بخش 02

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CHAPTER VI

The Toppled Tower

CADMUS QUILL stood on the steps and stared at the boys with a startled look on his round face.

“That remark hit home!” Frank thought. He got out of the car, and ran up to Quill before he had a chance to retreat. “You seem interested in Rockaway,” Frank said bluntly, hoping to catch him off guard. “Do you know somebody there?”

Quill smiled. “I thought for a moment,” he replied casually, “that your friend had said Far Rockaway, in New York. I have an uncle who lives there.”

Frank was momentarily at a loss about how to pursue his line of questioning. This gave Quill time to turnon his heel. He strode off, saying, “I have a lecture to prepare. Good luck to you!”

Frank returned to the car, and as the boys drove back to the motel, he discussed with them Quill’s peculiar actions.

Joe spoke up. “That uncle bit doesn’t ring true. Quill is keeping back something, I’ll bet.”

“Why should the name Rockaway strike him?” Chet wondered.

“Who knows?” Joe said. “Maybe he discovered the Rockaway clue in Todd’s exam.”

“I don’t get it,” Frank said as he parked in front of the cottage. “Quill knows we’re detectives. If he did find the Rockaway clue, why didn’t he tell us?”

“Maybe he wants to follow it himself,” Joe replied.

“This Cadmus Quill will bear watching,” remarked Biff, now thoroughly caught up in the excitement of the mystery.

Chet suggested that while the Hardys were packing, he and Biff would take his jalopy to a service station. “We want to check it out before starting the trip to Rockaway,” Chet said.

The brothers entered their quarters. While Joe tossed his belongings into his suitcase, Frank telephoned Bayport. Mr. Hardy answered.

“Frank,” he said, “I’m glad you called!” The boy was surprised at his father’s clipped tone.

“What’s the matter, Dad?” he asked.

“I’m afraid you and Joe will have to come home right away. It’s urgent, and I’d rather not take time to explain it.”

“Okay, Dad. But just one thing,” Frank added quickly. “We’re suspicious of a fellow named Cadmus Quill. Will you get us a confidential report on him, please?” Mr. Hardy promised and Frank hung up. “Something’s gone haywire in Bayport,” he said to his brother, then repeated their father’s message.

While Frank packed his belongings, Joe hustled over to the motel office to pay their bill. He returned to the car just as Frank was stowing the luggage into the trunk. At the same moment, Biff and Chet drove up.

“All set for the big adventure at Honeycomb Caves!” Chet sang out exuberantly. “Joe, I bet I get better mileage than you on the way to the coast.”

When the Hardys did not smile at the boast, Biff sensed something was wrong. “What’s the matter, fellows?”

“We can’t go with you-at least not now,” said Frank.

“Sorry to leave you in the lurch like this,” Joe added as he slid behind the wheel.

Frank told them about their father’s cryptic message.

“Well, if you’re needed in Bayport, I guess that’s that,” Chet commented.”We’ll join you as soon as we can,” Frank promised.

“We’ll be camping on the beach,” Chet said.

Grinning, Joe started the car. “So long, and don’t join any fraternities!”

Joe held the speedometer needle at the maximum speed allowed, and the countryside flashed by. When they hit the turnpike, Frank spelled his brother at the wheel. Now, with greater speed, the miles melted past.

“She purrs like a kitten,” Frank said. “A great car, Joe.”

“Good thing we had the motor tuned up,” Frank remarked as the wind whipped through his hair.

After a quick stop for lunch, Joe drove away from the roadside restaurant.

“Want to listen to the news?”

“Okay. What country’s having a war today?”

“Maybe someone has landed on the moon,” Frank said as he clicked on the high-powered transistor.

The first word to hit their ears was “Bayport.” Joe took his foot off the accelerator and Frank tuned the volume louder. The newscaster’s report sent a shiver up their spines: The radar tower on Telescope Hill had toppled over in a high wind!

“This must be the emergency Dad meant,” Frank said. “Come on. Let’s go.”

Joe guided the car expertly along the freeway, and, slightly under six hours since they had left the town of Kenworthy, the Hardys pulled into their driveway.

As the boys carried their luggage in the back door, Mrs. Hardy met them.

“Hi, Mother,” said Frank. “Where’s Dad?”

“At the radar site. He didn’t have time to tell you all about it on the phone.”

“We heard the report on the car radio,” said Joe.

“Your father wants you to go right over,” Mrs. Hardy said.

The boys carried the suitcases to their rooms, splashed cold water on their faces, and hurried back to the car.

As they neared the construction site, traffic was slowed by the large trucks plying back and forth to the installation.

Finally they reached the gate. Frank parked the car, and he and Joe approached the guard. The brothers identified themselves.

“Our father is waiting for us inside,” Frank said.

With a nod of recognition the security man admitted them. Briskly Frank and Joe trotted up the incline which led to the top of Telescope Hill.

Joe gave a low whistle as they neared the toppled tower. It had cut a jagged scar in the woodland andlay twisted and broken. A number of men were inspecting it. Mr. Hardy, with a magnifying glass in one hand, was examining a girder at a point about five feet from the ground, where the steel superstructure had snapped off. “You made good time,” the detective said as his sons ran up. He added quickly, “I’m sorry, but I won’t need you, after all, boys. I found what I was looking for, soon after I summoned you.”

