بخش 01

مجموعه: مجموعه قصه های هاردی بویز / سرفصل: گنج برج / فصل 1

بخش 01

توضیح مختصر

  • زمان مطالعه 53 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

این فصل را می‌توانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

فایل صوتی

دانلود فایل صوتی

متن انگلیسی فصل

CHAPTER I

The Speed Demon

FRANK and Joe Hardy clutched the grips of their motorcycles and stared in horror at the oncoming car. It was careening from side to side on the narrow road.

“He’ll hit us! We’d better climb this hillside- and fast!” Frank exclaimed, as the boys brought their motorcycles to a screeching halt and leaped off.

“On the double!” Joe cried out as they started up the steep embankment.

To their amazement, the reckless driver suddenly pulled his car hard to the right and turned into a side road on two wheels. The boys expected the car to turn over, but it held the dusty ground and sped off out of sight.

“Wow!” said Joe. “Let’s get away from here before the crazy guy comes back. That’s a dead-end road, you know.”

The boys scrambled back onto their motorcycles and gunned them a bit to get past the intersecting road in a hurry. They rode in silence for a while, gazing at the scene ahead.

On their right an embankment of tumbled rocks and boulders sloped steeply to the water below. From the opposite side rose a jagged cliff. The little-traveled road was winding, and just wide enough for two cars to pass.

“Boy, I’d hate to fall off the edge of this road,” Frank remarked. “It’s a hundred-foot drop.”

“That’s right,” Joe agreed. “We’d sure be smashed to bits before we ever got to the bottom.” Then he smiled. “Watch your step, Frank, or Dad’s papers won’t get delivered.”

Frank reached into his jacket pocket to be sure several important legal papers which he was to deliver for Mr. Hardy were still there. Relieved to find them, Frank chuckled and said, “After the help we gave Dad on his latest case, he ought to set up the firm of Hardy and Sons.”“Why not?” Joe replied with a broad grin. “Isn’t he one of the most famous private detectives in the country? And aren’t we bright too?” Then, becoming serious, he added, “I wish we could solve a mystery on our own, though.”

Frank and Joe, students at Bayport High, were combining business with pleasure this Saturday morning by doing the errand for their father. Even though one boy was dark and the other fair, there was a marked resemblance between the two brothers. Eighteen-year-old Frank was tall and dark. Joe, a year younger, was blond with blue eyes. They were the only children of Fenton and Laura Hardy. The family lived in Bayport, a small but thriving city of fifty thousand inhabitants, located on Barmet Bay, three miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean.

The two motorcycles whipped along the narrow road that skirted the bay and led to Willowville, the brothers’ destination. The boys took the next curve neatly and started up a long, steep slope. Here the road was a mere ribbon and badly in need of repair.

“Once we get to the top of the hill it won’t be so rough,” Frank remarked, as they jounced over the uneven surface. “Better road from there into Willowville.”

Just then, above the sharp put-put of their own motors, the two boys heard the roar of a car approaching from their rear at great speed. They took a moment to glance back.

“Looks like that same guy we saw before!” Joe burst out. “Good night!”

At once the Hardys stopped and pulled as close to the edge as they dared.

Frank and Joe hopped off and stood poised to leap out of danger again if necessary.

The car hurtled toward them like a shot. Just when it seemed as if it could not miss them, the driver swung the wheel about viciously and the sedan sped past.

“Whew! That was close!” Frank gasped.

The car had been traveling at such high speed that the boys had been unable to get the license number or a glimpse of the driver’s features. But they had noted that he was hatless and had a shock of red hair.

“If I ever meet him again,” Joe muttered, “I’ll -I’ll-“ The boy was too excited to finish the threat.

Frank relaxed. “He must be practicing for some kind of race,” he remarked, as the dark-blue sedan disappeared from sight around the curve ahead.The boys resumed their journey. By the time they rounded the curve, and could see Willowville in a valley along the bay beneath them, there was no trace of the rash motorist.

“He’s probably halfway across the state by this time,” Joe remarked.

“Unless he’s in jail or over a cliff,” Frank added.

The boys reached Willowville and Frank delivered the legal papers to a lawyer while Joe guarded the motorcycles. When his brother returned, Joe suggested, “How about taking the other road back to Bayport? I don’t crave going over that bumpy stretch again.”

“Suits me. We can stop off at Chet’s.”

