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CHAPTER I

A Narrow Escape

“WONDER what mystery Dad’s working on now?” Joe Hardy asked.

His brother Frank looked eagerly down the platform of the Bayport railroad station. “It must be a very important case, the way Dad dashed off to Detroit. We’ll know in a few minutes.”

Joe looked at his watch impatiently. “Train’s late.”

Both boys were wondering, too, about a certain surprise their father had hinted might be ready for them upon his return.

Waiting with Frank and Joe for Mr. Hardy’s arrival was their best friend Chet Morton. “Your dad’s cases are always exciting-and dangerous,” the plump, ruddy-faced boy remarked. “Do you think he’ll give you a chance to help out on this one?”

“We sure hope so,” Joe replied eagerly-

“Well, if I know you fellows,” Chet went on,

“you’ll get mixed up in the mystery, somehow- and so will I, sooner or later. There goes my peaceful summer vacation!”

Frank and Joe chuckled, knowing that Chet, despite his penchant for taking things easy and avoiding unnecessary risks, would stick by them through any peril.

Dark-haired, eighteen-year-old Frank, and blond impetuous Joe, a year younger, had often assisted their detective father, Fenton Hardy, in solving baffling mysteries. There was nothing the two brothers liked more than tackling a tough case, either with their father, or by themselves.

Chet gave a huge sigh and leaned against a baggage truck as though his weight were too much for him. “I sure could use something to eat,” he declared. “I should have brought along some candy or peanuts.”

The Hardys exchanged winks. They frequently needled their friend about his appetite, and Joe could not resist doing so now.

“What’s the matter, Chet? Didn’t you have lunch? Or did you forget to eat?”

The thought of this remote possibility brought a hearty laugh from Frank. Chet threw both boys a glance of mock indignation, then grinned. “Okay, okay. I’m going inside and get some candy from the machine.”

As Chet went into the station, the Hardys looked across to the opposite platform where a northbound train roared in. The powerful diesel ground to a halt, sparks flashing from under the wheels. Passengers began to alight.”Did you notice that there weren’t any passengers waiting to board the train?” Frank remarked.

At that moment a man dashed up the stairs onto the platform toward the rear of the train. As the train started to move, the stranger made a leap for the last car.

“Guess he made it. That fellow’s lucky,” Joe commented as the train sped away. “And crazy!” “You’re telling me!” Chet exclaimed, as he rejoined the brothers. Munching on a chocolate bar, he added, “That same man stopped me in the station and asked me to change a twenty-dollar bill. There was a long line at the ticket window, so he didn’t want to wait for change there. He grabbed the money I gave him and rushed out the door as if the police were after him!”

“Boy!” Joe exclaimed. “You must be really loaded with money if you could change a twenty-dollar bill.”

Chet blushed and tried to look as modest as he could. “Matter of fact, I do have a good bit with me,” he said proudly. “I guess the man saw it when I pulled out my wallet to be sure the money was there.”

“What are you going to do with all your cash?”

Frank asked curiously. “Start a mint of your own?”

“Now, don’t be funny, Frank Hardy,” Chet retorted. “You must have noticed that for a long time I haven’t been spending much. I’ve been saving like mad to buy a special scientific instrument. After your dad arrives, I’m going to pick it up.”

“What kind of hobby are you latching onto this time, Chet?” Frank asked, grinning.

From past experience, Frank and Joe knew that their friend’s interest in his new hobby would only last until another hobby captured his fancy.

“This is different,” Chet insisted. “I’m going to the Scientific Specialties Store and buy a twin-lensed, high-powered microscope-and an illuminator to go with it.”

“A microscope!” Joe exclaimed. “What are you going to do with it-hunt for the answers to school exams?”

Frank joined Joe in a loud laugh, but Chet did not seem to think there was anything funny about it.

“Just you two wait,” he muttered, kicking a stone that was lying on the platform. “You don’t know whether or not I’ll decide to be a naturalist or even a zoologist.”

“Wow!” said Joe. “I can just see a sign: Chester Morton, Big-game Naturalist,”

“Okay,” Chet said. “Maybe even you two great detectives will need me to help you with some of your cases.”

The conversation ended with Frank’s saying, “Here comes Dad’s train.”

The express from Detroit rolled into the station. The brothers and their friend scanned the passengers alighting. To their disappointment, Mr. Hardy was not among them.

“Aren’t there any other Bayport passengers?” Frank asked a conductor.

“No, sir,” the trainman called out as he waved the go-ahead signal to the engineer and jumped back onto the car.As the train pulled out, Joe said, “Dad must have been delayed at the last moment. Let’s come back to the station and meet the four-o’clock train.”

“That’s plenty of time for you fellows to go with me and pick up my microscope,” said Chet.

The boys walked to Chet’s jalopy, nicknamed Queen, parked in the station lot. The Queen had been painted a brilliant yellow, and “souped up” by Chet during one of the periods when engines were his hobby. It was a familiar and amusing sight around the streets of Bayport.

“She’s not fancy, but she gets around pretty quick,” Chet often maintained stoutly. “I wouldn’t trade her for all the fancy cars in the showrooms.”

“The gas gauge reads ‘Empty, “ Joe observed, as Chet backed the jalopy from the curb. “How do you figure we’ll make it downtown?”

Chet was unconcerned. “Oh, the tank’s really half full. I’ll have to fix that gauge.”

The Hardys exchanged amused glances, knowing that Chet would soon be so absorbed in his microscope he would forget to tinker with the car.

Suddenly Chet swung the Queen around in the parking lot. The rough gravel caught in the tire treads and rattled against the rear fenders.

“Hey! What’s the big rush?” Joe demanded. “We have three whole hours to get back there!”