“What’s that, Dad?” asked Frank.

“Look here,” the detective said, and handed him the magnifying glass.

The young sleuth studied the break in the steel. “I’ll say you found something! Here, take a look, Joe.”

The younger boy also was amazed as he noticed that the break was smooth and clean except for a burr at the edge of the girder.

“This was cut almost all the way through to weaken the structure,” said Joe, “but I don’t see any saw marks.”

“It was probably done with an electronic cutter,” Mr. Hardy remarked. “I’ve already reported this to the government men. Their chief engineer agrees with my theory.”

“And the high wind finished the job?” asked Joe.

“Exactly,” his father replied. He added that the saboteur had cut the line so straight and deep that the girder had been snapped off like a crisp cracker.

“We’re up against a daring and well-equipped ring of saboteurs,” Frank commented as the three walked alongside the fallen tower.

“But I wasn’t sure of that at first,” Mr. Hardy said. “That’s why I needed you. I wanted you to do some undercover work to help me find out whether it really was sabotage.” He added that he had not revealed the nature of his urgent request for fear someone might have tapped his phone line. “I didn’t want anyone to find out what I suspected.”

“Any information on Cadmus Quill?” Joe asked as they passed beneath a tall pine tree, the top of which had been sheared off by the tower.

“Nothing yet,” Mr. Hardy said. “A very reliable agency is checking into it. They’ll send me the report in code.”

Suddenly the detective yelled, “Look out!” and gave Joe a push which sent him sprawling headlong onto the grass. Simultaneously a huge chunk of metal thudded to the ground inches from his body.

“Good grief! Where’d that come from?” Frank cried, looking up into the tall pine.

“A piece of the tower must have broken off and gotten stuck in the branches,” Mr. Hardy said. “You all right, Joe?”

The boy picked himself up, took a deep breath, and grinned. “Being a detective can be dangerous!” he said. “Thanks for the assist.”

The three Hardys went out the main gate. “Our car is parked close to yours, Dad,” Frank said.

A short time later father and sons entered their house together. After a late dinner with Mrs. Hardy, the tired sleuths turned in.When the boys came down for breakfast the next morning they found their father already up.

“There’s a letter for you, boys,” he said, pointing to the hall table.

Frank picked up the long, heavy envelope. “It’s from Dean Eastland,” he said. “Must be the fraternity roster.”

As he spoke, the doorbell rang and Joe hurried to answer. It was a telegram for Mr. Hardy.

“The report on Quill,” Joe said eagerly.

“Bring it into my office,” his father said, leading the way.

The detective opened the telegram and studied the mysteriously coded message. Taking a pencil and pad, he unscrambled the code letter by letter. His sons looked on intently over his shoulder. The information was concise. “Cadmus Quill. Good student. Good family. Good reputation. Likes to travel.

Made an extended tour of study abroad three years ago.”

“But look at the country he studied in!” Frank said excitedly.

Joe whistled. “The same one Todd visited last summer!”

“Dad,” Frank exclaimed, “do you know what this could mean?”

CHAPTER VII

The Palais Paris

“I GET it!” Joe burst out. “Both Quill and Todd were brainwashed into helping a foreign power!”

Mr. Hardy spoke up. “Frank, what’s your opinion?”

“My theory,” Frank said, “is that maybe Todd and Quill had opposing views about this unfriendly country. Joe’s jumping to conclusions and maybe I am too, but-“

Frank dropped into a thoughtful silence.

“Go on,” Mr. Hardy encouraged him. “You may be on the right track.”

“If Todd was against the country and Quill for it, maybe they had a quarrel.”

“Which could have led to Todd’s disappearance?” Joe asked.

His brother nodded. “And whoever ordered the fraternity to haze us in order to scare us off,” he added, “is in on the plot” Frank was still holding the letter from Dean Eastland. “Maybe this will give us a clue.”

He slit open the envelope and withdrew a printed pamphlet.

Frank’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh-oh!” he exclaimed. “Here’s our answer!” He slapped the booklet down on his father’s desk and pointed to the words on the cover: Delta Sigma Fraternity- Cadmus Quill, Faculty Adviser. “He probably was behind the hazing.”Mr. Hardy glanced at Frank and said, “That certainly fits in with your theory.”

“Yes,” Joe agreed. “I think the police ought to question Quill.”

Mr. Hardy also thought this would be a good idea, so Frank telephoned the police chief at Kenworthy.

He told the officer what he had just learned. The chief thanked him and promised to call the Hardys back after he had interrogated Quill.

Later, just as the family was sitting down to breakfast, the phone rang. Frank answered. “Oh, hello, Chief,” he said. “Any luck with Quill?”

Mr. Hardy and Joe jumped up from the table when they heard Frank exclaim in astonishment: “He did? … All right. Thanks a lot. . . . You’ll keep us posted? . . . Right. Good-by.”

“What’s the scoop?” Joe asked eagerly.

“More mystery,” Frank said. “Now Quill has disappeared!”

Joe gave a low whistle. “Kidnapped?”

“Maybe.”

Mr. Hardy’s brow furrowed. “You boys could be close to the truth about that foreign country’s being involved,” he said. “Maybe both Todd and Quill were whisked away because of some political information they gleaned.”