Chet Morton, who was a school chum of the Hardy boys, lived on a farm about a mile out of Bayport. The pride of Chet’s life was a bright yellow jalopy which he had named Queen. He worked on it daily to “soup up” the engine.

Frank and Joe retraced their trip for a few miles, then turned onto a country road which led to the main highway on which the Morton farm was situated.

As they neared Chet’s home, Frank suddenly brought his motorcycle to a stop and peered down into a clump of bushes in a deep ditch at the side of the road.

“Joe! That crazy driver or somebody else had a crack-up!”

Among the tall bushes was an overturned blue sedan. The car was a total wreck, and lay wheels upward, a mass of tangled junk.

“We’d better see if there’s anyone underneath,” Joe cried out.

The boys made their way down the culvert, their hearts pounding. What would they find?

A close look into the sedan and in the immediate vicinity proved that there was no victim around.

“Maybe this happened some time ago,” said Joe, “and-“

Frank stepped forward and laid his hand on the exposed engine. “Joe, it’s still warm,” he said. “The accident occurred a short while ago. Now I’m sure this is the red-haired driver’s car.”

“But what about him?” Joe asked. “Is he alive? Did somebody rescue him, or what happened?”Frank shrugged. “One thing I can tell you. Either he or somebody else removed the license plates to avoid identification.”

The brothers were completely puzzled by the whole affair. Since their assistance was not needed at the spot, they climbed out of the culvert and back onto their motorcycles. Before long they were in sight of the Mortons’

home, a rambling farmhouse with an apple orchard at the rear. When they drove up the lane they saw Chet at the barnyard gate.

“Hi, fella!” Joe called.

Chet hurried down the lane to meet them. He was a plump boy who loved to eat and was rarely without an apple or a pocket of cookies. His round, freckled face usually wore a smile. But today the Hardys sensed something was wrong. As they brought their motorcycles to a stop, they noticed that their chum’s cheery expression was missing.

“What’s the matter?” Frank asked.

“I’m in trouble,” Chet replied. “You’re just in time to help me. Did you meet a fellow driving the Queen?”

Frank and Joe looked at each other blankly.

“Your car? No, we haven’t seen it,” said Joe. “What’s happened?”

“It’s been stolen!”

“Stolen!”

“Yes. I just came out to the garage to get the Queen and she was gone,”

Chet answered mournfully.

“Wasn’t the car locked?”

“That’s the strange part of it. She was locked, although the garage door was open. I can’t see how anyone got away with it.”

“A professional job,” Frank commented. “Auto thieves always carry scores of keys with them. Chet, have you any idea when this happened?”

“Not more than fifteen minutes ago, because that’s when I came home with the car.”

“We’re wasting time!” Joe cried out. “Let’s chase that thief!”

“But I don’t know which way he went,” Chet protested.

“We didn’t meet him, so he must have gone in the other direction,” Frankreasoned.

“Climb on behind me, Chet,” Joe urged. “The Queen can’t go as fast as our motorcycles. We’ll catch her in no time!”

“And there was only a little gas in my car, anyway,” Chet said excitedly as he swung himself onto Joe’s motorcycle. “Maybe it has stalled by this time.”

In a few moments the boys were tearing down the road in pursuit of the automobile thief I

CHAPTER II

The Holdup

CHET MORTON’S jalopy was such a brilliant yellow that the boys were confident it would not be difficult to pick up the trail of the auto thief.

“The Queen’s pretty well known around Bay-port,” Frank remarked. “We should meet someone who saw it.”

“Seems strange to me,” said Joe, “that a thief would take a car like that.

Auto thieves usually take cars of a standard make and color. They’re easier to get rid of.”

“It’s possible,” Frank suggested, “that the thief didn’t steal the car to sell it.

Maybe, for some reason, he was making a fast getaway and he’ll abandon it.”

“Look!” Chet exclaimed, pointing to a truck garden where several men were hoeing cabbage plants. “Maybe they saw the Queen.”

“I’ll ask them,” Frank offered, and brought his motorcycle to a stop.

He scrambled over the fence and jumped across the rows of small plants until he reached the first farm hand.

“Did you see a yellow jalopy go by here within the past hour?” Frank asked him.

The lanky old farmer leaned on his hoe and put a hand to one ear. “Eh?” he shouted.

