wail of a siren cut him short.
Two more police cars arrived and heavily armed men poured from both cruisers.
The first officer to reach the group was Chief Collig. “We got your radio call!” he told the policemen briefly. “Any sign of the bank robbers?”
“Two of them-right here!” the man replied. He jerked a thumb at the Hardys.
Joe stepped forward quickly into the beam of yellow fog light. “Hello, Chief!”
“Frank! Joe!” Collig cried out in astonishment. “How did you get here?” He faced the startled rookies and said, “These boys are all right.”
“But,” one of the men protested, “according to the bank guard the thieves wore masks. And we found these on one of the cycles.” He handed Chief Collig the false faces.
“You’ll find four gallons of ice cream, too, Chief,” Frank put in. “We’re on our way to Callie Shaw’s masquerade party.”
The chief laughed heartily, but quickly became serious again. “Any suspicion of these boys is nonsense.
Now, what about the bank robbers?”
Quickly Frank told him all that had happened.
“I guess it was too foggy to see their getaway boat,” the chief said gloomily.
“That’s right,” Joe answered, “but from the sound of it, I’d say it was an open speedboat, with a powerful inboard motor.”
There was the ringing of bells and the deep rumble of engines from the next pier.
“The Coast Guard is taking the cutter,” Frank said. “But even their powerful searchlights won’t pierce through this pea soup.”
“Their best bet is to crisscross the bay and perhaps close in on the robbers,” Joe added.
“And for that a little boat is as good as a big one,” Frank said excitedly. “Joe, do you think the Sleuth is in good enough shape to take out?”
“It’s worth a try,” his brother assented.
Chief Collig nodded approvingly. “The more boats we send out, the better our chances,” he said. “I’ll dispatch the police cruiser, too.”
Frank and Joe swung onto their motorcycles and roared off the pier and along the Shore Road toward their boathouse as fast as they dared in the heavy fog.
Guessing they were near the private docks, the boys pulled off the road and parked. Each took a flashlight from the carrier of his motorcycle.After a short walk they found their boathouse. Joe reached the small door and took out his key. He gave a cry.
“The lock’s broken off!”
“What!” Frank exclaimed.
He swung the door open and beamed his flashlight inside the building.
The Sleuth was gone!
FOR A moment Frank and Joe stared at the empty boathouse unbelievingly. “I’ll bet the bank robbers stole the Sleuth!” Joe exploded.
“If they did,” Frank said with a grim smile, “they may be surprised. That rudder is only temporarily repaired. It won’t last long.”
“Let’s go after them!” Joe urged. “We’ll call Tony to bring the Napoli.”
“Okay,” Frank said. “He’ll be at Callie’s now.”
The Hardys hurried to their motorcycles and headed back toward town. When they reached the piers, they stopped at a public telephone booth outside a warehouse. Joe dialed the call and returned after a short conversation.
“Tony will meet us at the Coast Guard station,” he reported to Frank. “Come on!”
When the Hardys walked in they found that Chief Collig had turned the place into a temporary headquarters. He was questioning three bank tellers who had been brought there at the chief’s request.
One teller was giving his account:
“The four men must have hidden in another part of the bank. Just after we closed tonight, the robbers rushed into the main room together. Three came to our cages and forced us at gun point to put all the money into their sacks, while the fourth went to the side door. Then they warned us to keep still, and backed out the door. Our vault custodian fired after their car, but had no luck.”
“Can you describe just one of the gang?” Collig asked wearily. “Any one that sticks in your mind? Was he short or tall? Fat or skinny?”
“I already told you,” the man said doggedly. “They were all the same size.”
“But blast it, man, that’s impossible!” the chief exploded. “I don’t have four identically built men on my whole force!”
“They were all the same size,” the teller repeated, growing sullen. “They wore masks.”Shaking his head, Chief Collig turned from the teller. His eyes fell on Frank and Joe. “Back so soon?” he asked, surprised.
Frank told him about the stolen Sleuth. “The bank robbers used a speedboat for their getaway,” Joe added. “It might have been ours.”
“Has the cutter had any luck on the bay?” Frank asked.
“Nothing yet,” the radio operator spoke up. “They’ve been calling in every ten minutes.”