Frank went on to report that the Kenworthy police had issued a seven-state missing-person alarm for Cadmus Quill. “Only when he’s found,” Frank added, “can we tell whether Quill is friend or foe.”

Various aspects of the case were discussed by the detective and his sons during the meal. What move to take next was the question. Mr. Hardy said that since sabotage had been definitely indicated at the radar site, he could free his sons to concentrate on the Todd matter.

“I vote we look for Quill,” Joe suggested as Mrs. Hardy sliced a broad wedge of homemade coffee cake for Frank.

“Umm! Great as usual, Mom,” Frank remarked, having disposed of a generous bite. “What do you say, Dad? Shall we follow up the Rockaway clue?”

“Maybe Joe has a point,” Mr. Hardy replied. “I have a definite feeling that if you find Quill you’ll find Todd.”

Joe grinned at his brother. “Lucky our bags are still packed.”

The boys had gone to their room to bring down the luggage when the phone rang again. Fenton Hardy was first to pick up the receiver in his study.

The caller was Chet Morton, who said that he wanted all three Hardys to hear his story.

“Hold on. I’ll get Frank and Joe on the other wires.”

In a few moments Frank was at the hall phone, and Joe at the upstairs extension. “Are you all there now?” Chet’s voice was edged with excitement.”Right,” Joe said. “What’s up?”

“Maybe you can tell me,” Chet said. “What is this guy Quill anyhow? A maniac?”

“Quill?” Frank echoed as his father and brother gasped in amazement. “Have you seen him?”

“Seen him! I’ll say so,” Chet replied. “I think he’s out of his head.”

“Come on, boy! Give us the lowdown!” Joe prompted.

“Quill forced our car off the road on the way to Rockaway, that’s what!” Chet said.

“Did he follow you all the way from the college?” Fenton Hardy put in.

Chet said that must have been the case. “After a while Biff noticed somebody tailing us.”

“How did you know it was Quill?” asked Frank.

Chet told of stopping for a traffic light. The other car had lingered several lengths behind.

“But we recognized his moonface!” Chet said triumphantly.

Several miles farther on, as he and Biff rounded a curve, Quill’s car had cut them off. “My old jalopy scraped against a tree,” Chet went on. “Biff got a bump on the head, but otherwise we weren’t injured. It ruined the paint job, though.”

“I’m sure glad it wasn’t any worse,” Frank said.

“Did Quill keep on going?” Joe asked.

“Yes. In the direction of Rockaway. Say, why don’t you fellows come down here and protect Biff and me?”

“Not a bad idea,” said Frank. “Where shall we meet you?”

“We’ll go on to Rockaway and set up our tent on the beach,” Chet replied.

“Okay,” Joe put in. “Get there soon as we can.”

After Mr. Hardy added his approval to the plan, the Hardys said good-by and hung up.

The three detectives were perplexed about Biff and Chet’s brush with Cadmus Quill. “Why would he pick on them?” Joe mused.

Frank shook his head. “My hunch is Quill thought you and I were in that car, Joe!”

Mr. Hardy added a word of caution. “Don’t take unnecessary risks, boys. Your enemies are dangerous.”

As the brothers were about to leave, their mother said, “Oh, by the way, I have an errand I’d like you to do.”

“Anything for you, Mother,” said Frank, kissing her on the cheek.

“Well, it’s really for Aunt Gertrude.”Joe rolled his eyes. “Oh-oh. Is Aunty coming for another visit?”

When Mrs. Hardy nodded, Joe remarked, “It’s just as well we’re leaving for Rockaway now. Aunt Gertrude wouldn’t approve of this mystery, I’ll bet!”

Miss Gertrude Hardy was actually a great favorite with the boys despite her tart tongue and frequent predictions of dire mishaps overtaking her sleuthing nephews.

Frank chuckled. “What’s the big deal for Aunt Gertrude?”

“Get her a spinning wheel.”

“But-“ Joe gulped. “Where’re we ever going to find one?”

“Perhaps at the Palais Paris,” Mrs. Hardy replied with a twinkle.

“Wow!” Joe exclaimed. “Sounds real fancy- what is it?”

Mrs. Hardy explained that there was a new and very attractive French restaurant on the main highway near Rockaway. “I understand,” she added, “that the restaurant has an antique shop connected with it.

It’s only a few miles from where you’re going. I checked it on the toad map.”

The boys grimaced slightly at the idea of having to bargain for an old spinning wheel, but assured their mother they would pick one up if available.

“Wonderful,” said Mrs. Hardy. “I think your aunt will be here by the time you return.”

Frank and Joe hurriedly stowed their luggage in the car. Their parents came to say good-by. “Watch out for those saboteurs at the radar site, Dad,” Frank said.

“I intend to. Good luck yourselves.”

Both boys hugged their mother, shook hands with their father, and hopped into the car.

“The tenting equipment is already in the trunk,” Joe said. “Have we forgotten anything, Frank?”

“We’re all set,” his brother replied, giving the circle sign with his thumb and forefinger.

The morning was gray and foggy as the boys set off with Joe at the wheel, but an hour later the sun shone through and burned off the mist.