“Did you see a fellow pass along here in a bright yellow car?” Frankrepeated in a louder tone.

The farmer called to his companions. As they ambled over, the old man removed a plug of tobacco from the pocket of his overalls and took a hearty chew.

“Lad here wants to know if we saw a jalopy come by,” he said slowly.

The other three farm hands, all rather elderly men, did not answer at once.

Instead, they laid down their hoes and the plug of tobacco was duly passed around the group.

Frank grit his teeth. “Please hurry up and answer. The car was stolen. We’re trying to find the thief!”

“That so?” said one of the men. “A hot rod, eh?”

“Yes. A bright yellow one,” Frank replied.

Another of the workers removed his hat and mopped his brow. “Seems to me,” he drawled, “I did see a car come by here a while ago.”

“A yellow car?”

“No-‘twarn’t yeller, come to think of it. I guess, anyhow, it was a delivery truck, if I remember rightly.”

Frank strove to conceal his impatience. “Please, did any of you-?”

“Was it a brand-new car, real shiny?” asked the fourth member of the group.

“No, it was an old car, but it was painted bright yellow,” Frank explained.

“My nephew had one of them things,” the farmer remarked. “Never thought they was safe, myself.”

“I don’t agree with you,” still another man spoke up. “All boys like cars and you might as well let ‘em have one they can work on themselves.”

“You’re all wrong!” the deaf man interrupted. “Let the boys work on the farm truck. That way they won’t get into mischief!” He gave a cackling sort of laugh. “Well, son, I guess we ain’t been much help to you. Hope you find the critter that stole your hot rod.”

“Thanks,” said Frank, and joined the other boys. “No luck. Let’s go!”

As they approached Bayport, the trio saw a girl walking along the road ahead of them. When the cyclists drew nearer, Frank’s face lighted up, for hehad recognized Callie Shaw, who was in his class at Bayport High. Frank often dated Callie and liked her better than any girl he knew.

The boys brought their motorcycles to a stop beside pretty, brown-eyed Callie. Under one arm she was carrying a slightly battered package. She looked vexed.

“Hi, Callie! What’s the matter?” Frank asked. “You look as if your last friend had gone off in a moon rocket.”

Callie gave a mischievous smile. “How could I think that with you three friends showing up? Or are you about to take off?” Then her smile faded and she held out the damaged package. “Look at that!” she exclaimed. “It’s your fault, Chet Morton!”

The stout boy gulped. “M-my fault? How do you figure that?”

“Well, dear old Mrs. Wills down the road is ill, so I baked her a cake.”

“Lucky Mrs. Wills,” Joe broke in. “Callie, I’m feeling terribly ill.”

Callie ignored him. “That man in the car came along here so fast that I jumped to the side of the road and dropped my package. I’m afraid my cake is ruined!”

“What man?” Joe asked.

“The one Chet lent his car to.”

“Callie, that’s the man we’re looking for!” Frank exclaimed. “Chet didn’t lend him the car. He stole it!”

“Oh!” said Callie, shocked. “Chet, that’s a shame.”

“Was he heading for Bayport?” Joe asked.

“Yes, and at the speed he was making the poor Queen travel, you’ll never catch him.”

Chet groaned. “I just remembered that the gas gauge wasn’t working. I guess the car had more gas in it than I thought. No telling where that guy may take my Queen.”

“We’d better go to police headquarters,” Frank suggested. “Callie, will you describe this man?”

“All I saw,” she answered, “was a blur, but the man did have red hair.”

“Red hair!” Frank fairly shouted. “Joe, do you think he could be the sameman we saw? The one who wrecked his own car?”

Joe wagged his head. “Miracles do happen. Maybe he wasn’t hurt very much and walked to Chet’s house.”

“And helped himself to my car!” Chet added.

Frank snapped his fingers. “Say! Maybe the wrecked car didn’t belong to that fellow-“

“You mean he’d stolen it, too!” Joe interrupted.

“Yes-which would make him even more desperate to get away.”

“Whatever are you boys talking about?” Callie asked.

“I’ll phone you tonight and tell you,” Frank promised. “Got to dash now.”

The boys waved good-by to Callie and hurried into town. They went at once to Chief Ezra Collig, head of the Bayport police force. He was a tall, husky man, well known to Fenton Hardy and his two sons. The chief had often turned to the private detective for help in solving particularly difficult cases.

