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CHAPTER XI

Sinister Tactics

“WHAT do you mean you can’t slow down?” Chet yelled. “Turn off the engine!”

“Joe can’t,” Frank said grimly. “He has the throttle to off position and we’re still traveling at full speed.”

There was no choice for Joe but to swing the Sleuth into another wide, sweeping turn. It would have been foolhardy to enter the river at such speed, and Joe knew that under the circumstances he needed lots of room to maneuver. The motorboat zoomed back into the middle of the bay. It seemed to the boys that suddenly there was tar more traffic on the bay than there had been before.

“Look out!” Chet yelled. Joe just missed a high-speed runabout.

He turned and twisted to avoid the small pleasure boats. The young pilot was more worried about endangering these people than he was about colliding with the larger vessels, which were commercial craft.

“Keep her as straight as you can!” Frank shouted to Joe. “I’ll take a look at the engine and see what I can do with it.”

Frank stood up and leaned forward to open the cowling in front of the dashboard, as the boat leaped across the waves in the bay.

“Watch out!” Chet yelled, as Frank almost lost his balance.

Joe had made a sharp turn to avoid cutting in front of a rowboat containing a man and several children.

Joe realized that the wash of the speeding Sleuth might upset it.

“If those people are thrown overboard,” he thought, “we’ll have to rescue them. But how?” Fortunately,the boat did not overturn.

Frank quickly lifted the cowling from the engine and stepped into the pit. He knew he could open the fuel intake and siphon off the gas into the bay, but this would take too long.

“I’ll have to stop the boat-right now!” he decided.

Frank reached down beside the roaring engine and pulled three wires away from the distributor. Instantly the engine died, and Frank stood up just as Joe made another sharp turn to miss hitting a small outboard motorboat that had wandered across their path.

“Good night!” Chet cried out. “That was a close one!”

Even with the Sleuth’s reduction in speed, the other boat rocked violently back and forth as it was caught in the wash. Frank grasped the gunwale, ready to leap over the side and rescue the man if his boat overturned.

But the smaller craft had been pulled around to face the wash. Though it bounced almost out of the water, the boat quickly resumed an even keel.

The lone man in it kept coming toward the Sleuth. As he drew alongside, he began to wave his arms and shout at the boys.

“What’s the matter with you young fools?” he yelled. “You shouldn’t be allowed to operate a boat until you learn how to run one.”

“We couldn’t-“ Joe started to say when the man interrupted.

“You should have more respect for other people’s safety!”

Frank finally managed to explain. “It was an accident. The throttle was jammed open. I had to pull the wires out of the distributor to stop her.”

By this time the outboard was close enough for its pilot to look over the Sleuth’s side and into the engine housing where Frank was pointing at the distributor.

The man quickly calmed down. “Sorry, boys,” he said. “There are so many fools running around in high-powered boats these days, without knowing anything about the rules of navigation, I just got good and mad at your performance.”

“I don’t blame you, sir,” said Joe. Then he asked, “Do you think you could tow us into the municipal dock so that we can have repairs made?”

“Glad to,” said the man.

At the dock, the Hardys and Chet watched while the serviceman checked the Sleuth to find out the cause of the trouble. Presently he looked up at the boys with an odd expression.

“What’s the trouble?” Frank asked. “Serious?”

The mechanic’s reply startled them. “This is a new motorboat and no doubt was in tiptop shape. But somebody tampered with the throttle!”

“What!” Joe demanded. “Let’s see!”The serviceman pointed out where a cotter pin had been removed from the throttle group. And the tension spring which opened and closed the valve had been replaced with a bar to hold the throttle wide open, once it was pushed there.

The Hardys and Chet exchanged glances which meant: “The unknown enemy again?”

The boys, however, did not mention their suspicions to the mechanic. Frank merely requested him to make the necessary repairs on the Sleuth. Then the trio walked back to the Hardys’ boat-house.

Several fishermen were standing at a nearby wharf. Frank and Joe asked them if they had seen anyone near the boathouse.

“No,” each one said.

The three boys inspected the boathouse. Frank scrutinized the hasp on the door. “The Sleuth must have been tampered with while it was inside. Unless it was done last night while we were unconscious.”

There was no sign of the lock having been forced open, but near the edge of the loose hasp there were faint scratches.

“Look!” Joe pointed. “Somebody tore the whole hasp off the door and then carefully put it back on.”

Frank looked grim. “I’m sure this was done by the same person who attacked us last night, and sent us the warnings.”

“You’re right,” said Joe. “This is what Dad would call sinister tactics.”

Again both brothers wondered with which case their enemy was connected. There seemed to be no answer to this tantalizing question which kept coming up again and again.

Chet drove the Queen back to the Hardys’, and the brothers rode their motorcycles. When they reached the house they went at once to the lab with the note Chet had found in his car.

They dusted it for fingerprints but were disappointed again. There was not one trace of a print. The boys found, however, that the paper was the same as that used for the previous warnings.

“Well,” said Joe, “I vote we go on out to the mill.”

The boys went in the Queen. Chet had just brought his car to a stop on the dirt road when Joe called out, “There’s Ken Blake trimming the grass over by the millrace. Now’s our chance to talk to him.”

