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CHAPTER XI

No Trespassing!

THE ghostly shadow caused the boys’ hearts to pound until they saw the reason for it. A hand was reaching up from one of the pits, and the bonfire’s glow threw its silhouette on the cavern wall.”Biff!” Joe cried out.

Only a groan answered. The Hardys and Chet leaped toward the faltering hand as it groped for the lip of the pit. Frank grasped it and together the boys pulled Biff out. He lay dazed for a moment.

“You’re hurt!” said Joe, bending down to examine a large egg on Biff’s left temple.

“I’m all right now. A little dizzy yet, but it isn’t serious.”

“What happened?”

“I fell into the pit and struck my head against the rocks. When I came to, I was lying beneath an overhang. I must have been out for a few minutes.”

“A few minutes!” Chet exclaimed. “We’ve been hunting for you over an hour.”

Biff looked incredulous, and shook his head in dismay when told about the stolen supplies.

“Boy! What a mess we’re in,” he said as his companions helped him out of the cavern.

They returned to the outer cave and fell fast asleep. When morning came, a diligent inspection of their quarters failed to reveal any clues as to the thief.

“We’re out of luck, that’s all,” Frank concluded. “Our light-fingered friend fooled us neatly.”

“At least the storm is over,” said Biff, who was feeling better.

From the cave they could see the sun shining on the blue waters of the sea. As Chet unlimbered his metal detector he moved it over a rocky part of the floor. “Hmm. That’s funny,” he said.

“Did you find a pirate’s chest?” Joe grinned.

“No. But I hear a buzzing noise. Maybe this thing’s broken.” He moved outside and began to swing the disk back and forth over the beach.

All at once Chet dropped his detector, fell to his knees, and dug furiously in the sand. His astonished companions watched from the cave entrance.

Finally the stout boy pulled something out and held it aloft in his right hand. “Ha! I told you!” he shouted.

“What is it?” Biff asked as he, Frank, and Joe hurried over.

“A pistol. Probably a pirate’s. Or maybe from the sunken ship.”

“By golly, Chet, I have to hand it to you,” said Frank as he examined the piece and wiped wet sand from it. “Hey, wait! This isn’t old.”

“You’re right!” Joe burst in. “It’s hardly rusted at all.” He handled the weapon. “Looks like a Smith and Wesson.”

“But see the marking,” Biff said. “Made in Spain.”

Chet looked wisely at his companions. “What do you make of it, boys?”

“Perhaps this very pistol caused all the shooting we’ve heard about,” Biff offered.Chet beamed. “Well, fellows, I guess I found a mystery. Want to solve it?”

“And leave the trail of Todd and Quill?” Joe asked. “Nothing doing!”

“Just a minute,” Frank put in. “How do we know Cadmus Quill didn’t drop the pistol?”

“Wow!” Joe clapped a hand to his forehead. “That’s a pretty wild guess for you, brother.”

“You’re dreaming, Frank!” Chet chimed in.

Biff, too, thought Frank’s guess was farfetched, and added, “Enough of deductions. How about some chow? I’m famished.” He looked hopefully up the ravine, but Chet, for once, was more excited about detecting than eating.

“Please, fellows,” he begged, “let’s go a little way up the beach yet. Who knows what I’ll find!”

“Okay,” Frank agreed. “Only a quarter of a mile. Then we turn back.”

The sandy shore wound about the face of a great bluff of black rock, and when the boys had skirted this precipice they were confronted by a dark opening at the base of the cliff just a few yards away.

“Another cave!” Frank exclaimed.

Chet gave a cheer and ran ahead with his detector.

When they were just in front of the entrance the boys halted with exclamations of surprise.

Tacked on a board stuck in the sand beside the cave mouth was a tattered sheet of paper. Scrawled in heavy black letters were the words No Trespassing.

The companions looked at the sign in astonishment, then Chet grinned. “By order of the Rockaway chief of police, no doubt. Maybe somebody put it here for a joke,” he said. “Let’s take a peep inside.”

Frank was first to reach the cave and peer inside. Then he turned back to the others. “This sign isn’t a joke,” he said quietly. “Somebody does live here!”

Curiously the boys crowded into the mouth of the cave. In the gloom they could see a crude table and a mattress with blankets. On a ledge of rock was an improvised cupboard consisting of an old soap carton containing canned goods and other provisions.

“Well,” Chet declared, “we have a neighbor who might offer us some grub.”

“We certainly have,” Biff said, looking down the beach. “And if I’m not mistaken, here he comes now.”

Along the shore strode a tall, gray-haired man wearing a blue shirt and overalls, the legs of which were tucked into high rubber boots. The man, oblivious to the boys, held a bugle in his left hand. He stopped, looked at the sea, and blew a loud, clear call. Then he wiped his lips with the back of his hand and continued toward the cave.

When he spotted the four boys he stopped short, blew another flurry on the bugle, and hastened up to the Bayporters.

“I’m Commander E. K. T. Wilson, Queen’s Navy, retired,” he announced. “You should have saluted, but I guess you didn’t know.”To make up for this breach of etiquette, the boys saluted smartly. This appeared to gratify the man immensely.

“You’re landlubbers, eh?”

“I suppose so,” Frank admitted with a smile.

“Well, we can’t all be sailors. It isn’t often people come to see me.”

“Do you live here?” Joe asked, indicating the cave.

“This is my home when I’m ashore. I’m resting up between cruises just now. What are your names?”

The boys introduced themselves.

“Glad to meet you,” returned Commander Wilson. “I get used to being alone, but it’s a pleasure to have visitors.”

“It’s lonely enough here,” Frank agreed.