“Who’s in a hurry?” said Chet, adding proudly, “I’m not driving fast. I just wanted to find out if I changed the turning circle of the Queen by adjusting the tie rods.”

“Some adjustment!” Joe grimaced. “Think we’ll get to town in one piece?”

“Huh!” Chet snorted. “You don’t appreciate great mechanical genius when you see it!”

In the business center of Bayport, the boys found traffic heavy. Fortunately, Chet found a parking spot across the street from the Scientific Specialties Store and swung the car neatly into the space.

“See what I mean?” he asked, “Good old Queen. And boy, I can’t wait to start working with that microscope!” Chet exclaimed as the three boys got out and walked to the corner.

“All bugs beware.” Joe grinned.

“You ought to be a whiz in science class next year,” Frank said while they waited for the light to change.

When it flashed green, the trio started across the street. Simultaneously, a young boy on a bicycle began to ride toward them from the opposite side of the street.

The next moment a large sedan, its horn honking loudly, sped through the intersection against the red light and roared directly toward the Hardys and Chet, Instantly Frank gave Joe and Chet a tremendous push and they all leaped back to safety. To their horror, the sedan swerved and the young boy on the bicycle was directly in its path.

“Look out!” the Hardys yelled at him.CHAPTER II

Trailing a Detective

THE BOY on the bicycle heard the Hardys’ warning just in time and swerved away from the on-rushing car. He skidded and ran up against the curb.

The momentum carried the boy over the handlebars. He landed in a sitting position on the pavement, looking dazed.

“That driver must be out of his head!” Joe yelled as he, Frank, and Chet dashed over to the boy.

The sedan continued its erratic path, and finally, with brakes squealing and horn blaring, slammed into the curb. It had barely missed a parked car.

By now the Hardys and Chet had reached the boy. He was still seated on the sidewalk, holding his head.

“Are you all right?” Frank asked, bending down. The boy was about fourteen years old, very thin and tall for his age.

“I-I think so.” A grateful look came into the boy’s clear brown eyes. “Thanks for the warning, fellows!

Whew! That was close!”

Frank and Joe helped him to his feet. A crowd had gathered, and the Hardys had a hard time keeping the onlookers back. Just then the driver of the sedan made his way through the throng. He was a middle-aged man, and his face was ashen and drawn.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! My brakes wouldn’t hold. Are you fellows all right?” The driver was frantic with worry. “It happened so fast-I-I just couldn’t stop!”

“In that case, you’re lucky no one was hurt,” Frank said calmly.

The Hardys saw a familiar uniformed figure push through the crowd toward them.

“What’s going on?” he demanded. He was Officer Roberts, a member of the local police department and an old friend of the Hardys. The driver of the car started to explain, but by this time he had become so confused, his statements were incoherent.

“What happened, Frank?” Officer Roberts asked.

Frank assured him no one was hurt, and said that apparently the mishap had been entirely accidental, and the only damage was to the boy’s bicycle. The front wheel spokes were bent, and some of the paint was scratched off the fender.

The car driver, somewhat calmer now, insisted upon giving the boy five dollars toward repairs.

“I’ll phone for a tow truck,” Joe offered, and hurried off to make the call while Officer Roberts got the traffic moving again.

After the garage truck had left with the sedan, and the crowd had dispersed, the boy with the bicycle gave a sudden gasp.

“My envelope!” he cried out. “Where is it?”The Hardys and Chet looked around. Joe was the first to spot a large Manila envelope in the street near the curb. He stepped out and picked it up. “Is this yours?” he asked.

“Yes! I was afraid it was lost!”

As Joe handed over the heavy, sealed envelope, he noticed that it was addressed in bold printing to Mr.

Victor Peters, Parker Building, and had Confidential marked in the lower left-hand corner.

The boy smiled as he took the envelope and mounted his bicycle. “Thanks a lot for helping me, fellows.

My name is Ken Blake.”

The Hardys and Chet introduced themselves and asked Ken if he lived in Bayport.

“Not really,” Ken answered slowly. “I have a summer job near here.”

“Oh! Where are you working?” Chet asked.

Ken paused a moment before replying. “At a place outside of town,” he said finally.

Although curious about Ken’s apparent evasiveness, Frank changed the subject. He had been observing the bicycle with interest. Its handlebars were a different shape from most American models. The handgrips were much higher than the center post and the whole effect was that of a deep U.

“That’s a nifty bike,” he said. “What kind is it?”

Ken looked pleased. “It was made in Belgium. Rides real smooth,” Then he added, “I’d better get back on the job now. I have several errands to do. So long, and thanks again.”

As Ken rode off, Joe murmured, “Funny he’s so secretive about where he lives and works.”

Frank agreed. “I wonder why.”

Chet scoffed. “There you go again, making a mystery out of it.”

Frank and Joe had acquired their keen observation and interest in places and people from their father, one of the most famous investigators in the United States.

Only recently, the boys had solved The Tower Treasure mystery. Shortly afterward, they had used all their ingenuity and courage to uncover a dangerous secret in the case of The House on the Cliff.

“Come on, you two,” Chet urged. “Let’s get my microscope before anything else happens.”

They had almost reached the Scientific Specialties Store when Joe grabbed his brother’s arm and pointed down the street.

“Hey!” he exclaimed. “There’s Oscar Smuff. What’s he up to?”

The other boys looked and saw a short, stout man who was wearing a loud-checkered suit and a soft felt hat. Chet guffawed. “He acts as if he were stalking big game in Africa! Where’s the lion?”

“I think”-Frank chuckled-“our friend is trying to shadow someone.”

“If he is,” Chet said, “how could anybody not know Oscar Smuff was following him?”

Oscar Smuff, the Hardys knew, wanted to be a member of the Bayport Police Department. He had read many books on crime detection, but, though he tried hard, he was just not astute enough to do anythingright. The boys had encountered him several times while working on their own cases. Usually Smuff’s efforts at detection had proved more hindrance than help, and at times actually laughable.