The three jumped out. Ken looked up, stared for a second, then threw his clippers to the ground. To the boys’ surprise, he turned and ran away from them, along the stream.

“Wait!” Frank yelled.

Ken looked over his shoulder, but kept on running. Suddenly he tripped and stumbled. For a moment the boy teetered on the bank of the rushing stream. The next instant he lost his balance and fell headlong into the water!

At once the Hardys and Chet dashed to the water’s edge. Horrified, they saw that the force of the water was carrying the boy, obviously a poor swimmer, straight toward the plunging falls!CHAPTER XII An Interrupted Chase

FRANK, quick as lightning, dashed to the mill-stream and plunged in after Ken Blake. The boy was being pulled relentlessly toward the waterfall. In another moment he would be swept over the brink of the dam!

With strong strokes, Frank swam toward the struggling boy. Reaching out desperately, he managed to grasp Ken’s shirt.

Joe jumped in to assist Frank. The two boys were buffeted by the rushing water but between them they managed to drag Ken back from the falls.

“Easy,” Frank cautioned the frightened youth, “Relax. We’ll have you out in a jiffy.”

Despite the weight of their clothes, the Hardys, both proficient at lifesaving techniques, soon worked Ken dose to the bank. Chet leaned over and helped haul him out of the water. Then Frank and Joe climbed out.

To their relief, Ken, though white-faced and panting from exhaustion, seemed to be all right. The Hardys flopped to the ground to catch their breath.

“That was a whale of a rescue!” Chet praised them.

“You bet!” Ken gasped weakly, ‘Thanks, fellows! You’ve saved my life!”

“In a way it was our fault,” Joe replied ruefully. “You wouldn’t have fallen in if we hadn’t come here. But why did you run away when you saw us?”

Ken hesitated before answering. “Mr. Markel -the guard at the gatehouse-said you wanted to talk to me.

He warned me about talking to outsiders, because of the strict security at Elekton.”

Joe nodded. “We understand, Ken. But,” he added, “we have something important to ask you, and I don’t think you will be going against company rules if you answer. Did anybody use your bike the night before last to deliver a message to our house?”

“Your house?” Ken sounded surprised. “No. At least, not that I know of.”

Joe went on, “Did you buy a pedal in Bridgeport to replace the one missing from your bike?”

Ken again looked surprised. “Yes. It was gone yesterday morning when I came to work. I suspected someone must have used my bike and lost the pedal. When I couldn’t find it around here, Mr. Markel sent me to Bridgeport to buy a new one.”

It was on the tip of Frank’s tongue to ask the boy i£ he had seen any person in the area of the mill carrying a bow and arrow. But suddenly Mr. Markel and the maintenance man came dashing from the mill.

“What’s going on here?” the guard demanded, staring at the Hardys and Ken, who were still dripping wet.Briefly, Frank told the men what had happened. They thanked the brothers warmly for the rescue, and the maintenance man hustled Ken into the mill for dry clothes. He did not invite the Hardys inside.

Frank and Joe turned to Mr. Markel, intending to question him. But before they could, a horn sounded and a shabby green panel truck approached the plant gate.

The guard hurried over to admit the truck and it entered without stopping. Suddenly Joe grabbed Frank’s arm. “Hey! That truck’s unmarked-it looks like the one Tony described.”

The brothers peered after the vehicle, but by this time it was far into the grounds, and had turned out of sight behind one of the buildings.

“I wonder,” Joe said excitedly, “if the driver is the man who gave the Pritos the counterfeit bill!”

The boys had noticed only that the driver wore a cap pulled low and sat slouched over the wheel.

“If this truck’s the same one, it may be connected with Elekton,” Frank said tersely.

Both Hardys, though uncomfortably wet, decided to stay and see what they could find out. They hailed Mr, Markel as he walked back from the Elekton gate.

“Does that truck belong to Elekton?” Frank asked him.

“No, it doesn’t,” the guard answered.

“Do you know who does own it?” asked Joe.

Mr. Markel shook his head regretfully, “Sorry, boys. I’m afraid I’m not allowed to give out such information. Excuse me, I have work to do.” He turned and went back into the gatehouse.

“Come on, fellows,” Chet urged. “You’d better not hang around in those wet clothes.”

The Hardys, however, were determined to stay long enough to question Ken Blake further, if possible.

“He’ll probably be coming outside soon,” said Joe. “Frank and I can dry out on the beach by the cave. It won’t take long in this hot sun.”

Chet sighed, “Okay. And I know what I’m supposed to do-wait here and watch for Ken.”

Frank chuckled. “You’re a mind reader.”

Chet took his post at the edge of the woods, and the Hardys hurried down to the river’s edge.

They spread their slacks and shirts on the sun-warmed rocks. In a short while the clothing was dry enough to put on.

“Say, maybe we’ll have time to investigate that tunnel before Chet calls us,” Joe suggested eagerly.

He and Frank started for the cave, but a second later Chet came running through the woods toward them.

“Ken came out, but he’s gone on an errand,” he reported, and explained that the boy had rushed from the mill dressed in oversize dungarees and a red shirt. “He was riding off on his bike when I caught up to him.

I told Ken you wanted to see him, but he said he had to make a fast trip downtown and deliver an envelope to the Parker Building.”“We’ll catch him there,” Frank decided.