“Isn’t bad. Not half as lonely as the time I got marooned in the South Seas.”

The boys looked at him with new interest.

“You were really marooned?” Chet asked.

“Aye. It was when I was in command of a destroyer cruising the South Seas a good many years ago. We landed for water on a little island that you won’t find on any map. It was a hot day-very hot. Must have been over a hundred degrees in the shade. So while my men were loading the water on my ship I sat down in the shade of a cactus tree. Before I knew it, I was asleep.”

“And they went away and left you?” Joe put in.

“They did.”

“But you were the captain!”

“I guess they thought I was in my cabin, and of course none of ‘em dared disturb me. When I woke up, the ship was gone.”

“Ee-yow!” Biff exclaimed.

“Well, sir, I didn’t know what to do. I was like this here fellow Robinson Crusoe that you read about. But I had to make the best of it, so I fixed myself up a little house and lived there for nearly six months, all by myself.”

“Didn’t the ship come back for you?”

“They couldn’t find the island again. Anyway, the quartermaster who took charge of the ship didn’t want to find me, I guess. He wanted my job.”

“Did you have anything to eat on the island?” Biff asked.

Chet interrupted. “Speaking of food, Commander, could you help us out with some breakfast?”

“Sure, me hearties. Growing boys should eat plenty. Now what was I talking about? Oh, well, doesn’tmatter.”

A wink passed around the circle of friends as the man went inside and returned with a slab of bacon.

Chet volunteered to start a fire, and got it going quickly as the old man cut strips of bacon and put them into a skillet.

“How about a swim while we’re waiting?” Frank suggested.

“Let’s go!” Joe shouted.

The boys skinned off their clothes and ran into the surf. Joe swam beside his brother. “Frank, Wilson doesn’t sound much like an Englishman.”

“I don’t think he has all his marbles,” Frank replied.

“Do you think Wilson helped himself to our supplies?”

“I didn’t see them in his cave,” Frank said, adding, “He seems harmless. I’d like to ask him some questions, though.”

“And could I go for some crisp bacon! Race you back to shore I”

Using the Australian crawl, the brothers streaked over the wave tops and hit shore together. There Biff and Chet joined them, and after they dressed, the refreshed quartet trotted up to Commander Wilson, who sat near the fire. The skillet lay at the sailor’s side-empty, and Wilson was chewing on the last piece of bacon. He looked up.

“Who are you?” he asked bluntly.

“The Hardy boys,” Frank began in surprise. ‘And-“

“Well, beat it! Scram! I don’t want you around here!”

CHAPTER XII

Undercover Work

COMMANDER WILSON’S gruff order to leave caused the four boys to stare at him in wonderment.

“But, Commander,” Joe protested, “you-“

“Don’t ‘Commander’ me!” the man said, rising to his feet and shaking his fist at the boys. “I want to be left alone! That’s why I’m a hermit.”

Frank shook his head. “No use arguing, fellows,” he murmured. “Come on.”

They strode away across the sand, with Chet muttering about the loss of a good meal.

“That old sailor’s a real lulu,” Biff said, disgruntled. He glanced at Frank. “What’ll we do now?”

“First thing is to get some food.”“And where is the food?” Biff asked sarcastically.

“Maybe we can grow mushrooms in the cave,” Joe quipped.

Chet trailed behind. The headphones were clamped to his ears, and once more he swung his metal detector back and forth over the sand.

“If you have strength enough,” Frank told Biff, “we can climb up the ravine, cross the cliffs, and go back down to Johnny the fisherman’s place. Maybe he’ll give us chow, or else we can drive back to Rockaway for more supplies.”

“Bright prospects!” Biff grumbled. “I thought I could do some fishing today. It’s great after a storm.” Then suddenly Biff recalled that his fishing gear had been stolen with the rucksacks. “Doggone it!” he exclaimed. “That burns me up! I’ll bet that Commander Wilson took our stuff and stashed it out of sight!”

“I doubt it,” Frank said. He turned and called to Chet, who was now a hundred paces behind. “Come on, hurry up!”

Chet waved and nodded, but still continued to swing his detector. Then he gave an excited bellow.

“Sounds like the mating call of a walrus,” Biff commented.

“He may have discovered another weapon,” Joe said as they hastened back to their stout pal.

“Hey, fellows, there must be a whole arsenal underneath here,” Chet said. “You should have heard the terrific noise in my ears.”

All four boys dropped to their hands and knees and dug like fox terriers in a bone yard. Biff was first to reach something solid. He tugged and yanked, finally coming up with a rucksack!

“Look!” Biff cried out. “It’s mine!” He brushed the wet sand from the knapsack, opened it quickly, and pulled out his collapsible fishing gear.

The other three quickly recovered their supplies, a little damp, but none the worse for their burial in sand.

Chet unscrewed the lid of his canteen and took a long swallow of water. “I told you this metal detector would pay off,” he said.

Biff grinned. “I could kiss you, Chet, for finding my tackle.”

Chet stepped backward in mock horror. “Please, please, not here,” he said, and the others roared with laughter.

As their own cave was not far from the spot, the boys hastened back and broke out the rations. A fire was quickly started and Chet presided over the skillet filled with crisp bacon. “Phooey on the commander,” Chet said smugly.

“Which reminds me,” Frank put in, “I’m not finished with that old codger yet.”

“What more could you learn from him?” Joe asked. “He’s as nutty as a fruitcake.”

“Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t,” Frank replied. “In either case, I’d like to study him a little closer and ask some more questions.”Joe looked thoughtful as he spooned a portion of scrambled eggs into his mess kit. “Do you think he might have seen Cadmus Quill or some other mysterious prowlers around here?”