The coastline now assumed roller-coaster proportions as they approached the Honeycomb Caves area.

The highway was about two hundred feet above sea level. A short plateau extended to the lip of the palisades to the left of them before dropping down abruptly into the Atlantic Ocean.

“The caves are below these cliffs somewhere,” declared Joe, motioning toward the coastal side. The sea, hidden most of the time by a thick stand of woods and undergrowth, occasionally flashed through in brilliant glimmers.

Presently they approached a rambling, attractive building with stone trim and a wide porch. “There’s the Palais Paris,” said Frank, pointing to a sign on a lamppost announcing the fashionable restaurant. It was set thirty feet back from the right side of the road with a neat parking area beside it. The lanes, marked with white paint, were nearly filled with expensive, late-model cars.

“A good luncheon crowd,” Joe remarked as he pulled in and parked.The brothers got out and walked toward the entrance to the antique shop located next to the restaurant in the same building. As they passed the open door, Frank noted the well-dressed patrons seated at the tables. There was also a sign tacked to a post beside the door. It read: WAITRESSES WANTED.

“A ritzy place, I’d say, Joe,” he remarked. “And if they have a big selection of antiques we ought to be able to find Aunt Gertrude her spinning wheel.”

The boys entered the shop and looked around. The broad floor boards were pegged, giving the place an old-fashioned appearance. Several long tables were filled with ancient-looking articles such as candle molds, clocks, pewter pieces, and bed warmers. From the low ceiling hung a black iron pot and several oil lamps.

“Hey, over there, Frank!” Joe pointed to one corner of the room, where a spinning wheel was suspended on two hooks fastened to the ceiling.

“Just what we’re looking for.” Frank walked over to inspect the wheel. Joe followed.

“Why have they got it hanging in mid-air?” he wondered.

“For the effect, I guess,” Frank replied. He looked about for a salesclerk. Meantime, Joe tried to lift the wheel from its supporting hooks.

A resounding crack made Frank whirl about, just in time to see the spinning wheel fall to pieces over Joe’s head. They landed on the floor with a clatter.

“Leapin’ frogs!” Frank exclaimed. “How’d that happen?”

“I don’t know,” Joe said. “I only touched it.”

The noise brought a woman running from the back of the shop. She was tall, with dark eyes and black hair which was pulled back into a knot. “Oh, what did you do!” she cried with a pronounced French accent.

“Nothing!” Joe protested. “The old wheel just came apart like matchsticks.”

“We wanted to buy it,” Frank said. “It must not have been very well made.”

“That piece was valuable!” the woman declared indignantly. “It was not for sale.” She wrung her hands.

“It was for show only-to set off our beautiful antique display.”

Joe was embarrassed. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“Maybe we can put it back together again.” He picked up the large wheel and the spindle, still intact.

“Non!” The woman’s eyes flashed. “You do not get away so easily. I am the manageress here. You will have to pay for this wheel.”

Joe groaned. “Why didn’t I keep my hands off it!”

“You will pay!” the woman repeated. She hastened into the back of the shop and returned seconds later with a tall, burly, well-muscled man.

“Marcel,” she said, “you will know how to handle this.”

“These the kids?” he growled.”Yes,” the woman replied. “They refuse to make good for this spinning wheel which they have so carelessly broken.”

Joe opened his mouth to object, but Frank nudged him to silence. The muscular man advanced on them threateningly. In a low voice he rumbled, “I advise you to give us the money and be on your way!”

CHAPTER VIII

The Old Marts Warning

FRANK, although angry, wished to avoid a fight. He and Joe were on a sleuthing mission-this must come first. “How much do we owe you?” Frank asked the belligerent man. At the answer, Frank shook his head. “We don’t have enough money, but I’ll leave my watch for security.”

Marcel sniffed. “Let’s see it.”

Frank slipped off the handsome stainless-steel timepiece which he had received the Christmas before.

“It’s a good Swiss make,” he said.

As Marcel examined the watch, Joe took twenty dollars from his pocket. “How about two sawbucks and the watch?” he asked. “That should be enough for a broken old spinning wheel.”

Marcel glanced at the woman and she gave a barely perceptible nod.

“Okay,” he said. “But don’t come around here again breakin’ up our antiques.”

“We’ll be back,” Frank said, “with the thirty dollars to redeem my watch.”

The shop manageress grudgingly produced a cardboard carton into which Frank and Joe placed the spinning-wheel parts. Then they put the box in the trunk of their car.

As Frank drove off, he said, “Something phony going on here. That spinning wheel was only slapped together.”

“Looks like the whole shop might have been set up in an awful hurry,” Joe remarked. “I’ll bet most of the other stuff is junky too.”

“I wonder how Aunt Gertrude’s going to like her antique,” Frank said with an ear-to-ear grin.

“I hate to think!” Joe said wryly, taking a road map from the glove compartment.

After studying it for a moment, he announced, “We’re not far from Rockaway now. Boy! It’s really a small speck on the map!”

Frank laughed. “I hope we don’t miss the place.”

Presently he drove down a long hill, and the Hardys found themselves in Rockaway. It was nothing more than a small crossroads village on the shore adjacent to a fishing pier. The brothers soon came to the campsite on the beach and parked. They spotted Biff and Chet sunning themselves before their tent. As the Hardys parked on the shoulder of the road, their friends hurried over.Frank and Joe got out and looked at Chet’s damaged jalopy.