The three boys ran up the wooded slope and jumped into the Queen. They kept on the main road to Bayport, hoping to overtake Ken, but they did not pass him.

“He must have taken another route,” Joe said.

At the Parker Building there were no parking spaces available, so Chet stopped his jalopy long enough to drop off Frank and Joe.

“I’ll keep circling the block until you come out,” Chet called as he drove away.

There was no sign of Ken’s bicycle outside the building. The Hardys rushed into the lobby and immediately were met by a five-o’clock crowd of office workers streaming from the elevators. Frank and Joe made their way through the throng, but saw no sign of Ken.

Joe had an idea. “Maybe he was making the delivery to Mr. Peters, the name I saw on the Manila envelope I picked up the other day. Let’s see if Ken’s still in his office.”

The boys ran their eyes down the building directory, but Mr. Peters was not listed. The brothers questioned the elevator starter, who replied that so far as he knew, no one by the name of Peters had an office in the building.

Joe asked the starter, “Did you notice a boy wearing dungarees and a bright-red shirt in the lobby a few minutes ago?”

“Sure,” was the prompt reply. “Just before the five-o’clock rush started. I saw the boy come in and give an envelope to a man waiting in the corner over there. The man took the envelope and they both left right away.”

“I guess he must be Mr. Peters,” Frank said.

“Could be,” the starter agreed. “I didn’t recognize him.”

As the Hardys hurried outside, Joe said, “Well, we got crossed up on that one. Let’s get back to the mill.

Ken will have to drop off the bike.”

The brothers waited at the curb for Chet. In a few minutes the Queen pulled up. “All aboard!” Chet sang out. “Any luck?”

“No.”

When Frank told Chet they were returning to the mill, their good-natured friend nodded. “It’s fortunate I bought these sandwiches,” he said, indicating a paper bag on the seat beside him. “I had a feeling we’d be late to supper.”

Joe snapped his fingers. “That reminds me. I’ll stop and phone our families so they won’t wait supper for us.”

After Joe had made the calls and they were on their way again, he told Frank and Chet that Mr. Hardy had left a message saying he would not be home until after ten o’clock.

As the Queen went down the side road past the Elekton buildings, Frank thought, “If Dad is working for Elekton, he might be somewhere in the plant right this minute.”The same possibility was running through Joe’s mind. “Wonder if Dad is expecting a break in his secret case.”

As Chet neared the turn into the mill road, a green truck zoomed out directly in front of the Queen. Chet jammed on his brake, narrowly avoiding a collision. The truck swung around the jalopy at full speed and roared off toward the highway.

“The green truck we saw before!” Joe exclaimed. “This time I got the license number, but couldn’t see the driver’s face.”

“Let’s follow him!” Frank urged.

Chet started back in pursuit. “That guy ought to be arrested for reckless driving!” he declared indignantly.

The Hardys peered ahead as they turned right onto the main road, trying to keep the truck in sight.

Suddenly the boys heard a tremendous bo-o-om and felt the car shake.

“An explosion!” Joe cried out, turning his head. “Look!”

Against the sky a brilliant flash and billows of smoke came from the direction of Elekton. Another explosion followed.

“The plant’s blowing up!” Joe gasped.

CHAPTER XIII

Sudden Suspicion

THE roar of the explosion and the sight of smoke and flames stunned the three boys for a moment. Chet stepped on the brake so fast that his passengers hit the dashboard.

“Take it easy!” urged Frank, although he was as excited as Chet.

All thoughts of chasing the mysterious green truck were erased from the Hardys’ minds.

“Let’s get as close as possible,” Frank said tersely, as Chet headed the car back toward the plant. “I’d like to know what-“

Frank broke off as a series of explosions occurred. The brothers sat forward tensely.

As the Queen drew near the main entrance, the boys could see that the flames and smoke were pouring from a single building at the northeast corner.

“It’s one of the labs, I think,” said Frank.

Quickly Chet pulled over and parked, and the boys hopped out of the jalopy. The series of explosive sounds had died away, but the damage appeared to be extensive. Most of the windows in the steel-and-concrete building had been blown out by the force of the blast.Smoke and flames were pouring out of the blackened spaces where the windows had been. As the boys ran toward the front, the roof of the west wing caved in. The rush of oxygen provided fuel for a new surge of flames that reached toward the sky.

“Lucky this happened after closing time,” Chet murmured, staring wide-eyed at the fire. “There might have been a lot of injuries.”

“I hope no one was inside.” Joe exchanged worried glances with his brother. Both shared the same concern. It was for their father.

“I wish we could find out whether or not Dad’s at Elekton,” Frank whispered to Joe.

At this point, the boys heard the scream of sirens. Soon fire trucks and police cars from Bayport pulled up at the front gate. The Hardys saw Chief Collig in the first police car. They rushed up to him and he asked how they happened to be there.

“Sleuthing,” Frank answered simply. Without going into detail, he added, “Joe and I aren’t sure, but we have a hunch Dad may have been-or still is-here at Elekton. All right if we go into the grounds and look around?” he asked eagerly. “And take Chet?”

The officer agreed.

By this time the guard had opened the wide gate, and the fire apparatus rushed in. Some of the police officers followed, while others took positions along the road and directed traffic so it would not block the path of emergency vehicles.