When the boys went into his office they found the police chief talking with three excited men. One of these was Ike Harrity, the old ticket seller at the city ferryboat office. Another was Policeman Con Riley. The third was Oscar Smuff, a short, stout man. He was invariably seen wearing a checkered suit and a soft felt hat. He called himself a private detective and was working hard to earn a place on the Bayport police force.

“Smuff’s playing up to Collig again,” Joe whispered, chuckling, as the boys waited for the chief to speak to them.

Ike Harrity was frankly frightened. He was a timid man, who had perched on a high stool behind the ticket window at the ferryboat office day in and day out for a good many years.

“I was just countin’ up the mornin’s receipts,” he was saying in a high-pitched, excited voice, “when in comes this fellow and sticks a revolver in front of my nose.”

“Just a minute,” interrupted Chief Collig, turning to the newcomers. “What can I do for you boys?”

“I came to report a theft,” Chet spoke up. “My hot rod has been stolen.”

“Why, it was one of those crazy hot rods this fellow drove!” Ike Harrity cried out. “A yellow one!”“Ha!” exclaimed Oscar Smuff. “A clue!” He immediately pulled a pencil and notebook from his pocket.

“My Queen!” shouted Chet.

Chief Collig rapped on his desk for quiet and asked, “What’s a queen got to do with all this?”

Chet explained, then the chief related Harrity’s story for him.

“A man drove up to the ferryboat office and tried to hold up Mr. Harrity. But a passenger came into the office and the fellow ran away.”

As the officer paused, Frank gave Chief Collig a brief account of the wrecked blue sedan near the Morton farm.

“I’ll send some men out there right now.” The chief pressed a buzzer and quickly relayed his orders.

“It certainly looks,” Joe commented, “as if the man who stole Chet’s car and the fellow who tried to hold up the ferryboat office are the same person!”

“Did you notice the color of the man’s hair?” Frank asked Mr. Harrity.

Smuff interrupted. “What’s that got to do with it?”

“It may have a great deal to do with it,” Frank replied. “What was the color of his hair, Mr. Harrity?”

“Dark brown and short cropped.”

Frank and Joe looked at each other, perplexed. “You’re sure it wasn’t red?”

Joe asked.

Chief Collig sat forward in his chair. “What are you driving at, boys? Have you some information about this man?”

“We were told,” said Joe, “that the guy who stole Chet’s car had red hair. A friend of ours saw him.”

“Then he must have turned the jalopy over to someone else,” Chief Collig concluded.

At this moment a short, nervous little man was ushered into the room. He was the passenger who had gone into the ferryboat office at the time of the attempted holdup. Chief Collig had sent for him.

The newcomer introduced himself as Henry J. Brown of New York. He told of entering the office and seeing a man run away from the ticket window witha revolver in his hand.

“What color was his hair?” Frank asked eagerly. “Did you notice?”

“I can’t say I did,” the man replied. “My eyes were focused on that gun. Say, wait a minute! He had red hair. You couldn’t miss it! I noticed it after he jumped into the car.”

Oscar Smuff looked bewildered. “You say he had red hair.” The detective turned to Mr. Harrity. “And you say he had dark hair. Somethin’ wrong somewhere!” He shook his head in puzzlement.

The others were puzzled too. Frank asked Mr. Brown to tell once more just when he had noticed the red hair.

“After the fellow leaned down in the car and popped his head up again,” the New Yorker replied.

Frank and Joe exchanged glances. Was it possible the red hair was a wig and the thief had put it on just before Mr. Brown had noticed him? The boys kept still-they didn’t want any interference from Smuff in tracking down this clue.

Harrity and Brown began to argue over the color of the thief’s hair. Finally Chief Collig had to rap once more for order. “I’ll send out an alarm for both this holdup man and for Chet’s car. I guess that’s all that can be done now.”

Undaunted by their failure to catch the thief, the Hardy boys left police headquarters with Chet Morton. They were determined to pursue the case.

“We’ll talk with Dad tonight, Chet,” Frank promised. “Maybe he’ll give us some leads.”

“I sure hope so, fellows,” their friend replied as they climbed onto the motorcycles.

The same thought was running through Frank’s and Joe’s minds: maybe this mystery would turn out to be their first case!