As Frank broke off a piece of crusty bread from a long loaf, he said that was exactly his idea.

“Well, you fellows go about your sleuthing,” Biff said. “I’m going fishing.”

“Where?” asked Chet.

“From the top of the cliff,” Biff replied. “I can heave my line a mile out from that point. Maybe I’ll catch something big where the water’s deep.”

“I’m with you,” Chet said. He turned to the Hardys and added, “If you fellows run into trouble with Wilson, just call us.”

During the rest of the meal, the boys talked about the thief who had buried their supplies in the sand.

“If he didn’t keep them for his own use, what was the point of stealing ‘em?” Biff mused.

“To get us away from here,” Joe said promptly. “Somebody doesn’t want us around.”

“Like Commander Wilson,” Biff said. “What do you think, Frank?”

The young sleuth shrugged. “There might be one man or two-maybe a whole gang operating around here.

But we’ll find out sooner or later.”

“You’d better find out sooner,” Chet declared, “else we’ll be starving again.”

“If you mean somebody’s going to steal our supplies a second time,” Joe said, “you’re mistaken.” He told of having seen a small crevice fifty yards away at the base of the ravine. “We’ll hide our stuff there until you two get back with the whale you’re going to catch.”

When the fire had been put out and their camping place policed up, the four adventurers hid their rucksacks and parted.

Frank glanced over his shoulder to see Chet and Biff trudging up the ravine, as he and Joe trotted toward Wilson’s cave. They saw the old sailor standing in front of his cave, sketching something in the sand with a slender stick. When he saw them approach, he quickly rubbed the sole of his boot over the sand and hailed the brothers. “Hello there! Have you come to visit me?”

Frank and Joe exchanged glances, and walked up to the man. “Why, yes,” said Frank. “Do you remember us, Frank and Joe Hardy?”

“Of course I do. Where did you go after I invited you to breakfast?”

“Why, we came-“ Frank began.

“Didn’t see hide nor hair of you. Thought you went back to Bayhill, or Portside, or wherever you came from. Where are your two friends?”

“They went fishing,” Joe replied.

“Where?”

“To the top of the cliffs.”“Dangerous. Mighty dangerous. I hope they come back all right,” Wilson said.

He shook his head, clasped his hands behind his back, and walked in circles before his cave.

“Commander Wilson,” Frank began slowly, “have you seen any people prowling around Honeycomb Caves?”

Wilson stopped short and looked Frank squarely in the eyes. “I’m alone. A hermit. That’s what I am. I haven’t seen anybody. Nobody comes near me. They think I’m queer.”

Joe described both Todd and Quill. “Have you seen anyone resembling them?” he persisted.

“No. But come to think of it, there was a fellow-“

The Hardys looked alertly at the old sailor. Had he seen one of the missing men?

“Yes, go on,” Frank encouraged. “What did he look like?”

“The first one you mentioned.”

“Todd?”

“Yes. I once knew a fellow like that. He was second mate on my cruiser in the Philippines.”

Joe turned aside and made a wry face as the man continued:

“Come to think of it, his name was Todd. Yes, it was,” the commander went on. “He shipwrecked me deliberately and I had to climb a pineapple tree until the natives stopped beating their drums and went home.”

Joe leaned close to Frank and said in a low voice, “He’s off again. What’ll we do now?”

As Commander Wilson rambled on, Frank edged closer to the mouth of the cave and glanced inside. He gave an involuntary start as he saw something he had not noticed before. But before he could whisper to Joe, Wilson wheeled about. “A man’s cave is his castle,” he said tartly.

Frank tried to manage a grin. “Well, I guess we’d better be going, Commander,” he said. “Those fellows must have caught a fish by now.”

Without saying a word, the old salt went into his cave. The Hardys continued down the beach again.

When they had gone a dozen yards, Frank seized Joe’s arm and pulled him behind a large rock.

“What’s the matter, Frank?”

“Joe, I saw a cap in Wilson’s cave-the same foreign style that was dropped by the fellow at the radar site!”

“Do you think there’s some connection?”

Frank suggested that they hide and watch the old fellow’s cave. “You notice he got mighty excited when I looked into his quarters.”

“I’ll bet he’s got something in there he doesn’t want us to see,” he said, peering over the rock. Suddenly he hissed, “Watch it! Here he comes!”

The two boys crouched low. Joe poked his head around the boulder for a quick look. “Frank, he’s goingdown the beach the other way-probably to look in our cave.”

“Now’s our chance to explore his,” Frank said. “Is he out of sight yet?”

“Yes.”

Frank and Joe scrambled out of their hiding place and dashed into Wilson’s cave.

“Boy, is it ever deep!” Joe exclaimed. “It goes way back!”

“And look here,” Frank said, picking up the cap from the floor. “This could be more than a coincidence.”

“Wow! He’s got an arsenal, too!” whispered Joe. He pointed to a shotgun lying on a rock ledge.

“So that’s where the mysterious shooting came from,” Frank guessed. “And how about this?”

He picked up a dog-eared notebook from beside the gun and leafed it.

“It’s a code book! Let’s take it to the light so we can study it.”

The boys had been well schooled in cryptography by their father. Eagerly the two moved nearer the mouth of the cave.

All at once the interior darkened and Commander Wilson stood at the entrance! “Spies! You’re all spies!” he boomed. “Give me that book, you-you young pirates!”

As Frank and Joe stood tongue-tied, Wilson lunged toward the stone ledge.

“Look out!” Joe cried out. “He’s going for the shotgun!”

CHAPTER XIII

A Straight-Line Clue

FRANK dropped the code book and leaped to intercept Commander Wilson before he could reach the shotgun. But the old man was as agile as an athlete! He dodged and twisted out of Frank’s way like a piece of spring steel and grabbed the weapon.