“Wow! That’s a bad dent!” Joe said. “Cadmus Quill didn’t pull any punches.”

“You can say that again!” Biff retorted.

“I think he’s got it in for all of us!”

“Have you looked for him around here?” Frank asked.

“Look for yourself,” Chet replied with a sweep of his hand. “There’s nothing but a couple of stores and a few shacks.”

True, Rockaway could hardly be called a town. It was a sleepy little place, quite picturesque and redolent of fish. A weather-beaten frame building stood across the street. Above the door was a large sign: TUTTLE’S GENERAL STORE.

“Let’s stock up on grub,” Frank said. He and Joe took rucksacks from their car and the four boys headed for the store.

A venerable man with whiskers was seated behind a counter. He was intently scrutinizing a newspaper.

The old gentleman put aside the newspaper and regarded them through his thick-lensed spectacles with grave curiosity, as though they were some new specimen of humanity.

“You’re Mr. Tuttle?” Frank ventured.

“Yup. What can I do for you?”

“We’d like to know how far it is to Honeycomb Caves.”

The man’s eyes widened. “Honeycomb Caves!” he repeated in a high, cracked voice. “You lads going to pass by there?”

Chet spoke up. “No, we’re going to camp in the caves and do some beachcombing.” He told of his metal detector and how they hoped to locate some washed-up treasure.

Mr. Tuttle leaned over the counter. “You- You’re goin’ to camp in Honeycomb Caves!” he exclaimed incredulously. “Why, yes,” Joe said.

The storekeeper shook his head solemnly. “You’re new in these parts, aren’t you?”

“From Bayport,” Frank offered. “This is the first time we’ve been down this way.”

“I thought so,” returned the bewhiskered man with a great air of satisfaction, as though his judgment had been verified.

“Tell us,” Frank said patiently, “how much farther do we have to go to reach Honeycomb Caves?”

“It’s a matter of five miles by the road. Then you’ll have to walk a ways.”

“Is there a place we can pitch our tent?” Chet asked.

“Oh, yes. A fisherman lives nearby-name of John Donachie. He might allow you to camp near his cottage. But if I was you I wouldn’t do no campin’ thereabouts. That is,” Mr. Tuttle added, “unless you stay away from the caves.”“We’d like to explore them,” Joe said.

The old fellow gasped. “Explore ‘em! Lads, you’re crazy!”

“Is it against the law?” Chet inquired.

“No, it ain’t. But it’s against common sense.”

“Why?” asked Biff.

“It just is,” the storekeeper retorted, as though that explained everything.

“You mean the caves are dangerous?” queried Frank, enjoying the conversation.

“Maybe, maybe,” returned their informant mysteriously. “If you take my advice, you’ll stay away from ‘em.”

Joe rested his elbows on the counter. “Can’t you at least tell us the reason?”

Mr. Tuttle seemed to relish the boys’ attention. “Well,” he went on, “some mighty queer things been happenin’ down there lately. A fisherman I know was scared near to death. There’s been some peculiar lights around the caves and shootin’ too.”

“Shooting!” Frank exclaimed.

“Guns goin’ off!” the storekeeper said emphatically, as if they had failed to understand him. “Two men already tried to find out what was goin’ on there and got shot at.”

Frank pricked up his ears. He wondered whether either of these men was Cadmus Quill. The boy described the college assistant to the old fellow and asked if he had seen such a man.

“Naw. These were local citizens. But they won’t go back to those caves again, I’ll tell you.”

Still mumbling his disapproval, Mr. Tuttle nonetheless supplied the boys with the provisions they needed.

These were packed into the rucksacks, which the boys slung over their shoulders.

They returned to the campsite and ate lunch. Then they took down the tent, stowed it into Chet’s car, and set off in two vehicles, following the directions the storekeeper had given them.

They retraced their route over the highway, then turned to the right down a steep rutted lane that ended on the open seashore near the fisherman’s cottage.

The small house was built at the base of the hill two hundred yards from where the beach ended abruptly against towering cliffs. The waves battered against the sheer wall of rock. The quartet could make out a winding path leading up the hill directly in back of the cottage.

“I know what they call this place,” Chet said gravely.

“Does it have a name?” Biff asked.

“Sure. Fish Hook.”

“Fish Hook? Why?” Biff asked, neatly falling into Chet’s trap.

“Because it’s at the end of the line.” Chet guffawed and slapped Biff on the back.Biff groaned. “You really hooked me on that one, pal.”

“Okay,” said Joe. “Let’s cut the comedy and see if we can park here.”

The boys approached the door of the cottage and knocked. It was opened by a stocky, leather-faced man of middle age. He had a look of surprise on his good-natured countenance.

“Mr. John Donachie?” Frank asked.

“Correct. What can I do for you boys?” he inquired.

“May we leave our cars here for a while?” Frank asked.

“Sure. For an hour or so?”

“Perhaps for a few days,” Frank replied.

The fisherman’s expression changed instantly to one of concern. “You’re not goin’ over to the caves are you?”