As the boys rode inside with the chief, Joe asked him, “Any idea what caused the explosion?”

“Not yet. Hard to tell until the firemen can get inside the building.”

When they reached the burning structure, Chief Collig began directing police operations, and checking with the firemen. As soon as they seemed to have the flames under control, the firemen entered the laboratory building to look for any possible victims of the explosions.

The Hardys and Chet, meanwhile, had searched the outdoors area for Mr. Hardy, but did not see the detective.

“Maybe we were wrong about Dad’s coming here,” Joe said to his brother, more hopeful than before.

“Dad probably wouldn’t have been in the lab.”

The brothers went back to Chief Collig, who told them he had not seen Fenton Hardy. Just then the fire chief came up to the group.

“I’ll bet this fire was no accident,” he reported grimly to Collig. “The same thing happened in Indiana about two months ago-and that was sabotage!”

Frank and Joe stared at each other. “Sabotage!” Joe whispered.

A startling thought flashed into Frank’s mind, and, drawing his brother aside, he exclaimed, “Remember what we overheard Dad say on the phone? ‘The same eight-and-one pattern. I’ll be there.’”

“And two months equal about eight weeks,” Joe added excitedly. “That might have been the saboteurs’

time schedule Dad was referring to! So maybe the explosion at Elekton was set for today!”

Frank’s apprehension about his father returned full force. “Joe,” he said tensely, “Dad might have beeninside the lab building trying to stop the saboteurs!”

Deeply disturbed, the Hardys pleaded with Chief Collig for permission to enter the building and search for their father.

“I can tell you’re worried, boys,” the officer said sympathetically. “But it’s still too risky for me to let you go inside. It’ll be some time before we’re sure there’s no danger of further explosions.”

“I know,” Frank agreed. “But what if Dad is in there and badly hurt?”

The police chief did his best to reassure the brothers. “Your father would never forgive me if I let you risk your lives,” he added. “I suggest that you go on home and cheer up your mother in case she has the same fears you do. I promise if I see your dad I’ll call you, or ask him to.”

The boys realized that their old friend was right, and slowly walked away. Frank and Joe looked back once at the blackened building, outlined against the twilight sky. Wisps of smoke still curled from the torn-out windows. It was a gloomy, silent trio that drove to the Hardy home in the Queen.

Frank and Joe decided not to tell their mother or aunt of their fear, or to give any hint of their suspicions.

When the boys entered the living room, both women gave sighs of relief. They had heard the explosions and the subsequent news flashes about it.

Aunt Gertrude looked at the boys sharply. “By the way, where have you three been all this time? I was afraid that you might have been near Elekton’s.”

Frank, Joe, and Chet admitted that they had been. “You know we couldn’t miss a chance to find out what the excitement was about,” Joe said teasingly, then added with an assurance he was far from feeling, “Don’t worry. The fire was pretty much under control when we left.”

To change the subject, Frank said cheerfully, “I sure am hungry. Let’s dig into those sandwiches you bought, Chet!”

“Good ideal” Joe agreed.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to fix you something hot to eat?” Mrs. Hardy asked.

“Thanks, Mother, but we’ll have enough.” Frank smiled.

Chet called his family to let them know where he was, then the three boys sat down in the kitchen and halfheartedly munched the sandwiches. Aunt Gertrude bustled in and served them generous portions of deep-dish apple pie.

“This is more super than usual,” Chet declared, trying hard to be cheerful.

The boys finished their pie, but without appetite. When they refused second helpings, however, Aunt Gertrude demanded suspiciously, “Are you ill-or what?”

“Oh, no, Aunty,” Joe replied hastily. “Just- er-too much detecting.”

“I can believe that!” Miss Hardy said tartly.

The evening dragged on, tension mounting every minute. The boys tried to read or talk, but their concern for the detective’s safety made it impossible to concentrate on anything else.

Eleven o’clock! Where was their father? Frank and Joe wondered.”Aren’t you boys going to bed soon?” Mrs. Hardy asked, as she and Aunt Gertrude started upstairs.

“Pretty soon,” Frank answered.

The three boys sat glumly around the living room for a few minutes until the women were out of earshot.

“Fellows,” said Chet, “I caught on that you’re sure your dad is working on an important case for Elekton, and it’s a top-secret one-that’s why you couldn’t say anything about it.”

“You’re right,” Frank told him.

Chet went on to mention that his father had heard of various problems at Elekton-production stoppages caused by power breaks, and, before the buildings were completed, there were reports of tools and equipment being missing.

“This ties in with our hunch about the secrecy of Dad’s case,” Frank said. “The company must have suspected that major sabotage was being planned, and retained Dad to try and stop it.”

Talking over their speculations helped to relieve some of the tension the boys felt and made the time pass a little faster as they waited for news of Fenton Hardy.

“I wonder how the saboteurs got into the plant?” Joe said, thinking aloud. “Both the gates are locked and well guarded. It seems almost impossible for anyone to have sneaked in the necessary amount of explosives-without inside help.”

A sudden thought flashed into Frank’s mind. He leaped to his feet. “The green truck!” he exclaimed. “It was unmarked, remember? It could have been carrying dynamite-camouflaged under ordinary supplies!”