CHAPTER III

The Threat

“YOU’RE getting to be pretty good on that motorcycle, Frank,” Joe said as the boys rode into the Hardy garage. “I’m not even scared to ride alongsideyou any more!”

“You’re not scared!” Frank pretended to take Joe seriously. “What about me-riding with a daredevil like you?”

“Well,” Joe countered, “let’s just admit that we’re both pretty good!”

“It sure was swell of Dad to let us have them,” Joe continued.

“Yes,” Frank agreed. “And if we’re going to be detectives, we’ll get a lot of use out of them.”

The boys started toward the house, passing the old-fashioned barn on the property. Its first floor had been converted into a gymnasium which was used after school and on week ends by Frank and Joe and their friends.

The Hardy home, on the corner of High and Elm streets, was an old stone house set in a large, tree-shaded lawn. Right now, crocuses and miniature narcissi were sticking their heads through the light-green grass.

“Hello, Mother!” said Frank, as he pushed open the kitchen door.

Mrs. Hardy, a petite, pretty woman, looked up from the table on which she was stuffing a large roasting chicken and smiled.

Her sons kissed her affectionately and Joe asked, “Dad upstairs?”

“Yes, dear. He’s in his study.”

The study was Fenton Hardy’s workshop. Adjoining it was a fine library which contained not only books but files of disguises, records of criminal cases, and translations of thousands of codes.

Walking into the study, Frank and Joe greeted their father. “We’re reporting errand accomplished,” Frank announced.

“Fine!” Mr. Hardy replied. Then he gave his sons a searching glance. “I’d say your trip netted you more than just my errand.”

Frank and Joe had learned early in their boyhood that it was impossible to keep any secrets from their astute father. They assumed that this ability was one reason why he had been such a successful detective on the New York City police force before setting up a private practice in Bay-port.

“We ran into some real excitement,” Frank said, and told his father the whole story of Chet’s missing jalopy, the wrecked car which they suspected had been a stolen one also, and the attempted holdup at the ferryboat office.

“Chet’s counting on us to find his car,” Joe added.Frank grinned. “That is, unless the police find it first.”

Mr. Hardy was silent for several seconds. Then he said, “Do you want a little advice? You know I never give it unless I’m asked for it.” He chuckled.

“We’ll need a lot of help,” Joe answered.

Mr. Hardy said that to him the most interesting angle to the case was the fact that the suspect apparently used one or more wigs as a disguise. “He may have bought at least one of them in Bay-port. I suggest that you boys make the rounds of all shops selling wigs and see what you can find out.”

The boys glanced at the clock on their father’s large desk, then Frank said, “We’ll have time to do a little sleuthing before closing time. Let’s go!”

The two boys made a dash for the door, then both stopped short. They did not have the slightest idea where they were going! Sheepishly Joe asked, “Dad, do you know which stores sell wigs?”

With a twinkle in his eyes, Mr. Hardy arose from the desk, walked into the library, and opened a file drawer labeled “W through Z.” A moment later he pulled out a thick folder marked WIGS:

Manufacturers, distributors, and retail shops of the world.

“Why, Dad, I didn’t know you had all this information-“ Joe began.

His father merely smiled. He thumbed through the heavy sheaf of papers, and pulled one out.

“Bayport,” he read. “Well, three of these places can be eliminated at once.

They sell only women’s hair pieces. Now let’s see. Frank, get a paper and pencil. First there’s Schwartz’s Masquerade and Costume Shop. It’s at 79 Renshaw Avenue. Then there’s Flint’s at Market and Pine, and one more: Ruben Brothers. That’s on Main Street just this side of the railroad.”

“Schwartz’s is closest,” Frank spoke up. “Let’s try him first, Joe.”

Hopefully the boys dashed out to their motorcycles and hurried downtown. As they entered Schwartz’s shop, a short, plump, smiling man came toward them.

“Well, you just got under the wire, fellows,” he said, looking up at a large old-fashioned clock on the wall. “I was going to close up promptly tonight because a big shipment came in today and I never have time except after business hours to unpack and list my merchandise.”

“Our errand won’t take long,” said Frank. “We’re sons of Fenton Hardy, thedetective. We’d like to know whether or not you recently sold a red wig to a man.”

Mr. Schwartz shook his head. “I haven’t sold a red wig in months, or even rented one. Everybody seems to want blond or brown or black lately. But you understand, I don’t usually sell wigs at all. I rent ‘em.”