“Let’s see what happens,” said Joe.

In a second the boys spotted the man Oscar Smuff was tailing-a tall, trim, well-dressed stranger. He carried a suitcase and strode along as though he was going some place with a firm purpose in mind.

The boys could hardly restrain their laughter as they watched Smuff’s amateurish attempts to put into action what he had read about sleuthing.

“He’s about as inconspicuous as an elephant!” Chet observed.

Smuff would run a few steps ahead of the stranger, then stop at a store window and pretend to be looking at the merchandise on display. Obviously he was waiting for the man to pass him, but Smuff did not seem to care what kind of window he was looking in. Joe nudged Frank and Chet when Oscar Smuff paused before the painted-over window of a vacant store.

“Wonder what he’s supposed to be looking at,” Chet remarked.

Smuff hurried on, then suddenly stopped again. He took off his jacket, threw it over his arm, and put on a pair of horn-rimmed glasses.

“Get a load of his tactics now!” Joe laughed. “He’s trying to change his appearance.”

Frank chuckled. “Oscar’s been studying about how to tail, but he needs a lot more practice.”

“He probably suspects the man has contraband in his suitcase,” Joe guessed, grinning.

The tall stranger suddenly turned and looked back at Smuff. The would-be detective had ducked into a doorway and was peering out like a child playing hide-and-seek. For a moment Smuff and the stranger stared at each other. The man shrugged as though puzzled about what was going on, then continued walking.

Smuff kept up his comical efforts to shadow his quarry, unaware that the boys were following him. Near the end of the block, the man turned into a small variety store and Smuff scurried in after him.

“Come on!” said Joe to Frank and Chet. “This is too good to miss.”

The boys followed. Oscar Smuff was standing behind a display of large red balloons. He was so intent on his quarry that he still did not notice the Hardys and Chet.

Frank looked around the store quickly and the stranger at the drug counter selecting [some toothpaste.

The suitcase was on the floor beside him. As they watched, the man picked up the toothpaste and his bag, and went up front to the checkout counter. He took out a bill and gave it to the woman cashier.

Immediately Smuff went into action. He dashed from behind the balloons and across the front of the store. Elbowing several customers out of the way, he grasped the man by the arm and in a loud voice announced, “You’re under arrest! Come with me!”

The man looked at Oscar Smuff as though he were crazy. So did the cashier. Other people quickly crowded around.

“What’s the matter?” someone called out.The Hardys and Chet hurried forward, as the man pulled his arm away from Smuff’s grasp and demanded angrily, “What’s the meaning of this?”

“You know very well what’s the meaning of this,” Smuff blustered, and grabbed the man’s arm again.

“Now, miss”-Smuff turned to the cashier-“let me see the bill this man just gave you.”

The woman was too surprised to refuse the request and handed the bill to the amateur detective.

Smuff took the money. The Hardys stepped up and peered over his shoulder. The bill was a five-dollar one. Suddenly the expression on Smuff’s face changed to confusion and concern.

“Oh-er-a five-“ he stuttered.

He dropped his hold on the man’s arm and stared down at the floor. “Awfully sorry,” he muttered. “It’s been-a-mistake.”

Both the man and the cashier looked completely bewildered. The next moment Smuff whirled and dashed from the store.

The Hardys and Chet rushed after him. They were overwhelmed with curiosity as to what Smuff thought the man had done. The boys soon overtook the would-be detective.

“What’s up?” Joe demanded. “Looking for somebody suspicious?”

Oscar Smuff reddened when he realized the boys had witnessed his entire performance.

“Never mind,” he said sharply. “I’ll bet even you smart-aleck Hardys have made mistakes. Anyhow, this is different. I’m helping the police on a very special, very confidential case.”

As he made the last statement, Smuff shrugged off his look of embarrassment and assumed an air of great importance.

“Well, I can’t waste precious time gabbing with you three.” Smuff turned and rushed off down the street.

The boys watched his bustling figure as he disappeared into the crowd. “I wonder what kind of case ‘Detective’ Smuff is working on?” Frank mused.

“I do too,” Joe said, as Chet finally led the way into the Scientific Specialties Store.

Mr. Reed, the shop owner, stood behind the counter. He was a plump, pleasant man with a shock of white hair that stood erect on his head.

“Have you come for your microscope, Chet?” he asked. As he spoke, the man’s head bobbed up and down and his white hair waved back and forth as though blown by the wind.

“Yes, sir, Mr. Reed,” Chet said enthusiastically. “My friends, Frank and Joe, are looking forward to trying out the microscope just as much as I am.”

Joe smiled a little skeptically, but Frank agreed with his chum. Chet pulled out his wallet and emptied it of ten- and twenty-dollar bills. “Here you are, Mr. Reed. I’ve been saving for a long time so I could get the best.”

“And the best this is.” Mr. Reed smiled. “I’ll get the microscope you want from the stockroom.” The proprietor picked up the money and disappeared into the back of the store.While they waited, Chet pointed out the various instruments on display in the showcase. The Hardys were surprised at how much Chet had learned about microscopes and their use.

After waiting five minutes, Chet grew impatient, “Wonder what’s keeping Mr. Reed,” he said. “I hope he has my ‘scope in stock.”

At that moment Mr. Reed returned. There was a look of concern on his face.

“Don’t tell me you haven’t got the model.” Chet groaned.

Mr. Reed shook his head. When he spoke, his voice was solemn.

“It’s not that, Chet,” he said. “I’m afraid that one of the twenty-dollar bills you gave me is a counterfeit!”

CHAPTER III

An Unexpected Return

“COUNTERFEIT!” Chet burst out. “Counterfeit! It can’t be. I just drew the money out of the bank this morning.”