“That could be, Frank!” Joe jumped up. “If so, no wonder it was in such a rush! I’ll phone the chief right now and give him the truck’s license number.”

Frank went with Joe to the hall telephone. As they approached the phone, it rang. The bell, shattering the tense atmosphere, seemed louder than usual.

“It must be Dad!” exclaimed the brothers together, and Chet hurried into the hall.

Frank eagerly lifted the receiver. “Hello!” he said expectantly.

The next moment Frank looked dejected. He replaced the receiver and said glumly, “Wrong number.”

The Hardys exchanged bleak looks. What had happened to their father?

CHAPTER XIV

Prisoners!

THE HARDYS’ disappointment in discovering that the telephone call was not from their father was intense. Nevertheless, Joe picked up the receiver and dialed police headquarters to report the truck’s license number.”Line’s busy,” he said.

Joe tried several more times without success. Suddenly he burst out, “I can’t stand it another minute to think of Dad perhaps lying out there hurt. Let’s go back to Elekton and see if we can learn something.”

“All right,” Frank agreed, also eager for action, and the three rushed to the front door.

Just as they opened it, the boys saw the headlights of a car turning into the driveway.

“It’s Dad!” Joe barely refrained from shouting so as not to awaken Mrs. Hardy and Aunt Gertrude.

The detective’s sedan headed for the garage at the back of the house. Heaving sighs of thankful relief, the boys quietly hurried through the house into the kitchen to meet him.

“Are we glad to see you, Dad!” Frank exclaimed as he came into the house.

His father looked pale and disheveled. There was a large purple bruise on his left temple. He slumped wearily into a chair.

“I guess I’m lucky to be here.” Mr. Hardy managed a rueful smile. “Well, I owe you boys an explanation, and now is the time,”

“Dad,” Joe spoke up, “you are working on the sabotage case for Elekton, aren’t you?”

“And you were in the lab building during the explosions?” Frank put in.

“You’re both right,” the detective replied. “Of course I know I can depend on all of you to keep the matter strictly confidential. The case is far from solved.”

Mr. Hardy was relieved that Frank and Joe had kept their fears for his safety from his wife and sister. He now revealed to the boys that for the past several hours he had been closeted with Elekton’s officials.

Suspecting that the saboteurs had inside help, the detective had screened the records of all employees.

He and the officials had found nothing suspicious.

“I’ll submit a full report to the FBI tomorrow morning, and continue a search on my own.”

When Joe asked if the eight-and-one pattern referred to the saboteurs’ schedule, his father nodded. “In the other plants, the sabotage took place eight weeks plus one day apart.

“In each of those plants,” the detective went on, “the damage occurred right after closing time. Figuring the schedule would be exactly right for an attempt on Elekton in a couple of days, I started a systematic check of the various buildings. I planned to check daily, until the saboteurs had been caught here or elsewhere. At my request, one company security guard was assigned to assist me. I felt that the fewer people who knew what I was doing, the better. That’s how I ruined the saboteurs’ plan in Detroit.

“Nothing suspicious occurred here until today when I took up a post in the section of the building where the experimental work is being conducted. After all the employees had left, and the dim night-lights were on, I went toward the east lab wing to investigate.”

Mr. Hardy paused, took a deep breath, and continued, “Just as I reached the lab, I happened to glance back into the hall. Things started to happen-fast.”

“What did you see, Dad?” asked Joe, and all the boys leaned forward expectantly.

The detective went on, “Hurrying down the hall from the west lab were two men in work clothes, onecarrying a leather bag. I knew there weren’t supposed to be any workmen in the building. I stepped out to question them, but the pair broke into a run and dashed past me down the stairs.”

“Did you see what either of them looked like?” Frank asked.

“I did catch a glimpse of one before they broke away. He had heavy features and thick eyebrows. But just as I was about to take off after them, I smelled something burning in the east lab and went to investigate. The first thing I saw was a long fuse sputtering toward a box of dynamite, set against the wall.

“I didn’t know if it was the kind of fuse that would burn internally or not, so I took my penknife and cut it close to the dynamite. Professional saboteurs don’t usually rely on just one explosive, so I started for the west wing to check the lab there.”

Mr. Hardy leaned back in his chair and rubbed the bruise on his temple. In a low voice he said, “But I didn’t make it. I was running toward the hall when there was a roar and a burst of flame. The explosion lifted me off my feet and threw me against the wall. Though I was stunned, I managed to get back to the east wing. I reached for the phone, then blacked out.

“I must have been unconscious for some time because when the firemen found me and helped me out of the building, the fire had been put out.”

“You’re all right now?” asked Frank. “Yes. It was a temporary blackout from shock. What bothers me is that I had the saboteurs’ pattern figured out-only they must have become panicky, and moved up their nefarious scheme two days.”

Joe looked grim. “I wish we’d been there to help you capture those rats!”

Chet asked Mr. Hardy if he would like a fruit drink. “I’ll make some lemonade,” he offered. “Sounds good.” Mr. Hardy smiled. As they sipped the lemonade, Frank and Joe questioned their father about his theories.