“Frank! Run!” Joe shouted as he ducked toward the front of the cave.

Realizing it was now impossible to cope with Wilson, Frank dashed after his brother. But as the two boys reached the cave mouth, there was a loud explosion. Frank stumbled and fell to the ground.

“You killed him! You killed my brother!” Joe cried out. He bent down over the prostrate form. But instead of finding blood on the back of Frank’s red shirt, Joe saw a large, round white patch. At the same time Frank shook his head, got to his knees, then stood up.

“Are you all right?” Joe asked. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the smoking shotgun in Wilson’s hand.

The old man had a gleeful expression on his face.

“I’m okay,” Frank said. “Let’s get out of here!” The boys retreated halfway to the water’s edge beforestopping.

“The blast knocked me down,” Frank said, reaching about gingerly to touch his back. “What was the gun loaded with?” He removed his shirt and the brothers examined it closely. “Joel This looks like flour! It is flour!”

“So that’s what Wilson used for ammunition!” Joe said. “Now I know for sure he’s a candidate for the booby hatch.”

With mixed feelings of embarrassment and chagrin, Frank donned his shirt and the Hardys looked back as Wilson emerged from the cave. Again he shook his fist.

“That’s what you spies get for snooping around Commander Wilson’s cave!” he shouted. “You have some nerve trying to read the code book of the Queen’s Navy!”

“We were only looking at that funny cap,” Frank called back. “Where did you get it?”

“In Rockaway, of course-where I get all my supplies,” Wilson said. “That’s where I go when the Queen’s Navy forgets to send the supply ship.”

Shaken by the weird incident, the brothers headed for their cave.

“That cap will bear some investigating,” said Joe.

“You’re right,” Frank agreed. “If they’re sold at the general store in Rockaway, maybe the Bayport prowler bought his there too.”

“Look who’s coming,” said Joe. They glanced up to see Chet and Biff scrambling down the ravine toward them. Biff had a monster of a fish slung across his shoulder.

“Hi, fellows!” Chet called out. “Look what we caught!”

Joe grinned. “It’s almost as good as a whale!”

Puffing and beaming, Chet and Biff hastened up to the Hardys. The sea bass which Biff carried weighed more than thirty pounds.

“Will we chow down today!” Chet said gleefully, then added quickly, “And I discovered a mine, too.”

“A gold mine, I suppose,” Joe said.

“I don’t know what kind,” Chet said seriously, “but my detector picked up some funny noises “ “Chet’s right,” Biff said. “Somethings buried up there. Fellows, you ought to go hear for yourselves. I’ll show you the place.”

“Okay. You win,” Frank said skeptically.

“I’ll cook some of the fish while you’re gone,” Chet said. He added wistfully, “I wish we had some flour to sprinkle on it.”

Frank gulped and Joe pounded him on the back

“Did I say something wrong?” Chet asked.

“Oh, no!” Frank said hastily. “Give us the detector, Chet.”Joe took the device and in a few minutes the three boys were clambering up the ravine toward the top of the cliff.

When they reached it, Joe donned the earphones and held the detector several inches off the ground.

“Over there,” Biff directed. Joe went toward the spot. A moment later he winced as a clicking chattered like a machine gun in his ears.

“No kidding, there is something underneath here,” he said. “Listen for yourself, Frank.”

Frank complied, then moved the detector from right to left. “That’s strange,” he muttered. “This nine, or whatever it is Chet discovered, runs in a straight line.”

“Maybe a water pipe,” Biff said. “Wouldn’t that be a joke!”

“A water pipe from where to where?” Joe countered. “Why put a drain underground at a place like this?”

“Whatever the thing is,” Frank said, “it lies east to west, apparently from near the coastline to the highway.”

“I’ve got an idea,” Joe said. He moved to a stand of pine trees growing several hundred yards back from the precipice and selected the tallest “Give me a boost, Frank.”

After getting a lift from his brother, Joe shinned to the first branch, scrambled to the top of the tree, and looked intently westward.

“What do you see over there?” Frank called up.

“You’d be surprised!” said Joe.

“Come on,” Biff said. “You’re tracing an imaginary line. What does it point to?”

“The Palais Paris,” Joe replied. In a few moments he was back on the ground. “Frank, I have a strange feeling about that place. Let’s investigate it.”

“Not this minute,” his brother replied. “I’d like to do some digging.”

“But with what?” asked Joe.

“I’ll get some tools,” Biff volunteered. “Johnny the fisherman will lend us his.” He hastened off and returned presently with a shovel and pickax over his shoulder.

The boys took turns wielding the pick and shovel. Rocks and dirt flew up out of the hole they fashioned.

But they reached three feet down without striking metal.

Biff leaned on the shovel and ran his thumb along his brow like a windshield wiper. “We might dig all day and not find anything,” he said. “Frank, do you suppose it is a metallic substance which makes the detector click like that?”

“I’m not sure,” Frank replied. “It might be an electrical conduit. Let’s check in Rockaway.”

“Okay.” Joe chuckled. “As soon as we’ve eaten that feast Chet’s preparing for us.”

The boys left the tools near the edge of the cliff where they could find them, then retreated down the ravine to the cave. Chet had made a spit, on which large chunks of the freshly caught sea bass werebroiling over hot coals “Smells great, Chet,” Joe said. “Let’s eat and be on our way.”

“We’re going back?” Chet asked in dismay.

‘To Rockaway for the time being,” said Frank, and told what they had observed on the cliff top.

“Then I did find a good clue, eh?” Chet asked proudly. “First the pistol and now this. What would you fellows do without me?”