While Joe reported the theft of their boat to a Coast Guardman, Frank asked whether any clues had been found in the thieves’ car.
“Not even a fingerprint,” was Chief Collig’s answer. “We checked on the vehicle, of course. It had been stolen in Northport.”
Just then Tony Prito entered the crowded station, exclaiming, “It looks like a police convention outside, with all those prowl cars!”
“Hi, Tony,” Joe greeted him.
“Thanks for getting here so fasti” Frank said.
The three boys left the station at once, ran across the pier, and scrambled down a ladder into the Napoli.
Tony started his motor, switched on his running lights, and throttled cautiously into the bay.
The surface of the water was smooth and the air was warm. The fog, however, was thicker than ever.
Tony tried his spotlight but even this did not penetrate the murk for any great distance.
“Suppose we zigzag along shore about half a mile out,” Joe suggested. “The Coast Guard will cover the middle of the bay.”
The Napoli moved steadily through the night. The boys could see nothing.
“We need our ears for this job,” Frank said finally. “Shut her off a minute, Tony.”
The steady purr of the motor ceased and the craft drifted noiselessly. Far to seaward, outside the harbor’s mouth, a deep-voiced foghorn rasped its warning at regular intervals.
“Nothing,” Joe muttered disgustedly. “Start her again, Tony!”
“Wait!” Frank ordered. “There-another boat!”
“I don’t hear it!” Tony whispered.
“It’s very high-pitched-just a tingle. Turn her out into the bay, Tony. Run full throttle until I say stop.”
The Napoli shot forward, roaring through the fog.
“Stop!” Frank cried out.
Again came the sudden, hushed silence. Only the wake of the Napoli washed audibly behind them. But now all three boys heard the sound of a boat engine.
“You were right,” Joe whispered. “I think it is the Sleuth. Listen!”The high-pitched whine drew slowly closer, then gradually receded. Soon it approached again.
“She’s going in circles!” Joe chortled gleefully. “Head toward her, Tony.”
“Sure. But which way?”
“To the right,” Joe said promptly.
“Straight ahead!” Frank countered.
Tony started his engine and headed midway between the two directions. He drove steadily forward until Joe signaled to cut it again.
The other craft was very near them and over the motor’s purr they could hear angry voices.
“It won’t work!” one cried out. “Try it yourself!” Another shouted, “Move over, then!”
Frank, Joe, and Tony listened, grinning, while the men argued about the disabled boat. Suddenly the Sleuth’s motor was silent.
“They’re drifting away,” Frank said quietly.
Although Tony followed in the direction he thought the other boat was taking, the voices grew faint.
Desperately Tony opened his throttle wide, then shut off the motor again to listen. The voices had ceased.
“The men must have heard us,” Joe whispered. “They probably know they’re being chased.”
For a time the eerie pursuit continued, but at last Frank said, “It’s no use. They could have drifted a mile away by now.”
“Or they could be five feet from us,” Joe whispered. “We’ll never find them in this fog.”
“Besides, we’re low on gas,” Tony added, and turned the Napoli toward Bayport.
“Joe and I will come to the party later,” Frank told Tony. “I think Dad would like to hear our account of the bank robbery.”
After dropping Frank and Joe at the Coast Guard pier, Tony returned his boat to its mooring and went back to Callie’s house. Meanwhile, the brothers, dejected, cycled home. Opening the front door, they found their father in the hall taking his hat from the rack. Mr. Hardy stopped short.
“Tell me what you know about the bank holdup,” he said crisply. His sons stared in surprise.
Then Frank grinned. “I guess Chief Collig told you about us, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” replied Mr. Hardy. “He just phoned to ask my help. I’m on my way downtown. Brief me quickly.”
The detective listened with keen interest while his sons poured out the story of the robbery and the missing Sleuth.
“One thing is odd,” Frank added when they had finished. “The tellers swear the thieves were all the same size and build.”
Fenton Hardy smiled. “That’s not so strange.”“You mean the men were identical in size?” Frank asked.
“Not at all,” their father answered. “But a large mask will make a person’s body seem smaller. A tiny face mask can make him look bigger.”
“So the robbers used the masks to disguise their builds as well as their faces,” said Frank.
“Exactly,” his father answered. “It sounds like a very clever gang.”