“I’m still convinced,” said Mr. Hardy, “that one of those men works in the plant. How else would he have known when the watchman makes his rounds and how to disconnect the electronic alarms? But I can’t figure how the outside accomplice got in-those gates are carefully guarded.” At this point, Frank told his father about the green truck. “We suspected at first it might be connected with the counterfeiters. Now we have a hunch the saboteurs may have used it.”

Fenton Hardy seemed greatly encouraged by this possible lead. Joe gave him the license number, which Mr. Hardy said he would report to Chief Collig at once.

When Mr. Hardy returned from the telephone, he told the boys the chief would check the license number with the Motor Vehicle Bureau in the morning and by then he also would have some information about the print on the archer’s finger guard.

The next morning after breakfast Frank said he wanted to take another look at the warning notes.

“Why?” Joe asked curiously as they went to the file.

Frank held up the “arrow” warning, and the one received by Chet. “I’ve been thinking about the printing on these two-seems familiar. I have it!” he burst out.

“Have what?” Joe asked.”This printing”-Frank pointed to the papers -“is the same as the printing on Ken’s envelope addressed to Victor Peters. I’m positive.”

Excitedly the brothers speculated on the possible meaning of this clue. “I’d sure like to find out,” said Joe, “who addresses the envelopes Ken delivers, and if they’re always sent to Mr. Peters in the Parker Building. And why-if he doesn’t have an office there. And who is Victor Peters?”

“If the person who addresses the envelopes and the sender of the warnings are the same,” Frank declared, “it looks as though he’s sending something to a confederate, under pretense of having work done for Elekton. I wonder what that something could be?”

“At any rate,” Joe added, “this could be a link either to the counterfeiters or to the saboteurs. Which one?”

The boys decided to go out to the mill again, in hopes of quizzing Ken Blake. Just then their father came downstairs. Frank and Joe were glad to see that he looked rested and cheerful.

Mr. Hardy phoned Chief Collig. When the detective hung up, he told his sons that the license number belonged to stolen plates and the fingerprint to a confidence man nicknamed The Arrow.

“He’s called this because for several years he worked at exclusive summer resorts, teaching archery to wealthy vacationers, then fleecing as many of them as he could. After each swindle, The Arrow disappeared. Unfortunately, there’s no picture of him on file. All the police have is a general description of him.”

Frank and Joe learned that the swindler had a pleasant speaking voice, was of medium height, with dark hair and brown eyes.

“Not much to go on,” Joe remarked glumly.

“No, but if he is working for Elekton, he must be pretty shrewd to have passed their screening.”

Mr. Hardy agreed, and phoned Elekton, requesting the personnel department to check if anybody answering The Arrow’s description was employed there.

The brothers then informed their father about the similar lettering on the warnings and Ken’s Manila envelope.

“A valuable clue,” he remarked. “I wish I could go with you to question Ken.” The detective explained that right now he had to make his report of the explosion to the nearby FBI office.

When he had left, Frank and Joe rode off to the mill on their motorcycles.

At the gatehouse the guard had unexpected news. “Ken Blake isn’t working here any more,” Mr. Markel said. “We had to discharge him.”

“Why?” asked Joe in surprise.

The guard replied that most of the necessary jobs had been done around the mill grounds. “Mr.

Docker-my coworker-and I felt we could handle everything from now on,” he explained.

“I see,” said Frank. “Can you tell us where Ken is staying?”

Markel said he was not sure, but he thought Ken might have been boarding in an old farmhouse about a mile up the highway.When the brothers reached the highway, they stopped. “Which way do we go? Mr. Markel didn’t tell us,” Joe said in chagrin.

“Instead of going back to find out, let’s ask at that gas station across the way,” Frank suggested.

“Someone there may know.”

“An old farmhouse?” the attendant repeated in answer to Frank’s query. “There’s one about a mile from here going toward Bayport. That might be the place your friend is staying. What does he look like?”

Frank described Ken carefully. The attendant nodded. “Yep. I’ve seen him ride by here on his bike. A couple of times when I was going past the farm I noticed him turn in the dirt road to it.” “Thanks a lot!”

The Hardys cycled off quickly. Soon they were heading up the narrow, dusty lane, which led to a ramshackle, weather-beaten house. The brothers parked their motorcycles among the high weeds in front of it and dismounted.

“This place seems deserted!” Joe muttered. Frank agreed and looked around, perplexed. “Odd that Ken would be boarding in such a rundown house.”

Frank and Joe walked onto the creaky porch and knocked at the sagging door. There was no answer.

They knocked again and called. Still no response.

“Some peculiar boardinghouse!” Joe said. “I wouldn’t want a room here!”

Frank frowned. “This must be the wrong place. Look-it’s all locked up and there’s hardly any furniture.”

“I’ll bet nobody lives in this house!” Joe burst out.

“But the attendant said he has seen Ken riding in here,” Frank declared. “Why?”

“Let’s have a look,” Joe urged.

Mystified, Frank and Joe circled the house. Since they were now certain it had been abandoned, they glanced in various windows. When Joe came to the kitchen he grabbed Frank’s arm excitedly.

“Somebody is staying here! Could it be Ken?”

Through the dusty glass the boys could see on a rickety table several open cans of food, a carton of milk, and a bowl.

“Must be a tramp,” Frank guessed. “I’m sure Ken wouldn’t live here.”

In turning away, the young detectives noticed a small stone structure about ten yards behind the house. It was the size of a one-car garage. Instead of windows, it had slits high in the walls.