“We’ll make an operative out of you, like Dad’s assistant, Sam Radley,” Frank said.

“Just so long as it isn’t dangerous,” Chet said, and passed out portions of the succulent fish. Frank, Joe, and Biff had to admit it was one of the finest meals they had ever tasted.

“It’s great brain food,” said Chet. “I think we’re going to need it on this case of yours,” he added with a wink at the Hardys.

“Don’t worry,” Biff said. “They’ll get to the bottom of this-someday.”

The banter flew back and forth until the meal was finished. Then Chet put out the fire and the boys packed for the return trip. Camping in the salty sea air seemed to give them extra energy. They sang their way along the top of the cliff, where they picked up the digging tools and made the long descent to the fisherman’s house.

Mrs. Donachie came out to greet them. “Oh, I’m so glad all you boys returned safely from those awful caves,” she said.

“We’re still in one piece.” Joe grinned. “Is Johnny here? We’re returning his tools.”

“He’s out fishing,” the woman said. “I’ll tell him you stopped by.”

The boys said good-by and headed for their cars. “Come back when you please,” Mrs. Donachie called after them.

The Bayporters waved good-by and drove quickly back to Rockaway, where they pulled up in front of the general store. Frank led the way inside.

Mr. Tuttle, the proprietor, was sitting behind the counter, his chair tipped back. “Well, what did I tell you?” he greeted them, shaking his head vigorously. “You got into trouble at the caves, so you came back!”

“Who said anything about trouble?” Chet demanded.

“Well, you’ve got somethin’ on your minds.” The whiskered man squinted. “I can tell by the way you barged in here.”

“To tell you the truth,” Frank said, “we have. I wonder if you could direct us to the town engineer’s office.

We’d like to study some public maps and surveys.”

The old fellow raised himself expansively and snapped his suspenders. “Seein’ that I’m the mayor of Rockaway,” he said, “I can show you to the archives.” With a flourish of his right hand, he indicated a door in the back of the store.”In there?” asked Joe.

“That’s the office of the mayor and the town engineer,” the storekeeper said.

The boys followed him into the room. To their surprise they found it neatly arranged, with a desk, a filing cabinet, and large survey maps on the walls. These showed the adjoining countryside, complete with service lines of all kinds.

Frank and Joe studied the maps carefully as Biff and Chet looked over their shoulders.

“No, I can’t see any electrical conduits or water lines,” said Frank as his finger followed the area from the cliffs to the Palais Paris. “Joe, you may have a good hunch about that place. I’ve got an idea.”

When Mayor Tuttle asked about their interest in the maps, Frank deftly turned the question aside, saying what a good campsite they had in Rockaway.

After buying more supplies, the boys drove to the campsite.

“Hey, Frank, what’s this big idea of yours?” Joe asked impatiently.

Frank grinned. “Gather round and listen. It may work.” He said that Joe and Chet would be dispatched to Bayport, while he and Biff continued sleuthing in Rockaway. “Your mission,” he told his brother, “will be to get Callie and Iola to apply for waitress jobs at the Palais Paris.”

CHAPTER XIV

Startling News

JOE whistled. “A great idea, Frank. The girls can be our undercover agents.”

“Exactly,” Frank said. He turned to Chet “Maybe you can convince Iola she should do this for Hardy and Sons.”

“I think she’d do it just for Joe,” Chet said, and guffawed.

“All right, all right,” Joe said, “let’s go.” He called over his shoulder. “Find out about that cap, Frank!”

He and Chet hopped into the jalopy and drove away. Two hours later they pulled into the driveway of the Morton farmhouse.

Iola and Mary Todd hastened out to greet them. Mary, although happy to see the boys, had a wistful air.

Joe realized she was disappointed that her brother had not been found, and wished he had good news for her.

When the four young people had gathered in the cool spacious living room, Joe asked Iola, “Will you get Callie Shaw to come right over?”

“I’ll phone her now. Why?”

“Tell you later.”While they waited for Callie, tall frosty glasses of lemonade were served by Iola, who grew more curious with each cool sip. Twenty minutes later Callie Shaw arrived. She was a good-looking blond girl whom Frank Hardy often dated.

“Hi, everybody,” she said, her eyes sparkling. “Why the mysterious summons?”

“Yes, Joe Hardy,” Iola put in. “Don’t keep us in suspense any longer.”

With a dramatic gesture Joe began. “We have something exceptional to ask you girls.”

“I know! You want us to go on a picnic at the caves,” Callie said hopefully.

Joe shook his head. “We want you and Iola to apply for waitress jobs at the Palais Paris.”

“So you can spy on what’s going on there,” Chet burst in.

Dumfounded, the three girls listened raptly to the story of the boys’ adventures.

“You mean you want us to help you on a detective case?” Iola said happily. “Oh, we’d love to!”

A determined look crossed Mary’s pretty face. “If Callie and Iola are going to help you boys find my brother, I want to help, too.”

“But-but-“ Chet started to protest.

“No buts about it,” Mary said emphatically. “All three of us girls will be detectives!”

Mary’s enthusiasm amused Joe and Chet. But Callie and Iola were delighted to have her join them in applying for waitress jobs at the Palais Paris.

“We’ll call ourselves the three musketeers!” Iola said proudly.

“Ugh!” said Chet. “I can just see you now dueling with steak knives.”

Iola gave her brother a withering look, then turned to Joe with a bright smile. “What do you want us to do when we get there? Shall we go under assumed names?”

“To answer your second question first,” said Joe. “You and Callie give your names, but I don’t think Mary should use her last one-just in case these people have read about her brother’s disappearance.”