The Hardys, nonplused, stared at the twenty-dollar bill Mr. Reed was holding.

“I’m sorry, Chet,” Mr. Reed said sympathetically. “But just a few days ago all the storekeepers in town were notified by the police to be on the lookout for fake twenties. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have checked it.

I can’t understand, though, why the bank didn’t detect it.”

Frank’s mind raced. “Wait a minute!” he exclaimed. “Chet, what about the man you made change for at the station?”

“You’re right, Frank!” Joe put in. “He must have passed Chet the phony twenty!”

“You mean he gave it to me on purpose?” Chet asked indignantly.

“It’s possible,” Frank said. “Of course it would be pretty hard to prove whether he did it intentionally or not.”

“What did the man look like?” Joe questioned Chet. “We got only a glimpse of him running for the train.

He was medium height and stocky, but did you notice anything else about him?”

Chet thought for a few seconds. Then he said, “I do remember that the man had a sharp nose. But he was wearing sunglasses and a slouch hat, so I didn’t notice much else.”

The Hardys tried to fix a picture of the man in their minds. Meanwhile, Chet looked gloomily at the bogus bill.

“What luck!” he complained. “Here I am cheated out of twenty dollars and the microscope.”

“I’m sorry, Chet,” Mr. Reed said. “I wish there was something I could do about it.”“Don’t worry, Chet,” said Joe. “You’ll get the microscope, anyway.” He turned to his brother. “How much money do you have with you?” he asked. “I have five-fifty.”

Frank emptied his pockets, but all he had was three dollars in change and bills.

“We’ll lend you what we have,” Joe offered. “Eight-fifty.”

Although Chet protested, the Hardys insisted, and Mr. Reed added, “You can take the microscope along and pay me the balance when you can.”

Frank and Joe put their money on the counter, while Mr. Reed went to wrap the instrument.

“Thanks. You’re real pals,” Chet said gratefully.

When the store owner returned with the package, Chet said, “I’ll go right down to Dad’s office and borrow the balance. We’ll get back here later this afternoon. Thanks very much, Mr. Reed.”

The boys were about to leave when Frank had a sudden thought.

“Mr. Reed,” he said, “would you let us borrow that counterfeit bill for some close study? We’ll be sure to turn it over to Chief Collig.”

“Swell idea,” Joe said.

The proprietor, who was familiar with the Hardys’ reputation as sleuths, readily assented. Frank put the bill in his pocket and the boys left the store.

They hurried back to Chet’s car and drove to Mr. Morton’s real-estate office several blocks away. The office was on the street level of a small building. They entered and were greeted pleasantly by Mr.

Morton’s efficient secretary, Miss Benson.

“Hello, boys. Enjoying your summer vacation?”

“Yes, thanks, Miss Benson,” Chet said, eying his father’s empty desk. “When will Dad be back?”

“Your father’s gone for the day, Chet,” she replied. “He decided to go home early.”

“That’s funny,” Chet mused. “Dad usually stays until five at least.”

“We have time to drive out to the farm before we meet the train,” Joe said. “Let’s go.”

The Morton farm was on the outskirts of Bayport. When Chet swung the car into the driveway, Joe noticed with pleasure that Iola, Chet’s sister, was waving to them from the front porch. Dark-haired Iola, slim and vivacious, was Joe’s favorite date.

When they told her about the counterfeit bill, she exclaimed, “What a shame!”

Joe agreed emphatically. “And we’d sure like to get a lead on the man who passed it to Chet.”

“Sounds as if you Hardys are in the mood for some sleuthing,” Iola said with a twinkle in her eye.

“What’s this about sleuthing?” asked attractive Mrs. Morton as she came outside and joined the group.

The boys quickly explained. Then Chet asked his mother, “Is Dad around?”

Mrs. Morton smiled. “He isn’t here right now, Chet. He’s attending to an important job.”Chet looked disappointed until his sister giggled and said, “Dad’s not too far away.” Iola winked at her mother and they both began to laugh.

” “Your father’s important job is at his favorite fishing spot,” Mrs. Morton told Chet.

“Fishing!” Chet exclaimed. “He never goes fishing during the week!”

“He did this time,” said Mrs. Morton. “I guess the good weather was too much for him to resist.”

A few minutes later the boys were in the jalopy and driving down a country road bordered by woods. A half mile farther, Chet stopped and turned off the Queen’s engine. The sound of rushing water could be heard.

‘This is the spot,” Chet announced, and they started off through the woods.

The boys soon came to a clear running stream and spotted Mr. Morton seated contentedly on the bank.

He was leaning against a tree, holding his rod lightly between his knees and steadying it with his hands.

Just as the boys called a greeting to him, the line began to jerk and almost immediately the rod bent till the tip was close to the water. Mr. Morton leaped to his feet and shouted, “Just a minute, fellows! I’ve hooked a lulu!”

Mr. Morton was an expert. He let the fish take just enough line to bury the hook properly, then he very gently braked the reel with his thumb.

So intent was Mr. Morton on his fishing, he was not aware that his son was now rushing down the slope toward him. Suddenly Chet slipped on a moss-covered rock and fell forward. He lost his grip on the box containing the microscope and it flew toward the water. Joe, behind Chet, leaped forward and grabbed the box.

“Whew!” Chet exclaimed, regaining his balance. “Good work, Joe! Thanks a million!”

The three boys joined Mr. Morton, who was busy landing his catch, a fine, smallmouthed black bass. He held up the fish for them to admire. “Isn’t it a beauty, boys?” he said.

“Terrific, Dad,” Chet replied, still out of breath from his near tumble. “And I have something to show you.”

He unwrapped the package and held out the microscope. Mr. Morton put the fish in his creel, then studied the instrument closely.