“It probably was used to store farm equipment,” Frank said. “We might as well check.”

They unbolted the old-fashioned, stout, wooden double doors. These swung outward, and the boys were surprised that the doors opened so silently. “As if they’d been oiled,” Frank said.

“No wonder!” Joe cried out. “Look!”

Inside was a shabby green panel truck! “The same one we saw yesterday!” Joe exclaimed. “What’s it doing here?”

The boys noticed immediately that the vehicle had no license plates. “They probably were taken off,”Frank surmised, “and disposed of.”

Frank checked the glove compartment while Joe looked on the seat and under the cushion for any clue to the driver or owner of the vehicle. Suddenly he called out, “Hey! What’s going on?”

Joe jumped from the truck and saw with astonishment that the garage doors were swinging shut.

Together, the boys rushed forward but not in time. They heard the outside bolt being rammed into place.

“We’re prisoners!” Frank exclaimed.

Again and again the Hardys threw their weight against the doors. This proved futile. Panting, Frank and Joe looked for a means of escape.

“Those slits in the wall are too high and too narrow, anyway,” Frank said, chiding himself for not having been on guard.

Finally he reached into the glove compartment and drew out an empty cigarette package he had noticed before. He pulled off the foil. Joe understood immediately what his brother had in mind. Frank lifted the truck’s hood and jammed the foil between the starting wires near the fuse box. “Worth a try,” he said.

“Ignition key’s gone. If we can start the engine-we’ll smash our way out!”

Joe took his place at the wheel and Frank climbed in beside him. To their delight, Joe gunned the engine into life.

“Here goes!” he muttered grimly. “Brace yourself!”

“Ready!”

Joe eased the truck as far back as he could, then accelerated swiftly forward. The truck’s wheels spun on the dirt floor and then with a roar it headed for the heavy doors.

CHAPTER XV

Lead to a Counterfeiter

C-R-A-S-H! The green truck smashed through the heavy garage doors. The Hardys felt a terrific jolt and heard the wood splinter and rip as they shot forward into the farmyard.

“Wow!” Joe gasped as he braked to a halt. “We’re free-but not saying in what shape!”

Frank gave a wry laugh. “Probably better than the front of this truck!”

The boys hopped to the ground and looked around the overgrown yard. No one was in sight. The whole area seemed just as deserted as it had been when they arrived.

“Let’s check the house,” Joe urged. “Someone could be hiding in there.”

The brothers ran to the run-down dwelling. They found all the doors and windows locked. Again they peered through the dirty panes, but did not see anyone.”I figure that whoever locked us in the garage would decide that getting away from here in a hurry was his safest bet.”

“He must have gone on foot,” Joe remarked. “I didn’t hear an engine start up.”

The Hardys decided to separate, each searching the highway for a mile in opposite directions.

“We’ll meet back at the service station we stopped at,” Frank called as the boys kicked their motors into life and took off toward the highway.

Fifteen minutes later they parked near the station. Neither boy had spotted any suspicious pedestrians, “Did you see anybody come down this road in a hurry during the past twenty minutes?” Joe asked the attendant

“I didn’t notice, fellows,” came the answer. “I’ve been busy working under a car. Find your friend?”

“No. That farmhouse is apparently deserted except for signs of a tramp living there,” Joe told him.

The Hardys quickly asked the attendant if he knew of any boardinghouse nearby. After a moment’s thought, he replied:

“I believe a Mrs. Smith, who lives a little ways beyond the old place, takes boarders.”

“We’ll try there. Thanks again,” Frank said as he and Joe went back to their motorcycles.

Before Frank threw his weight back on the starter, he said, “Well, let’s hope Ken Blake can give us a lead.”

“If we ever find him,” Joe responded.

They located Mrs. Smith’s boardinghouse with no trouble. She was a pleasant, middle-aged woman and quickly confirmed that Ken was staying there for the summer. She was an old friend of his parents. Mrs.

Smith invited the Hardys to sit down in the living room.

“Ken’s upstairs now,” she said. “I’ll call him.”

When Ken came down, the Hardys noticed that he looked dejected. Frank felt certain it was because of losing his job and asked him what had happened.

“I don’t know,” Ken replied. “Mr. Markel just told me I wouldn’t be needed any longer. I hope I’ll be able to find another job this summer,” he added. “My folks sent me here for a vacation. But I was going to surprise them-“ His voice trailed off sadly.

“Ken,” Frank said kindly, “you may be able to help us in a very important way. Now that you’re not working at the Elekton gatehouse, we hope you can answer some questions-to help solve a mystery.”

Frank explained that he and Joe often worked on mysteries and assisted their detective father.

Ken’s face brightened. “I’ll do my best, fellows,” he assured them eagerly.

“Last week,” Joe began, “a shabby green panel truck went to Pritos’ Supply Yard and picked up old bricks and lumber. Our friend Tony Prito said there was a boy in the truck who helped the yardman with the loading. Were you the boy?”“Yes,” Ken replied readily.

“Who was the driver?” Frank asked him.

“Mr. Docker, the maintenance man at the mill. He said he’d hurt his arm and asked me to help load the stuff.” Ken looked puzzled. “Is that part of the mystery?”