“All right,” Mary said promptly. “I’ll call myself Mary Temple.”

“Good,” Joe replied. “In answer to your first question, Iola-if and when you get to be waitresses, just keep your ears and eyes open for anything suspicious going on at the Palais Paris.”

“And not too much giggling, either,” Chet said with a brotherly wave of his hand.

“Of course not, silly!” Iola retorted. “When do we start?”

“First thing tomorrow,” Joe said. “We’ll meet here at eight o’clock.”

“Meantime”-Iola’s eyes twinkled-“we gals can practice balancing trays.”

Afterward, Joe rode to Bayport with Callie in her sports car. “I’ll pick you up in the morning,” she said, pulling up at the Hardy home. “Bye now.”Joe was disappointed to learn that his father was out of town. “Your dad won’t be back until sometime tomorrow,” said Mrs. Hardy. “By the way, did you boys find a spinning wheel?”

“Well-er-yes,” Joe replied. “But it needs a little work. We’ll fix it up, though, Mom.” He added apprehensively, “Aunt Gertrude hasn’t arrived yet?”

“No, but I expect her any day.”

Joe quickly briefed his mother on their recent adventures, including the cap clue and the plan to return to Rockaway. “There’s a phone at the general store in case you want to reach us,” he said. Joe had supper and retired early. Right after breakfast he took enough money from the brothers’ safe to cover the balance on the spinning wheel and retrieve Frank’s watch.

Promptly at eight o’clock Joe and Callie arrived at the Morton farm, and the five young people set off in Chet’s jalopy. Iola sat next to Joe as the teen-agers drove happily along the highway to Rockaway.

Frank and Biff met them at the campsite, somewhat surprised to see Mary Todd.

“I have news for you,” Frank said. “Old Man Tuttle doesn’t sell those foreign caps.”

“I told you Wilson was nutty,” Joe commented.

It was then decided that Biff should drive the three girls to the restaurant. Frank explained, “The Palais Paris people already know Joe and me. They might get suspicious if we show up with you.”

“Well, I don’t see why we girls can’t drive alone,” said Iola. “We have our licenses with us.”

Although the Hardys knew that Callie and Iola were good drivers, they insisted that Biff go along as a precautionary measure.

“There may be a bunch of gangsters hiding out there,” Chet quipped. “And Biff can take care of them, eh pal?”

“One-handed!”

“And don’t forget-you are Mary Temple,” Joe emphasized. The girls waved as Biff drove them away in Chet’s car.

“Do you suppose they’ll all get jobs?” Joe asked as he, Frank, and Chet watched the car disappear around a bend.

“Even if only one is hired,” Frank said, “we’ll have an undercover agent on the spot.”

“She can always check on those phony antiques,” said Chet as he pulled up a stalk of grass and nipped it between his teeth. “So, what do we do now?”

The boys were strolling past Tuttle’s General Store. Chet answered his own question. “I could go for some ice cream.”

“Okay.” Joe grinned. “It’s hot and we’ll have to wait, so why not fuel up, eh Chet?”

“We can ask Mr. Tuttle about Commander Wilson, too,” Frank suggested.

Chet treated to ice cream on a stick. In between bites, the boys queried the storekeeper.”Mr. Tuttle,” Joe spoke up, “do you know anything about that ex-sailor hermit who lives at the caves?

His name is Wilson.”

The mayor gave Joe a sideways look. “Hermit? Lives in a cave? Never saw the likes of such in my town, and never heard of a soul livin’ down there.”

The trio said good-by and left. Chet said, “Let’s go to the car. There’s a good jazz program from Bayport.”

But as they approached the car, Mayor Tuttle raced out after them. “Hey, come back!” he called excitedly.

“Oh-oh, what now?” said Frank, turning.

The old man went on urgently. “The telephone,” he said. “Somebody’s calling you-your father.”

Frank dashed back inside, followed by Joe and Chet. He ran to the public booth and picked up the receiver, “Dad, this is Frank. What’s up?”

The reply creased a furrow between his eyes. “Leapin” lizards!” he exclaimed. “Okay, Dad. We’ll get over there right away. Thanks for calling.”

Frank stepped out of the booth, and faced the other boys, who were bursting with curiosity.

“Tell us what happened,” Joe demanded.

“Remember that rundown on Cadmus Quill?” Frank said. “Well, Dad learned something else. Guess what-the Palais Paris is owned by a corporation, with Cadmus Quill listed as secretary!”

Joe let out a long whistle. “Then something fishy is going on around there,” he said. “The girls might be in danger! Let’s go!”

Chet sprinted as fast as the Hardys and all three bolted into the car together. Joe spun the rear wheels in haste to get rolling!

In the meantime, Iola, Callie, and Mary were being ushered through the restaurant of the Palais Paris to the manager’s office at the rear. In order to avoid being conspicuous. Biff Hooper had parked Chet’s car at the far end of the lot. Biff himself crouched down out of sight on the floor of the back seat.

The girls were greeted by a suave-looking slender man with a small black mustache. “Mademoiselles,” he said, rising from his desk, “do I understand that you wish to work as waitresses at the Palais Paris?” The manager spoke with a

French accent. He added quickly, “Ah, pardon. I am Pierre Dumont.”

“Yes, Mr. Dumont,” Callie Shaw spoke up. “A friend of ours saw your sign. We would like to apply for jobs.”

“You speak French?”

“Oui,” Iola replied. “We’ve studied it in high school.”

“Tres bien.” Pierre Dumont nodded. “And you have had restaurant experience?” He turned his glance to Mary and asked quickly, “What is your name?”“Mary Todd-Temple!” she said, flustered.

“Todd-Temple,” the manager said, lifting his eyebrows. “An English name, I presume.”