At that moment Aunt Gertrude came into the living room. “Fenton,” she said, her voice sharp with disapproval, “there was a special news bulletin on the radio just now saying that you’ve taken on the Bayport bank robbery case.”
“So I have,” Mr. Hardy replied mildly, though the boys knew he was an expert at this. “At least to help the local authorities,” he added.
“But why do they announce it?” his sister asked tartly. “The bank robbers may hear it, and who knows what those dangerous men might do to make you drop the easel”
“Don’t worry, Gertrude,” Mr. Hardy replied kindly. “I’ll be careful. Thanks for the information, boys,” he added, and hurried off.
Aunt Gertrude eyed Frank and Joe suspiciously. “What are you two going to do now?” she demanded.
“Nothing dangerous, Auntie,” Joe assured her. “We’re just going to Callie’s party.” Satisfied, Miss Hardy watched the boys depart.
“Aunt Gertrude’s right, you know,” Frank remarked as they walked to their motorcycles in the drive. “It’s too bad about that radio bulletin. Dad is safer if he works under cover.”
A short ride brought Frank and Joe to the Shaw house. They parked their motorcycles beside the garage and quickly put on their costumes. Carrying the two containers of ice cream, the gorilla and the magician walked to the door, where they were admitted by a smiling Mrs. Shaw.
“Hello, boys. Come right in! I’ll put the ice cream away.”
When the Hardys entered the big living room they were hailed by a camel with four human legs, Spaceman Prito, and many other fantastic figures.
Pretty, brown-haired Callie was dressed as a fairy princess, and slim, vivacious Iola as a page boy. The two girls hurried forward to greet the late arrivals.
“Tony told us about the robbers and the chase,” Callie said.
“We’re glad you got here!” Iola added warmly.
A fierce pirate strode up to them. “I’m Black-beard Biff Hooper,” he announced. “How’d you like to walk the plank?”
Before Frank could answer, there was a ferocious roar behind him and a hand clamped down on his shoulder. He whirled to find himself face to face with another gorilla!
“Told you I’d surprise you!” came Chet Morton’s voice. “Come on, Gargantua! Let’s dance!”
The two hairy creatures joined hands and waltzed around the room to the music of the record player.They pirouetted, leaped in the air, and did somersaults. The other guests watched, shrieking with laughter. Panting, Chet yanked off his tight-fitting gorilla face.
“Oops!” he exclaimed ruefully. “I tore it.”
Frank examined the rubber mask. “Too bad,” he said with a grin. “You’ll have to wear your own face from now on.”
Later, as the guests ate, they listened, fascinated, to the Hardys’ account of their adventure. Finally, about midnight, everyone began to leave.
As Frank and Joe were saying good night to the girls, Chet came over to them. “Biff, Tony, Jerry, and I have decided to go camping tomorrow. We’re using Mr. Hooper’s boat. Sorry you fellows can’t come.”
“We’ll make it next time,” Joe promised.
Iola said to Chet, “You can go on home and drop Biff at his house. I’m staying overnight here.”
Frank and Joe departed, and soon after returning home, they were sound asleep. Two hours later the ringing of the telephone jarred the silence of the Hardy home. Frank awoke and picked up the extension phone.
“Frank?” The speaker was Mrs. Morton. “Is Chet there? He hasn’t come home yet!”
“No, he isn’t here,” Frank answered. “He probably went to Biff’s.”
“I’ll try the Hoopers,” Mrs. Morton said. “Sorry to have awakened you.”
As Frank replaced the telephone, he glanced at his wrist watch. It was two o’clock.
“Funny Chet didn’t phone his folks,” he thought.
A second later the phone jangled again and he picked it up. “Frank Hardy speaking.”
“This is Mrs. Hooper,” said a worried voice. “Is Biff with you?”
Frank sat straight up in bed. “I’m sorry, he isn’t here,” he replied. “I’ll call some of our friends and see what I can find out.”
Biff’s mother gratefully accepted the offer. “Oh, thank you. I’m so worried about him.”
As Frank put down the phone, Joe mumbled sleepily, “What’s the matter?”
“Matter? It looks as if plenty’s the matter. Wake up! Chet and Biff are missing!”