“It’s a topnotch one, son,” he declared. “And just the model you wanted.”

“Yes, Dad. Only there’s a slight problem connected with it,”

“Oh-oh.” Mr. Morton chuckled good-naturedly. “I should have known from the look on your face. You didn’t have enough money, after all. Well, how much do you need?”

“That isn’t all there is to it,” Chet hastened to inform him, and told about the counterfeit bill.

Mr, Morton’s face darkened. “I hope we’re not in for a flood of phony bills.”

Frank nodded. “Especially since these are very clever imitations.”

Chet’s father handed over twenty dollars in small bills.”Thanks, Dad.”

“From now on, Chet, be careful about making change for strangers,” Mr. Morton cautioned.

“I will,” his son promised fervently. “Getting cheated once is enough!”

Chet paid the Hardys the money they had lent him. Then he said to his father, “I sure was surprised when Mother told me you were fishing -in the middle of the week.”

Mr. Morton smiled broadly. “I’ve been working hard the past year on the big sale of land to Elekton Controls,” he said. “I thought it was time to take an afternoon off and do some thinking while the fish were nibbling.”

“Is that the property in back of the plant they just finished building?” asked Frank.

“That’s right.” Mr. Morton pointed upstream. “You can just see the top of the main building from here.”

“The property you sold has the old Turner mill on it,” Joe remarked. “Quite a contrast. A company that makes top-secret control parts for space missiles in a modern building right next to an ancient, abandoned gristmill.”

“I suppose they’ll tear the old place down,” Frank remarked.

“No, Elekton has decided to use it,” Mr. Morton went on. “I suggested to them that the old mill would make an attractive gatehouse for the plant’s rear entrance. After all, it’s a historic place, built by the settlers when this whole area was inhabited by Indians. The company has renovated the old mill a bit, restoring the old living quarters and adding modern facilities.”

“Is someone living there?” Joe asked with interest.

“I understand a couple of their employees are,” Mr. Morton replied. Then he continued, “They’ve even repaired the wheel, so it’s turning again. Hearing the rushing water and the grinding of the wheel’s gear mechanism brought back memories to me.”

“About the Indians, Dad?” Chet joked.

“Not quite, son.” His father smiled. “But I can remember when the mill produced the best flour around here. Your grandmother made many a delicious loaf of bread from wheat ground in the Turner mill.”

“That’s for me!” Chet said.

Everyone laughed as Mr. Morton reminisced further about having seen the mill in full operation when he was a boy. Suddenly he and the Hardys noticed that Chet had fallen silent. There was a familiar, faraway look in his eyes.

Joe grinned. “Chet, you’re turning some new idea over in your mind.”

“That’s right,” Chet said excitedly. “I’ve been thinking that maybe I could get a summer job at Elekton.”

Mr. Morton exchanged amazed glances with the Hardys at the thought of Chet’s working during the summer vacation! But, with growing enthusiasm, Chet went on:

“I could earn the twenty dollars I owe you, Dad. Besides, if I am going to be a scientist, I couldn’t think of a better place to work.”“Elekton’s a fine company,” his father said. “I wish you luck, son.”

“Thanks, Dad.” Chet smiled broadly. “See you later. I have to go now and pay Mr. Reed the money I owe him.”

On the drive back to town, Chet told Frank and Joe that he was going to apply for a job at the Elekton plant the next day.

“We’ll go along,” Joe offered. “I’d like to see the plant and the old mill.”

“Swell,” said Chet.

When they reached the shopping area in Bayport, Chet drove directly to Mr. Reed’s store. The three boys had just alighted from the parked car when Chet excitedly grabbed his friends’ arms.

“There he is!” the chubby boy exclaimed. “Right down the street-the man who gave me that phony twenty!”

CHAPTER IV

The Shadowy Visitor

“THERE he goes! Across the street!” Joe said excitedly. “Let’s ask him about the counterfeit bill!”

The three boys broke into a run, dodging in and out of the crowd of afternoon shoppers. The Hardys kept their eyes trained on the stocky figure of their quarry.

But their chase was halted at the corner by a red traffic light against them. The street was congested with vehicles and it was impossible for the boys to get across.

“What luck!” Joe growled impatiently.

It seemed to be the longest red light they had ever encountered. When it changed, the threesome streaked across the street-but it was too late. The stocky man was lost to sight. The Hardys raced down the next two blocks, peering “in every direction, but to no avail.

Disappointed, Frank and Joe went back to Chet, who had stopped to catch his breath.

“We lost him,” Joe reported tersely.

Frank’s eyes narrowed. “I have a hunch that man who passed the bogus twenty-dollar bill to Chet knew it was counterfeit. That last-second dash for the train was just a gimmick to make a fast getaway. But his showing up here in Bayport a couple hours after he took the train out of town is mighty peculiar.”

Joe and Chet agreed. “He probably got off in Bridgeport,” Frank went on. “That’s the nearest big town.”

As the boys walked back toward the Scientific Specialties Store, they speculated about the source of the supply of bogus money.

“Maybe it’s Bridgeport,” Frank said. “That could be one of the reasons he took the train there-to get anew supply, or palm off more.”

“You mean they might actually make the stuff there?” Chet asked.

Frank shrugged. “Could be,” he said. “I hope no more counterfeit bills are passed in Bayport.”

“There probably will be,” Chet said ruefully, “if this town is full of easy marks like me.”

“Let’s keep a sharp lookout for that fake-money passer from now on,” Joe said, “and other clues to the counterfeit ring.”

“Who knows,” Chet put in, “it could turn out to be your next case.”

As soon as Mr. Reed had been paid, the boys drove to Bayport Police Headquarters. Chet decided to take his microscope into headquarters and show it to Chief Ezra Collig. The keen-eyed, robust officer was an old friend of Fenton Hardy and his sons. Many times the four had cooperated on cases.