“Yes, yes,” Mary stammered.

Mr. Dumont murmured, “One moment, s’il vous plait.” He pressed a buzzer. The girls stood nervously. A moment later the door opened and a muscular, brawny man entered.

“You wanted somethin’, boss?”

Mr. Dumont drew the man aside and whispered.

“Got yuh, boss,” the man said, then hurried outside.

The manager once more turned his attention to the girls. “So sorry. Now-if you will leave your names with me,” he said, “I shall let you know. I have had several other applicants.”

He handed a pad across the table and the girls wrote their names, addresses, and phone numbers.

The three applicants thanked the restaurant manager and left his office. On the way through the restaurant, Callie, who was last, glimpsed three well-dressed men pushing open the swinging doors to the kitchen. Their voices floated back and Callie caught a few words in a foreign tongue. “That’s not French,”

she thought, surprised.

When the girls were outside, Mary whispered, “Oh, what a goose I am for giving my right name.”

“Don’t worry,” Callie said.

“Do you think Mr. Dumont was suspicious of us at all?” Iola mused. “He kept looking at me sort of funny.”

“It’s just your imagination because we’re playing detective,” Callie said.

The girls were nearly to the jalopy when Pierre Dumont hastened from the restaurant toward them. Iola whirled. “He’s after us. Run!”

CHAPTER XV

A Growing Suspicion

THE frightened girls raced toward the car, but their speed was outmatched by Pierre Dumont. He overtook them halfway across the parking lot.

“Wait!” he commanded. “Why are you running away?” He extended a purse toward them.

“Oh dear,” said Mary. “It’s mine. I must have left it on your desk. Thank you.”

“I return it with pleasure, mademoiselle,” Dumont replied. With a slight bow, the manager walked away.

Callie sighed in relief, and the girls hastened toward Chet’s car.”Biff! We’re here!” Iola said in a loud whisper.

No reply.

“What happened to our chauffeur?” Callie said, and opened the car door. She looked into the back seat and gasped.

Biff Hooper lay in a heap on the floor, with an ugly welt on the back of his head!

“Biff! What happened!” Iola cried. “Come on, girls. Let’s lift him up.” It took the combined strength of all three to heft big Biff onto the back seat.

“Thank goodness he’s breathing!” declared Mary Todd, her hands trembling in fright.

While Callie chafed Biff’s wrists, Iola patted his face gently until the youth opened his eyes.

“Ow, my head,” Biff said, wincing. He touched the welt and winced again.

“Someone gave you an awful whack,” said Iola. “Did you see who it was?”

“I didn’t see anything but stars!” Biff commented wryly.

“There’s something very odd going on around here,” Iola said with a determined set of her chin. “I’m going right back and talk with Mr. Dumont.”

“Wait a minute,” Callie said, putting a restraining hand on Iola’s arm. “If Dumont is in on all this, as I think he is, it won’t do us any good. Let’s report to Frank and Joe, quick.”

“I think that would be better,” Biff said. “Boy, am I groggy!”

“I’ll drive back,” Callie said. She hopped into the front seat while Mary and Iola remained in the back on either side of Biff. Callie started the car, drove out of the parking lot, and soon was whipping along the highway toward Rockaway. She slowed down slightly for a right-hand curve. At the same instant a groundhog plodded into the road. Desperately Callie swerved toward the center of the road to avoid the creature. Just then another car sped toward them from the opposite direction.

Callie gripped the wheel and turned it hard. The cars passed with less than an inch to spare. With squealing brakes, both vehicles pulled over and stopped.

Frank, Joe, and Chet hopped out of the Hardys’ car and ran over to the girls and Biff.

“Whew!” said Joe. “That was a close call.”

“I’m sorry,” Callie said. “I-I didn’t want to hit that poor animal.”

“Forget it,” said Joe. “What’s the matter with you, Biff?”

“I’m all right now,” the tall boy said, stepping out of the car with Iola and Mary. “Somebody conked me on the head. That’s all!”

“What!”

The girls told what had happened at the Palais Paris, and Mary said, “I don’t trust that Pierre Dumont, in spite of his fancy French manners.”A quick comparison told the Hardys that the burly man to whom Dumont had whispered must have been Marcel.

“He might have been the one who hit you, Biff,” Frank said. “Maybe Dumont ordered him to case the car and when he spotted you hiding in the back he let you have it.”

When Callie told about the three men speaking in a foreign tongue, Frank and Joe exchanged meaningful glances.

“Good for you, Callie,” Frank said. “But think hard, can’t you identify the language?”

“No. I couldn’t even guess,” Callie replied.

“Let’s go back and have a look-see,” Joe said. “Besides, Frank, I brought along enough money to bail out your watch.”

Chet transferred his gear, including the detector, to his jalopy, then took the wheel and followed the Hardys’ car to the Palais Paris. By this time the parking lot contained many cars.

“They must have really good food here,” Iola commented.

“I hope it’s better than their antiques,” Joe said.

All three girls said they would like to see the antique shop.

“Okay,” Joe said. “But don’t try to buy anything. It’ll fall apart!”

When the woman shopkeeper saw the Hardys she frowned, hastened into the back room, and reappeared with Marcel. Frank gave the girls a questioning glance. A nod from Iola told him it was indeed Marcel whom Dumont had summoned during their interview.

The muscular man did not bat an eyelash when he noticed Biff.

“Well,” Marcel growled at the Hardys, “what do you want?”

“I came back to claim my watch,” Frank said.

As Joe opened his wallet and took out the money, the woman reached under the counter.

“Thanks,” Frank said after the exchange was made. “Now all we have to do is put the spinning wheel together.”