“We think it could be,” Frank said. “Now, Ken -we’ve learned since then that one of the bills you gave the yardman is a counterfeit twenty.”

Ken’s eyes opened wide in astonishment. “A- a counterfeit!” he echoed, “Honest, I didn’t know it was, Frank and Joe!”

“Oh, we’re sure you didn’t,” Joe assured him. “Have you any idea who gave Docker the cash?”

Ken told the Hardys he did not know. Then Frank asked:

“What were the old bricks and lumber used for, Ken?”

“Mr. Docker told me they were for repair work around the plant. After we got back to the mill, Mr.

Markel and I stored the load in the basement.”

“Is it still there?” asked Frank.

“I guess so,” Ken answered. “Up to the time I left, it hadn’t been taken out.”

The Hardys determined to question Markel and Docker at the first opportunity. Then Frank changed the subject and asked about the day of the picnic when Joe thought he had seen Ken at the window.

“I remember,” the younger boy said. “I did see you all outside. I never knew you were looking for me.”

“When we told Mr. Docker,” Frank went on, “he said Joe must have been mistaken.”

Ken remarked slowly, “He probably was worrying about the plant’s security policy. He and Mr. Markel were always reminding me not to talk to anybody.”

“During the time you were working at the Elekton gatehouse, did you see any strange or suspicious person near either the plant or the mill grounds?” Frank asked.

“No,” said Ken in surprise. Curiosity overcoming him, he burst out, “You mean there’s some crook loose around here?”

Frank and Joe nodded vigorously. “We’re afraid so,” Frank told him. “But who, or what he’s up to, is what we’re trying to find out. When we do, we’ll explain everything.”

Joe then asked Ken if he had seen anyone in the area of the mill with a bow and arrow.

“A bow and arrow?” Ken repeated. “No, I never did. I sure would’ve remembered that!”

Frank nodded and switched to another line of questioning. “When you delivered envelopes, Ken, did you always take them to Mr. Victor Peters?”

“Yes,” Ken answered.

The Hardys learned further that Ken’s delivery trips always had been to Bayport-sometimes to the Parker Building, and sometimes to other office buildings in the business section.”Did Mr. Peters meet you in the lobby every time?” Frank queried.

“That’s right.”

“What was in the envelopes?” was Joe’s next question.

“Mr. Markel said they were bulletins and forms to be printed for Elekton.”

“Were the envelopes always marked confidential?” Joe asked.

“Yes.”

“Probably everything is that Elekton sends out,” Frank said.

“Sounds like a complicated delivery arrangement to me,” Joe declared.

Ken admitted that he had not thought much about it at the time, except that he had assumed Mr. Peters relayed the material to the printing company.

Frank and Joe glanced at each other. Both remembered Frank’s surmise that the bulky Manila envelopes had not contained bona fide Elekton. papers at all!

“What does Mr. Peters look like?” asked Joe, a note of intense excitement in his voice.

“Average height and stocky, with a sharp nose. Sometimes he’d be wearing sunglasses.”

“Stocky and a sharp nose,” Frank repeated. “Sunglasses.” Meaningfully he asked Joe, “Whom does that description fit?”

Joe jumped to his feet. “The man who gave Chet the counterfeit twenty at the railroad station!”

The Hardys had no doubt now that the mysterious Victor Peters must be a passer for the counterfeit ring!

CHAPTER XVI

A Might Assignment

GREATLY excited at this valuable clue to the counterfeiters, Frank asked, “Ken, who gave Mr. Markel the envelopes for Victor Peters?”

“I’m sorry, fellows, I don’t know.”

The Hardys speculated on where Peters was living. Was it somewhere near Bayport?

Joe’s eyes narrowed. “Ken,” he said, “this morning we found out that sometimes you’d ride up that dirt road to the deserted farmhouse. Was it for any particular reason?”

“Yes,” Ken replied. “Mr. Markel told me a poor old man was staying in the house, and a couple of times a week I was sent there to leave a box of food on the front porch.”“Did you ever see the ‘poor old man’?” Frank asked. “Or the green panel truck?”

The Hardys were not surprised when the answer to both questions was No. They suspected the “poor old man” was Peters hiding out there and that he had made sure the truck was out of sight whenever Ken was expected.

The brothers were silent, each puzzling over the significance of what they had just learned. If the truck was used by the counterfeiters, how did this tie in with its being used for the sabotage at Elekton?

“Was The Arrow in league with the saboteurs? Did he also have something to do with the envelopes sent to Victor Peters?” Joe asked himself.

Frank wondered, “Is The Arrow-or a confederate of his working at Elekton-the person responsible for the warnings, the attack on us, and the tampering with the Sleuth?”

“Ken,” Frank said aloud, “I think you’d better come and stay with us for a while, until we break this case.

Maybe you can help us.”

He did not want to mention it to Ken, but the possibility had occurred to him that the boy might be in danger if the counterfeiters suspected that he had given the Hardys any information about Victor Peters.

Ken was delighted with the idea, and Mrs. Smith, who knew of Fenton Hardy and his sons, gave permission for her young charge to go.

As a precaution, Frank requested the kindly woman to tell any stranger asking for Ken Blake that he was “visiting friends.”

“I’ll do that,” she agreed.

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