“Sit down,” the chief said cordially. “I can see that you boys have something special on your minds.

Another mystery?”

He leaned forward expectantly in his chair.

“It’s possible, Chief,” replied Frank as he handed over the counterfeit bill. Quickly the Hardys explained what had happened, then voiced their suspicions of the man who had just eluded them.

“Have there been any other reports of people receiving fake bills?” Joe asked the officer.

Chief Collig nodded. “Chet’s not the first to be fooled,” he replied. “Since the Secret Service alerted us to watch for these twenty-dollar bills, we’ve had nearly a dozen complaints. But we’ve instructed the people involved not to talk about it.”

“Why?” Chet asked curiously.

“It’s part of our strategy. We hope to trap at least some of the gang by lulling them into a feeling of false security.”

The boys learned that Chet’s description of the stocky stranger tallied with what the police had on file.

“He’s a slippery one,” the chief added. “It sounds to me as if the man wears a different outfit each time he shoves a bill,”

“Shoves?” echoed Chet.

“A shover-or passer-is a professional term for people who pass counterfeit money,” Chief Collig explained. He rubbed the bogus bill between his fingers, “This is a clever forgery,” he said. “Let’s see what it looks like under your microscope, Chet.”

It took just a minute to rig and focus the microscope. Then, under Chief Collig’s directions, the boys scrutinized the faults in the bill.

“Look at the serial number,” the chief pointed out. “That’s the large, colored group of numbers that appears on the upper right and lower left portions of the bill.”

As the boys peered at the number, Chief Collig made some quick calculations on his desk pad, “Divide the serial number by six,” he went on, “and in this case, the remainder is two.”When the boys looked puzzled, the chief smiled. “On the upper left portion of the note you’ll see a small letter. One that is not followed by a number. That’s the check letter and in this case it’s B.”

The boys listened as Chief Collig further explained, “If the letter B corresponds to the remainder two, after you have done the division, it means the bill is either genuine-or a careful fake. The same way with the remainder, one. The check letter would be A or G; and with the remainder three, the check letter C or I, and so on.”

“Wow! Some arithmetic!” Chet remarked.

Frank looked thoughtful. “In this case, the test of the divisional check indicates the bill is genuine.”

“Exactly,” Chief Collig said. “And the portrait of Jackson is good. The border, sometimes called lathe or scrollwork, is excellent.”

“But, Chief,” said Joe, puzzled, “everything you’ve mentioned points toward the bill’s being the real thing,”

“That’s right. However, you’ll see through the microscope that the lines in the portrait are slightly grayish and the red and blue fibers running through the bank note have been simulated with colored ink.”

In turn, the boys peered through the microscope, observing the points the chief had called to their attention.

Chief Collig snapped off the light in Chet’s microscope and pulled the bill out from under the clips that were holding it in place.

He handed the fake bill to Frank and at the same time gave him a genuine one from his wallet. “Now feel the difference in the paper quality,” he directed.

Frank did so and could tell immediately that the forged bill was much rougher and thicker than the genuine one.

Just then the chief’s telephone rang. He answered it, speaking quickly. When he hung up, Chief Collig said, “I must go out on a call, boys. Thanks for bringing in this bill. If you come across any others like it, or clues that might help the police, let me know. In the meantime, I’ll relay your description of the suspect to the Secret Service, and also turn this bill over to them.”

Chief Collig arose from his desk, and the boys walked out of the building with him. On the way, Joe said, “I wonder if Oscar Smuff has heard of the counterfeiting racket, and is-er-working on it.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised.” The chief sighed. “That fellow will never give up.”

The boys did not mention their encounter with Smuff earlier in the afternoon, but they were fairly certain that Oscar Smuff had trailed the man because he was a stranger in town and had been carrying a suitcase. The aspiring detective undoubtedly had jumped to the conclusion that the suitcase was filled with counterfeit money.

When the chief had gone, Joe glanced at his watch. “If we’re going to meet Dad’s train, we’d better get started.”

The three boys climbed into the jalopy and drove off. They arrived at the station just as the four-o’clock train was coming to a halt.A moment later they spotted Mr. Hardy alighting from the rear car. “Dad!” cried Frank and Joe, and dashed to greet him, followed by Chet.

Fenton Hardy, a tall, distinguished-looking man, smiled broadly. “I appreciate this special reception-and a ride home, too,” he added, noticing Chet’s jalopy in the lot.

“Right this way, sir.” Chet grinned.

Joe took his father’s suitcase and everyone went to the car. As they rode along, the boys gave Mr.

Hardy an account of the afternoon’s exciting events.

The detective listened intently. In conclusion, Frank said, “Dad, does your new case have anything to do with the counterfeiting ring?”

Mr. Hardy did not answer for a moment. His mind seemed to be focused on another matter. Finally he said, “No. But I’ll be glad to help you boys track down any clues to these counterfeiters. I have a feeling you’ll be on the lookout for them!”

“We sure will!” Joe said emphatically.

As they turned into the Hardy driveway, Frank said, “Maybe more leads will show up around here.”

Fenton Hardy agreed. “That’s a strong possibility.”

They were met at the door by Aunt Gertrude, Mr. Hardy’s unmarried sister. She was a tall, angular woman, somewhat peppery in manner, but extremely kindhearted. Miss Hardy had arrived recently for one of her frequent long visits with the family. In her forthright manner she was constantly making dire predictions about the dangers of sleuthing, and the terrible fate awaiting anyone who was a detective.

She greeted her brother affectionately as everyone went into the living room. With a sigh she asked, “Will you be home for a while this time, Fenton, before you have to go dashing off on another case?”