CHAPTER VIA Perilous Slide
STARTLED by the news, Joe sat bolt upright in bed. “Chet and Biff gone?”
“They vanished after the party.”
“Who was that on the telephone?” suddenly asked a deep voice. In the doorway stood Fenton Hardy in a robe.
Quickly Frank told his father and Joe about the calls from Mrs. Morton and Mrs. Hooper. Mr. Hardy promptly dialed police headquarters, and identified himself to the desk sergeant.
“Have any accidents been reported since midnight?” he inquired. As he listened, the lines of his forehead relaxed.
“None,” he reported to Frank and Joe. Then the detective explained the situation to the officer, who promised that the police would look for Chet and Biff.
After putting down the phone, Mr. Hardy asked his sons, “Is there any place the boys are likely to have gone?”
“They were planning to go camping early this morning,” Joe recollected, “stopping at different islands along the coast. Maybe they decided to go tonight instead.”
“I doubt it-in this fog,” Frank objected. “And not without telling anyone.” Nevertheless, he dialed the Hooper home to make sure.
“Oh, no,” Biff’s mother replied to Frank’s question. “Mr. Hooper carries the boathouse key with him. If Biff and Chet had wanted to leave earlier, they would have had to get it from him.”
Frank tried not to show his mounting alarm. Hoping he sounded cheerful, he said, “We’ll keep looking for the boys.” After saying good-by, he turned to Joe and his father. “This is serious. I hate to disturb Callie, but I’ll have to now.” He dialed her number. Callie herself answered sleepily.
“Sorry to bother you so late,” Frank said. “But will you do me a favor? Peek out the window and see if Chet’s jalopy is there. It was parked under the street light.”
After a short pause he turned to Joe and his father. “It’s still there! . . . Callie, when did Biff and Chet leave?” He listened a moment. “Thanks. We can’t locate them. . . . Nothing wrong for sure yet. We’ll call you tomorrow.”
Frank hung up and said worriedly, “They left the party ten minutes after we did.”
Joe snapped his fingers. “I’ll bet they couldn’t get the jalopy started. They’re probably spending the night with one of the fellows who lives on Callie’s street.”
Frank looked relieved. “Let’s go over and check the jalopy.” The boys began dressing.
“Have you a key to the car?” Mr. Hardy asked.
“Chet gave us one,” Frank explained.
Fifteen minutes later the boys drove up quietly in their father’s sedan and parked behind the yellow jalopy. Quickly Frank slipped into the driver’s seat, and a moment later the Queen coughed and rattled into life. Abruptly he cut the motor and the two brothers looked at each other soberly.”I was wrong,” Joe said. “They didn’t have car trouble. What did happen?”
Frank shook his head grimly. By the light of the street lamp the boys examined the jalopy, the curb and road around it, but found no clues. Using their flashlights, they checked the Shaws’ yard and porch.
“Nothing here,” Frank said finally.
The porch lights blinked on and Callie appeared in the doorway. “Frank-Joe, what are you doing?” she asked.
“Looking for clues,” Joe replied. “But we haven’t found any yet.”
“Chet and Biff had their costumes on when they left, and carried the masks,” Callie said. “They looked so conspicuous, they should be easy to locate.”
“We’ll keep trying,” Frank promised.
He used the Shaw phone and called each boy who had been at the party. Chet and Biff were not with any of them, nor had Tony or Jerry heard from them.
Finally the Hardys headed for home. They gave their father the discouraging report and reluctantly went back to bed.
After a few hours of uneasy sleep, Frank and Joe awakened to find bright sunlight filling the room.
Hurriedly they dressed and dashed downstairs. Their father was already at the breakfast table.
“Any news of Chet and Biff?” Frank asked.
Mr. Hardy shook his head soberly. “The police have found no trace of them.”
“If only we knew where to start looking!” Joe said worriedly. “But we haven’t a single clue to go on.”
“The State Police are searching, too,” Mr. Hardy told them. “A lead may turn up before the day is over. I hate to mention it,” he added, “but the boys might have been kidnaped. So, to be on the safe side, there’ll be absolutely no publicity.”
“Good idea,” Frank agreed.
For a minute he and Joe sat in glum silence. “What about the Sleuth?” Joe asked finally.