When Frank said Yes, the man shook his head gravely. “You’d best be goin’ back home,” he warned.

“There’s strange doin’s in the caves these days. It’s no place for boys like you.”

The fisherman was joined by bis plump, rosy-faced wife, who repeated the admonition.

Frank felt his spine tingle. His hunch persisted that Cadmus Quill might be mixed up in the mysterious occurrences at Honeycomb Caves.

“What’s been going on there?” Frank pressed.

“Lights mostly and shootin’.”

“Haven’t any people been seen?”

“Not a livin’ soul.”

“That’s strange,” Chet said.

“Strange ain’t the word for it,” declared the fisherman. “It’s downright spooky, like ghosts or somethin’.”

“Have you been down to the caves yourself, Mr. Donachie?” Frank asked.

“Just call me Johnny.” The fisherman said that a few days before, his boat was washed ashore there in a squall. “When I got back in the sea again,” he went on, “I saw a couple o’ lights down near the caves.

Next I heard two or three shots and then a yell.”

“A yell?” Frank asked.

“The most awful screechin’ I ever heard,” the fisherman said.

“Well, that proves somebody’s there,” Biff remarked.

Despite the Donachies’ warnings, the boys were determined to set out.

“Can you show us the quickest route?” Joe asked.With a resigned look, the fisherman led the boys a short distance along the beach and pointed to the path leading up the hill. “You’ll have to follow that to the top of the cliffs. From there look for a deep ravine.

That’ll take you down to the caves.”

The campers thanked the couple, and with knapsacks and blanket rolls over their shoulders, began the ascent. The hill was steeper than it looked and it was more than an hour before the boys reached the summit.

Here a magnificent view awaited them. Far below lay the fisherman’s cottage like a toy house. The ocean was a flat blue floor.

Venturing close to the edge of the cliff, Joe peered over. He saw a sheer wall of rock with a few scrubby outcroppings of gnarled bushes.

“No wonder the caves can’t be reached by skirting the shore,” Joe said. “The only way along the base of the cliff is by boat.”

Chet looked up at the sky. “Come on, fellows,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose any time. We’re in for a storm.” The breeze bore to their ears the rumble of distant thunder.

“Chet’s right,” Joe said. “These squalls come up suddenly. Let’s move!”

Without further ado, the boys hastened along the faint trail that led among the rocks. They could see no sign of the ravine, but judged that it would be almost invisible until they came upon it.

A few raindrops hit the faces of the boys as they plodded on. Flashes of lightning zigzagged across the darkening sky, followed by a terrific thunderclap. Then rain started falling heavily.

The wind rose, and far below, the surf boomed and crashed against the base of the cliff. The foursome stumbled on, scarcely able to follow the path in the gloom. The wind howled, lightning flashed, and thunder crashed constantly.

With Frank in the lead, the boys plunged forward into the streaming wall of rain. Chet and Biff were next and Joe brought up the rear. On and on they went, heads bent to the storm. Would they ever find the ravine?

Suddenly Frank came to a stop and looked behind. “Where’s Joe?” he shouted above the clamor of the gale. The others looked about. Joe had vanished!

CHAPTER IX

The Cavern

“WHERE on earth did Joe disappear to?” exclaimed Biff.

He, Frank, and Chet peered through the teeming rain, but the gloom was so intense that it was impossible to see more than a few yards away.

“We’ll have to go back,” Frank decided quickly. “Joe probably sat down to rest and got lost when hetried to catch up with us.”

The trio retraced their steps over the rocks, keeping close together. They shouted again and again, but in the roar of the storm they knew there was little chance that Joe would hear them.

“Perhaps he fell down and hurt himself,” Biff suggested. “He may be lying behind one of these big rocks where we can’t see him.”

“Maybe he fell over the cliff!” said Chet, voicing the thought for all of them. For a heartsick moment the boys just stood there, faces pale and streaming with rain. Suddenly, above the roar of the storm, they heard a faint cry.

“Listen!” Frank exclaimed.

Breathlessly, they waited.

Again came the cry. “Help! Help!”

The three boys ran to the edge of the cliff, stopped, and peered down. Over to one side, about four feet below, they spied a dark figure.

It was Joe, clinging to a small bush growing out of the sheer cliffside. “Hurry!” he called in a strained voice.

“Hang on! We’ll get you!” Frank shouted. But his heart sank when he saw that Joe was beyond his reach.

“There’s only one thing to do,” he said to Biff and Chet “You two hang on to me while I lower myself over.”

“You’ll never make it,” Biff protested as Frank shrugged off the gear he was carrying. “You’ll both be killed.”

“It’s the only chance, and I’m going to take it!” Frank flung himself down and began to edge forward until he was leaning far over the edge. Biff and Chet seized his ankles and braced themselves.

Bit by bit, Frank lowered himself headfirst. He dared not look down, for he was hanging at a dizzy height. “A little more!” he called out.

He swung lower, gripped Joe’s wrists, and secured a tight hold. “Ready, Joe?”

“Okay,” was the hoarse reply.

“Haul away!”

Chet and Biff began dragging Frank back. There was a double weight now, but the Hardys’ staunch friends were equal to it!

Inch by inch the boys were hauled nearer safety. It seemed ages to Frank before he was over the top again.