Chuckling, Mr. Hardy replied, “I’ll probably be around for a while, Gertrude-especially if the boys run into any more counterfeit money.”

“What! Laura, did you hear that?” Aunt Gertrude turned to a slim, attractive woman who had just entered the room.

“I did.” Mrs. Hardy greeted her husband, then urged the boys to explain.

After hearing of Chet’s experience, both women shook their heads in dismay. “Well, the sooner those counterfeiters are caught, the better!” Aunt Gertrude declared firmly.

“That’s what we figure, Aunty,” Joe spoke up. “We’ll see what we can do! Right, Frank?”

“You bet.”

Chet added, grinning, “With the Hardy boys on their trail, those counterfeiters won’t have a chance!”

“And Laura and I will lose sleep worrying,” Aunt Gertrude prophesied.

Frank and Joe exchanged winks, knowing that actually she and Mrs. Hardy were proud of the boys’

sleuthing accomplishments, though sometimes fearful of the dangers they encountered.

“What delayed you today, Fenton?” Aunt Gertrude asked her brother. “Another case, I suppose.”Mr. Hardy explained, “There is a special matter I’m investigating, but I’m not at liberty to talk about it yet.”

His next remark diverted the boys’ attention from the counterfeiters. “Frank and Joe, will you be free tomorrow to see the surprise I have for you both?” he asked. “It’ll be ready late in the afternoon.”

“We sure will!” his sons exclaimed together. They knew what they hoped the surprise would be, but did not dare count on it.

The brothers tried without success to coax a hint from their family.

“All I can say,” Aunt Gertrude remarked, “is that you’re mighty lucky boys!” With a deep sigh she added, “But this surprise certainly won’t help my peace of mind!”

“Oh, Aunty!” said Joe. “You don’t really worry about us, do you?”

“Oh, no!” she exploded. “Only on weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays!”

Before Chet left for home, he reminded Frank and Joe of his intention to apply to Elekton Controls Limited for a job.

Overhearing him, Mr. Hardy was immediately interested. “So you want to enter the scientific field, Chet?”

he said. “Good for you and lots of luck!”

The detective told the boys that the company, in addition to manufacturing controls, was engaged in secret experiments with advanced electronic controls.

“Not too long ago,” he concluded, “I met some of Elekton’s officers.”

It flashed through Chet’s mind that he might ask the detective to make an appointment for him, but he decided not to. He wanted to get the job without an assist from anyone. Frank and Joe suggested that Chet come for them early the next afternoon.

“I have an idea!” Chet exclaimed. “Let’s go earlier and take along a picnic lunch. We’ll be right near Willow River. After I apply for a job, we can eat by the water. Then you fellows can help me collect bark and stone specimens.”

“Microscope study, eh?” Frank grinned. “Okay. It’s a deal.”

At supper Aunt Gertrude commented wryly, “There’ll be two moons in the sky when Chet Morton settles down to a job!”

The others laughed, then the conversation reverted once more to counterfeiting. Mr. Hardy backed up Chief Collig’s statement that the bogus twenty-dollar bills being circulated were clever imitations. “I heard that the Secret Service is finding it a hard case to crack,” he added.

Frank and Joe were wondering about their father’s other case. They realized it must be extremely confidential, and refrained from questioning him.

In the middle of the night, Joe was suddenly awakened by a clattering sound. He leaped out of bed and rushed across the room to the front window. It was a dark, moonless night, and for a moment Joe could see nothing.

But suddenly he detected a movement near the front door, then saw a shadowy figure running down the walk to the street.”Hey!” Joe called out. “Who are you? What do you want?”

At the end of the walk, the mysterious figure leaped onto a bicycle. It swerved, nearly throwing the rider, but he regained his balance and sped off into the darkness.

“What’s going on?” Joe cried out

CHAPTER V

The Bicycle Clue

JOE ran downstairs to the front door, flung it open, and dashed outside. He reached the end of the walk, and peered in the direction the mysterious cyclist had taken. The person was not in sight.

Puzzled, Joe walked back slowly to the house. Had the stranger come there by mistake? “If not, what did he want?” Joe wondered.

The rest of the Hardy family had been awakened by Joe’s cries to the stranger. By this time, they were clustered at the doorway and all the lights in the house were on.

“What’s the matter, Joe?” Aunt Gertrude demanded. “Who were you calling to at this unearthly hour?”

Joe was about to reply when he noticed a large white envelope protruding from the mailbox. He pulled it out, and saw that his father’s name was typed on the front. “This is for you, Dad.”

Joe handed the envelope to Mr. Hardy. “That fellow on the bike must have left it.”

Joe was besieged with questions, and he explained what had happened.

“It’s a funny way to deliver a message,” Frank commented.

“Very suspicious, if you ask me!” Aunt Gertrude snapped.

Suddenly they all noticed that Mr. Hardy was frowning at the contents of the envelope-a plain piece of white paper.

“What does it say, Fenton?” Mrs. Hardy asked anxiously.

He read the typed message: “ ‘Drop case or else danger for you and family! “ There was silence for a moment, then Aunt Gertrude exclaimed, “I knew it! We can’t get a decent night’s sleep with three detectives in the family! I just know there’s real trouble brewing!”

Although she spoke tartly, the others realized Miss Hardy was concerned, as always, for her brother’s safety.

“Now, don’t worry, Gertrude,” Fenton Hardy said reassuringly. “The boys and I will be on guard against any danger. This note probably is the work of a harmless crank.”

Aunt Gertrude tossed her head as though she did not believe this for a moment.”Let’s all look around for clues to the person on the bike,” Frank suggested.

Flashlights were procured, and the entire family searched the grounds thoroughly on both sides of the stoop and the walk. As Frank and his aunt neared the end of the front walk, Miss Hardy cried out, “There’s something-next to that bush.”