“The Coast Guard hasn’t found it yet,” Mr. Hardy replied, “and there are no leads on the bank robbery, either.”
“How about the stolen car?” Frank queried. “Who owns it?”
“A man living up the coast,” his father answered. “It disappeared day before yesterday while he was at a boat regatta in Northport.”
“A boat regatta-“ Joe murmured. “Where have we heard of one lately?”
“At the Coast Guard station,” Frank prompted.
“That’s it! Seaman Thompson thought the boat that tried to ram us might have come down from the regatta in Northport.”
“Looks like Northport might furnish a lead to more than one mystery,” Frank declared. “Let’s take a runup there and see if we can pick up a due.”
“If I go up the coast, I want to go in the Sleuth!” Joe answered firmly. “We must find her!”
At this point, Mrs. Hardy brought the discussion to an end by setting before each boy a stack of steaming, golden-brown pancakes.
Aunt Gertrude came in behind her with a block of yellow butter and a tall pitcher of maple syrup. “There are more cakes on the griddle,” she said.
“You need your strength. And for goodness’ sake, find those poor lost boys!”
“If we can help-“ Mrs. Hardy began.
“Thanks,” Frank said.
After breakfast the brothers hurried to the garage. “The bank robbers must have beached the Sleuth somewhere,” Joe reasoned. “If we follow the shore, we’re sure to find her.”
The black-and-silver motorcycles backfired like pistol shots, then roared from the drive and down High Street. The riders headed out Shore Road, past the private docks.
The fog of the night before had given way to a bright-blue summer morning. As the boys sped along in a cool, salty breeze they watched the white sand of the beach on their right. There was no sign of the Sleuth.
Finally they reached the head of the bay and turned sharply, following the seacoast northward. For a while Frank and Joe saw only the big green rollers of the Atlantic as they broke into foaming white along the sand and rocks.
The brothers spotted the squatters’ colony of slapped-together board dwellings ahead.
The cycles chugged up Shore Road, which rose and twisted along the top of high, rocky cliffs along the sea.
“Look down there!” Joe called out suddenly. He had caught the glint of sunshine on a familiar hull. The Sleuth! It was stranded on the beach!
“Yippee!” exclaimed Frank. “The robbers must have floated her in at high tide.” The boys parked their motorcycles and hurried to the edge of the bluff. Below them, the rocky cliff fell straight down to the boulders bordering the sand.
“I don’t see a path,” Frank said. “Wait! Here’s a place we can go down.”
As he leaned over the edge, a mass of loose sod and stone gave way at his feet. With a startled cry Frank slid downward. Desperately he grasped for a hold, his clawing fingers closing on a sharp slab jutting out just below the lip of the bluff. His body hung a hundred feet above the rocks and sand below.
“Hang on!” Joe shouted, and whipped his extra-long leather belt from its loops. Lying flat, he inched downward over the cliff edge until he could pass the leather under Frank’s armpits. He slid the end through the buckle and pulled the belt tight.
Joe squirmed back again, braced himself, and hauled. For one sickening moment Frank swung like a pendulum beneath the cliff. With all his strength, Joe jerked the belt again and a moment later helped Frank clamber to safety.”Whew! That was close!” Frank said, gasping. “If it hadn’t been for you-“
“Better leave the boat,” Joe panted, retrieving his belt. “We can come by sea with the Coast Guard and get her.” Still shaking from fright, Frank agreed.
The brothers went at once to the Coast Guard station on the pier. When Lieutenant Parker heard Frank’s story, he called two men and led the way to a patrol boat. The powerful craft headed straight out the mouth of the bay and turned sharply up the coast.
The beach was a whitish line on their left. Soon it broadened, and the tumble-down buildings of Shantytown came into view.
“Wait! Wait a minute!” Frank called out. “Can we slow down? What’s that white thing floating in the water?”
“A dead fish,” suggested a Coast Guardman.
The patrol boat throttled down and slid nearer the object. Leaning far over the side, Joe lunged and scooped it from the sea.
“This isn’t a fish!” he cried out excitedly. “It’s a rubber mask turned inside out!”
As he spoke, his fingers moved nimbly. In an instant a limp gorilla face appeared.
“This belongs to Chet!” Frank exclaimed.
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