At that moment, with his brother just below the rim of the cliff, Frank felt Joe’s wrists slipping from his grasp.

But Chet and Biff scrambled forward and seized Joe’s shirt. Together the three pulled him over the edgeonto the rocky ground.

For a moment the boys were too exhausted to say a word.

“Boy, that was a narrow squeak!” Chet said solemnly.

“We’ll stick closer together after this. How did it happen, Joe?” Frank asked.

“I stopped to tie my bootlace. When I looked up again I couldn’t see you at all, so I began to run. I didn’t realize I was so near the edge of the cliff. Then some of the rock must have broken off under my feet, because everything gave way and I felt myself falling.”

When Frank and Joe had recovered from their grueling experience, they got to their feet and the adventurers resumed their journey over the rocks. This time no one lagged behind and all stayed well away from the edge of the cliff.

In a short time Frank gave a cry of relief. “The ravine!” he yelled.

Through the pouring rain, just a few yards ahead, the others discerned a deep cut in the rocks, and they all scrambled down into it.

Far below, they could dimly see the beach and the breaking rollers. Slipping and stumbling, the Bayporters made their way down the steep, winding ravine.

Joe was first to reach bottom.

“A cave!” He pointed right toward the base of the cliff. There, but a short distance from the breaking waves, was a dark hole in the steep wall of rock.

Frank took a flashlight from his pack and led the way into the dark mouth of the cavern. In its gleam he saw that their shelter was no mere niche in the face of the cliff, but a cave that led to unknown depths.

“Looks as if we can start exploring right here and now,” he said.

“Explore my neck!” grumbled Chet. “Let’s build a fire. I’m wet clear through!”

“What do we do for firewood?” practical Biff inquired.

This had not occurred to the others. They glanced at one another in dismay.

“That’s right,” Joe said. “There’s not much wood around and it’s soaked by now, anyway.”

Frank moved farther back into the dark cave with his flashlight. Suddenly he exclaimed in mingled astonishment and delight. “Well! Can you beat this, fellows?”

“What?” called Joe.

“Firewood!”

“Where?”

The others came hastening over to Frank.

“Look!” He cast the flashlight beam against the cave wall to his left.

In the center of the circle of radiance, they saw a neat pile of wood.Joe whistled in surprise. “That didn’t get here by accident-someone stacked it.”

Frank stepped over and picked up one of the sticks. “Good dry driftwood. We’ll have a swell fire now.”

“I wonder who piled it in here,” Biff remarked.

Chet shrugged. “Why worry about that?”

“Probably the mystery men who are doing all the yelling and shooting,” Biff said. “We’ll be in for it if this is their cave we’ve stumbled on.”

He, Chet, and Joe began carrying wood over to the center of the cave. Frank, meanwhile, set down the flashlight, took out his pocketknife, and whittled a particularly dry stick until he had a small heap of shavings. Over these he built a pyramid of driftwood. Then he took a match from his waterproof case and ignited the shavings. They flared up brightly. Anxiously the boys watched the small blaze.

Frank had been afraid that lack of a draft might cause so much smoke that they would be almost suffocated. To his relief, the smoke spiraled upward and was carried off. “Must be an opening in the roof,” Frank observed.

Soon the fire was burning briskly. As its warmth penetrated the cave, the boys took off their drenched clothes and spread them about the blaze, then wrapped themselves in the heavy blankets they had brought with them.

The rest of the afternoon the rain continued unabated. The clothes dried slowly. Once Biff went to the cave mouth and looked out at the wind-lashed sea.

“Do you think the water comes in here at high tide?” he asked.

“No,” Frank replied. “The cave floor was dry when we came.”

At dusk Chet produced the frying pan, and the fragrant odor of sizzling bacon soon permeated their refuge. The boys never enjoyed a meal more than their supper in the cave. The driftwood blazed and crackled, casting a cheerful glow which illuminated the rocky ceiling and walls of the underground chamber. With crisp bacon, bread toasted brown before the fire, hot chocolate, and jam, they ate ravenously, and at last sat back with deep sighs of sheer content.

Although part of the floor of the cave was rocky, much of it was sand, which provided a fairly comfortable resting place. The boys were tired after their long journey, so they stretched out in their blankets and were soon drowsily chatting, while the fire died lower and lower. At last it was only a glow in the dark and the voices ceased.

An hour passed. Two hours.

Suddenly Joe was awakened. He was just about to turn over and go to sleep again, wondering vaguely what had aroused him, when he heard a footstep close by.

He raised himself on one elbow and peered into the gloom, but could see nothing.

When he heard a rustle, he spoke up. “Is that you, Frank?” The words rang out clearly in the deep silence.

Instead of the reassuring voice of his brother, Joe heard a muffled exclamation and scurrying footsteps.

Someone was running across the floor of the cave!CHAPTER X

A Terrifying Loss

“WHO’S that?” demanded Joe, scrambling to his feet.

There was no answer.

“Fellows! Wake up!” Joe exclaimed as he stumbled about in the darkness, trying to find his flashlight.

“What’s the matter?” came Chet’s sleepy voice. “It isn’t morning yet. Let me sleep.”

“Wake up! Someone’s prowling around here.”