Frank picked up the object. “A bicycle pedal!” he exclaimed. “Aunty, this is a terrific clue! I think we have four detectives in the family!”

His aunt forced a rather embarrassed smile.

“The pedal must’ve fallen off the bike Joe saw,” Frank said. “That’s why it swerved.”

Back in the house, the family gathered in the kitchen. They were too excited to go back to bed immediately, and the boys were eager to question their father. They all had cookies and lemonade.

“What case did the warning refer to?” Joe asked Mr. Hardy.

“I can’t be sure,” the detective replied slowly.

Again the boys wondered about Mr. Hardy’s secret case, and longed to know what it involved. “Maybe the threat is connected with that one,” Frank thought. Before the boys went to sleep, they decided to track down the pedal clue early the next morning.

Right after breakfast, Chet telephoned. He told Frank, who took the call, that his sister Iola and her friend Callie Shaw had offered to pack lunch if they could go along on the picnic.

“Swell,” Frank said enthusiastically. Callie was his favorite date. “In the meantime, how’d you like to do some sleuthing with us?”

“Sure! What’s up?”

Frank quickly told Chet about the excitement of the previous night. “Meet us here as soon as you can.”

When Frank and Joe informed Mr. Hardy of their plan to trace the pedal, he nodded approval. “I must go out of town for a short while,” he said. “But first, I’d like to examine the warning note in the lab.”

The boys went with him to their fully equipped laboratory over the garage. Mr. Hardy dusted the note carefully, but when he blew the powder away, there was no sign of a fingerprint.

Holding the note up to the light, Mr. Hardy said, “There’s no watermark. Of course, this is not a full sheet of paper.”

“Dead end, so far.” Joe frowned, “If we could only locate the typewriter this message was written on-“

Shortly after Mr. Hardy had driven off in his sedan, Chet arrived. “Where to, fellows?” he asked as they set off in the Queen.

“Center of town,” Joe replied.

On the way, the brothers briefed Chet on their plan, which was to make inquiries at all the bicycle supply stores. In the first four they visited,

Frank showed the pedal and asked if there had been any requests for a replacement that morning. All the answers were negative. Finally, at the largest supply store in Bayport, they obtained some helpfulinformation.

“This particular pedal comes from a bike made in Belgium,” the proprietor said. “There isn’t a store in town that carries parts for it.”

The boys were disappointed. As Frank put the pedal back in his pocket he asked the proprietor where parts for the Belgian bicycle could be purchased.

“It might be worth your while to check over in Bridgeport,” the man said. “I think you’ll find Traylor’s handles them.”

“It’s an odd coincidence,” Frank remarked, when the boys were back in the car. “We’ve come across two Belgian bikes in two days.”

When they reached the Traylor store in Bridgeport, the young detectives learned they had just missed a customer who had purchased a pedal for a Belgian bike.

“Who was he?” Frank inquired. “I don’t know.”

“‘What did he look like?” Joe asked. The proprietor’s brow wrinkled. “Sorry. I was too busy to pay much attention, so I can’t tell you much. As far as I can remember, he was a tall boy, maybe about fourteen.” The three friends knew this vague description was almost useless. There probably were hundreds of boys living in the surrounding area who fitted that description.

As the boys reached the street, Joe said determinedly, “We’re not giving up!”

“Hey!” Chet reminded his friends. “It’s almost time to pick up the girls.”

Within an hour the five young people were turning off the highway onto a side road paralleling Elekton’s east fence. A little farther on Chet made a right turn and followed the dirt road that led to the rear entrance of the plant.

“Any luck sleuthing?” Pretty, brown-eyed Callie Shaw asked the Hardys.

“What makes you think we were sleuthing?”

“Oh, I can tell!” Callie said, her eyes twinkling. “You two always have that detective gleam in your eyes when you’re mixed up in a mystery!”

“They certainly have!” Iola agreed, laughing.

When they reached a grove bordering Willow River, which was to their left, Chet pulled over. “I’ll park here.”

The girls had decided they would like to see the changes which had been made in the old mill. As the group approached Elekton’s gatehouse, they were amazed at the transformation.

No longer did the mill look shabby and neglected. The three-story structure had been completely repainted and the weeds and overgrowth of years cleared away. The grounds and shrubbery of the whole area were neatly trimmed.

“Look!” said Frank. “There’s the mill wheel!”

As the Hardys and their friends watched the huge wheel turning, they felt for a moment that they were living in olden days. Water which poured from a pond over a high stone dam on the south side andthrough an elevated millrace caused the wheel to revolve.

“Oh!” Callie exclaimed admiringly as she spotted a little bridge over the stream from the falls. “It looks just like a painting!”

About three hundred yards from the north side of the mill was the closed rear gate to Elekton’s ultramodern plant.

“Some contrast between the old and the new!” Joe remarked as they left the dirt road and walked up the front path to the gatehouse.

Suddenly the door opened and a dark-haired, muscular man in uniform came out to meet them. “What can I do for you?” he asked. “I’m the gate guard here.”

“I’d like to apply for a summer job at Elekton,” Chet told him.

“Have you an appointment?”

“No,” replied Chet. “I guess I should have phoned first.”

The guard agreed. “You would’ve saved yourself time and trouble,” he said. “I’m sure there aren’t any openings, especially for temporary help.”

“Well, couldn’t I go in and leave an application with the personnel manager?” Chet asked.

The guard shrugged. “Tell you what-I’ll phone the personnel office instead,” he offered, and went back into the mill.

While they waited, the five looked around. At the south side of the mill grounds, a slender, graying man who wore overalls was clipping the low hedges.

“Look, Callie,” said Iola, pointing toward a spot near the hedges. “Isn’t that quaint? An old flour barrel with ivy growing out of it!”

“Charming.” Callie smiled.

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