Marcel smirked. “Tough luck.”

“By the way,” Joe said suddenly to the saleswoman, “where can we find Cadmus Quill?”

Her dark eyes darted to Marcel before she replied, “Cadmus Quill? Never heard of him.”

Marcel thrust his head forward menacingly and said, “All right. You got your watch, so scram out of here.”

“But the girls want to look at your antiques,” Frank persisted.

“Some other time,” Marcel said, jerking his thumb toward the door. “We don’t want you kids in the way of the payin’ customers.”Several diners, having finished their luncheon, had wandered in and were looking about the shop.

“Okay,” Frank said to the others. “Let’s go.”

When they reached the cars, Frank said, “Joe, I don’t think you should have mentioned Quill.”

“I thought I might catch them off guard,” Joe replied.

“I think you did-trouble is, now they’ll really

be suspicious of us,” Frank said, “provided Dad’s report of Quill’s connection here is correct.” “Where do we go from here?” Joe asked. The young detectives held a hasty conference. ‘I suggest we pack up and go back to Bayport,” Frank said. “Joe and I should talk with Dad and then decide on our next move.”

The Hardys made a speedy trip to Rockaway for their gear and rejoined the others.

Biff rode in the Hardys’ car with Frank and Joe while Chet chauffeured the girls in his jalopy. Five miles later they stopped at the Hamburger Haven, piled out of the cars, and occupied counter stools. After the girls had ordered, Chet boomed, “Three burgers for me, a double order of French fries, and a thick chocolate malted.”

While they chatted over their refreshing luncheon, the young detectives were amused by a small boy tumbling on a grassy plot next to the road-stand. As Joe paid for the meal, the youngster ran up, crying.

“What’s the matter?” Iola asked. “I lost all my pennies,” he said. “They dropped out of my pocket.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll find them for you,” Chet said importantly. He winked at Frank. “You see what I mean when I say that everybody should have a metal detector?”

“Okay, Sir Galahad,” said Frank, “do your good deed for the day.”

Chet hastened to his car. The others saw him frown. Then he ran to the Hardys’ car and rummaged through it.

“What’s the matter, Chet?” Biff called.

“My metal detector! It’s gone!” Chet cried out in dismay.

CHAPTER XVI

Deadly Clicking

“Your detector must be in one of our cars,” Joe said. “Come on. Let’s look again.”

But despite a thorough search of both vehicles, Chet’s prized possession could not be found.

“There’s only one answer,” Chet said. “My metal detector was stolen while we were parked at the Palais Paris.”“You’re telling me!” Biff put in. “That place is a jinx for us.”

“I think Chet’s right,” Frank agreed. “Joe, you, Chet, and I will go back to the restaurant. Biff can drive the girls to Bayport in the jalopy and take our gear, too.”

“Okay,” Biff said. “But be careful of those monkeys at the Palais Paris. You know what one of ‘em did to me.”

Callie and Iola were reluctant to leave the

Hardys, but conceded it was best that they return home with Biff.

“After all, we don’t know how long the search will take,” Iola said.

“Besides,” Callie remarked with a twinkle, “I think we girl detectives have had enough excitement for one day!”

“Too much!” Mary declared.

After the girls and Biff were on their way, Frank, Joe, and Chet hopped into the Hardys’ car and drove directly to the Palais Paris.

Frank parked and the three boys entered the restaurant and walked briskly to the manager’s office. They could see Dumont through the open door. He beckoned. “Entrées. Come in.”

“We’d like to talk to you,” Frank said seriously.

Dumont smiled. “No doubt you are seeking jobs as busboys,” he said. “I am sorry to say that we do not need any-at present, that is. But you may give me your-“

“We don’t want to work here!” Chet broke in tartly. “All I want is my metal detector. It was stolen from my car!”

“Metal detector? Ah, so that’s what it is. You say stolen? Ma foi! Indeed, such is not the case.”

Chet’s eyes bugged as Dumont rose, walked to a small closet, and pulled out the missing detector.

“That’s mine, all right,’ Chet said as the man handed the device over. “Where did you find it?”

“Precisely where you left it.”

“It was left in the car,” Frank said tersely. “Who swiped it. Do you know?”

A pained expression crossed Dumont’s face. “It was not ‘swiped,’ as you Americans say,” he retorted.

“The detector was left standing in a corner of our antique shop.”

Chet scratched his head and looked perplexed. “That’s funny. I don’t think I carried it in there-or did I?”

Now even the Hardys were stumped. Chet was so fond of his new gadget he might conceivably have taken it inside. Frank gave their stout friend a questioning look. “Well, I can’t remember taking it from the car, but I couldn’t say for sure,” Chet said. “Well, anyhow, thanks a lot, Mr. Dumont,” he added. “Mercy buckets, as you French say.”

The manager rubbed a forefinger over his black mustache. “Merci beaucoup” he corrected, smiling. “Feel free to visit us any time.”The boys went outside and hurried toward their car. “He seemed like a nice enough guy,” Chet remarked. “Compared to that Marcel character, anyhow.”

Frank and Joe did not reply. Both were deep in thought about the strange incident. If Dumont had had the metal detector stolen, then why would he return it so graciously?

“As Shakespeare says, there’s something rotten in Denmark, Joe,” said Frank as he slid behind the wheel.

“Denmark alias Palais Paris,” Joe muttered.

Chet put his metal detector on the back seat, then sat in front between the Hardys. “Come on, Frank.” he urged. “Let’s see if we can catch up to my jalopy.”

“Relax,” Frank said. “I’m not going to break any speed limits.”

“You can say that again,” Joe replied. “We’ve had enough hard luck for one day.”

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