“Maybe it was Biff,” came Frank’s voice. “Biff, you here?”

There was a deep sigh. Then Biff said drowsily, “Of course I am, why?”

Frank switched on his flashlight and played the beam around the cave. Biff and Chet sat up in their blankets and blinked. “What’s wrong?” Biff demanded.

Joe told about the intruder.

“Did he go out the front way?” Biff asked.

Joe shook his head. “No. He seemed to go farther into the cave.”

“Well, then,” Frank said decisively, “we’ll go look for him.”

The boys hurriedly dressed, and taking flashlights, followed Frank deeper into the stygian cave. Thirty paces ahead they were confronted by an arch in the rock, an opening that seemed to lead into a tunnel.

They walked into it cautiously, and Frank kept his light focused on the floor to make sure no pitfalls lay before them.

The tunnel was about fifteen feet in length and six feet high. As the floor was of solid rock, they were unable to find any footprints indicating that someone had passed that way.

The tunnel led to another cave. “Maybe there’s a regular chain of caves!” Joe exclaimed as the boys stepped out into a massive underground chamber.

“I guess ours is only the beginning,” Chet remarked.

In the glow of their flashlights the foursome saw that the huge room in which they now stood had a number of dark openings in the walls. These were, presumably, tunnels leading into caves beyond.

Frank frowned. “There are at least a dozen different passages out of here. The prowler might have taken any of them.”

“Let’s tackle the biggest,” Biff suggested.”Good idea. If we don’t get anywhere, we’ll try the others.”

The largest tunnel was straight ahead. The boys crossed the cavern and Frank led them into the dark passage. Seconds later he exclaimed softly, “Look!”

“What?”

“A footprint.”

Clearly discernible was the imprint of a boot in a patch of wet sand.

“We’re on the right trail,” Joe said quietly. “Come on!”

With increasing excitement, the searchers pressed forward and in a few moments emerged into another cave. This was an enormous underground vault, the largest they had seen yet. Even the four flashlight beams failed to reveal all of the rocky walls and ceiling.

As they started to cross it, Biff’s light went out. He muttered in annoyance and tried to coax a gleam from the silvery tube. No luck.

“Take mine,” Frank offered, but Biff declined. “Stay close, then,” Frank said as they continued across the huge cavern.

The floor of the cavern was piled high with rocks, evidently from cave-ins over the years. In other parts it was pitted with gullies and holes. In trying to avoid these, the boys gradually became separated.

Biff stumbled along behind. He felt the loss of his flashlight, but said nothing, relying on the radiance provided by the others.

Soon, however, the three lights became widely scattered. Biff found himself in total darkness.

He stood uncertainly for a moment, then called out, “Hey, fellows, wait for me!”

He took a step forward and stumbled. As he fell, he groped wildly for a firm rock, but there was nothing there.

With a cry of terror Biff hurtled down into blackness.

For a moment the other three boys froze in their tracks. Then they shouted for Biff, time and again, but there was no answer. They searched frantically among the rocks and crevices, but found no sign of him.

In the glow of the flashlights they looked at one another anxiously and listened in vain for a faint cry.

There was no sound but the echoes of their own voices.

“We won’t give up!” Frank vowed. “We’ll search every pit and hole in here!”

With desperate patience they scoured the cave, but at last were forced to admit that it was no use.

“This place is too big,” Chet said dejectedly. “We need more light.” He sat down on a rock and buried his face in his hands.

“I have an idea,” Frank offered. “Let’s build a fire. That’ll help.”

Chet brightened. “Good idea!”

“Come on,” Frank said. “We have lots of wood left in the outside cave.”“That’s not a bad stunt!” Joe declared hopefully. “With a roaring bonfire we’ll be able to light up the whole place enough to see what we’re doing.”

The boys retraced their steps into the outer cavern where they had slept. They filled their arms with wood and were about to re-enter the tunnel when Joe noticed something that made him drop his wood on the stone floor with a clatter.

“What’s wrong?” Chet asked.

“That’s funny,” Joe returned. “I was sure we left our supplies right near this woodpile.”

“We did,” Frank assured him.

Joe turned his flashlight on the place where the greater part of their supplies had been stacked. A loaf of bread and a tin of sardines lay on the rock, but that was all.

“They’ve been stolen!” Frank exclaimed.

“By that prowler, I’ll bet!” Joe said. “He probably hid himself until we passed, then sneaked back here and stole our food.”

“We can’t worry about that now,” Frank said grimly. “Let’s go!”

Swiftly Joe gathered up his firewood and the boys returned to the big vault.

Hastily the fire was built and soon the flames flared high. The companions were surprised at the number of holes and crevices now revealed.

“It’s a wonder we weren’t all killed,” Chet said. “We were prowling around this chamber without any idea of the real danger.’’

Methodically the boys resumed their search, investigating each opening, deep or shallow. But in spite of the extra light and all their shouting, their efforts were in vain.

“I’m afraid it’s no use,” Chet said, gulping. “It’s as if Biff was swallowed up.”

“We need help,” Frank said tersely. “We’ll go to the village and get some men with ropes and searchlights.”

Disconsolately the boys turned back. But as they did, Chet let out a bloodcurdling cry.

On the wall of the cavern flickered the huge shadow of a hand!

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