“I understand,” said Frank. “We’re just trying to find out about a man who uses a red wig as a disguise. We thought he might have bought or rented it here and that you would know his name.”

Mr. Schwartz leaned across the counter. “This man you speak of-he sounds like a character. It’s just possible he may come in to get a wig from me. If he does, I’ll be glad to let you know.”

The boys thanked the shopkeeper and were about to leave when Mr.

Schwartz called, “Hold on a minute!”

The Hardys hoped that the dealer had suddenly remembered something important. This was not the case, however. With a grin the man asked the boys if they would like to help him open some cartons which had arrived and to try on the costumes.

“Those folks at the factory don’t always get the sizes marked right,” he said.

“Would you be able to stay a few minutes and help me? I’ll be glad to pay you.”

“Oh, we don’t want any money,” Joe spoke up. “To tell you the truth, I’d like to see your costumes.”

Mr. Schwartz locked the front door of his shop,

then led the boys into a rear room. It was so filled with costumes of all kinds and paraphernalia for theatrical work, plus piles of cartons, that Frank and Joe wondered how the man could ever find anything.

“Here is today’s shipment,” Mr. Schwartz said, pointing to six cartons standing not far from the rear entrance to his shop.

Together he and the boys slit open the boxes and one by one lifted out a king’s robe, a queen’s tiara, and a Little Bopeep costume. Suddenly Mr.

Schwartz said:

“Here’s a skeleton marked size thirty-eight. Would one of you boys mind trying it on?”

Frank picked up the costume, unzipped the back, and stepped into the skeleton outfit. It was tremendous on him and the ribs sagged ludicrously.”Guess a fat man modeled for this,” he remarked, holding the garment out to its full width.

At that moment there was a loud rap on the front door of the store. Mr.

Schwartz made no move to answer it. “I’m closed,” he said. “Let him rap.”

Suddenly Frank had an idea. The thief who used wigs might be the late customer, coming on purpose at this hour to avoid meeting other people.

Without a word to the others, he dashed through the doorway into the store and toward the front entrance.

He could vaguely see someone waiting to be admitted. But the stranger gave one look at the leaping, out-of-shape skeleton and disappeared in a flash. At the same moment Frank tripped and fell headlong.

Mr. Schwartz and Joe, hearing the crash, rushed out to see what had happened. Frank, hopelessly tangled in the skeleton attire, was helped to his feet. When he told the others why he had made his unsuccessful dash to the front door, they conceded he might have a point.

“But you sure scared him away in that outfit,” Joe said, laughing. “He won’t be back!”

The boys stayed for over half an hour helping Mr. Schwartz, then said good-by and went home.

“Monday we’ll tackle those other two wig shops,” said Frank.

The following morning the Hardy family attended church, then after dinner Frank and Joe told their parents they were going to ride out to see Chet Morton. “We’ve been invited to stay to supper,” Frank added. “But we promise not to get home late.”

The Hardys picked up Callie Shaw, who also had been invited. Gaily she perched on the seat behind Frank.

“Hold on, Callie,” Joe teased. “Frank’s a wild cyclist!”

The young people were greeted at the door of the Morton farmhouse by Chet’s younger sister Iola, dark-haired and pretty. Joe Hardy thought she was quite the nicest girl in Bayport High and dated her regularly.

As dusk came on, the five young people gathered in the Mortons’ kitchen to prepare supper. Chet, who loved to eat, was in charge, and doled out various jobs to the others. When he finished, Joe remarked, “And what are you going to do, big boy?”

The stout youth grinned. “I’m the official taster.”A howl went up from the others. “No workee, no eatee,” said Iola flatly.

Chet grinned. “Oh, well, if you insist, I’ll make a little side dish for all of us.

How about Welsh rabbit?”

“You’re elected!” the others chorused, and Chet set to work.

The farmhouse kitchen was large and contained a group of windows in one corner. Here stood a large table, where the young people decided to eat. They had just sat down when the telephone rang. Chet got up and walked out in the hall to answer it. Within a minute he re-entered the kitchen, his eyes bulging.

“What’s the matter?” Iola asked quickly.

“I- I’ve been th-threatened!” Chet replied.

“Threatened!” the others cried out. “How?”

Chet was so frightened he could hardly speak, but he managed to make the others understand that a man had just said on the telephone, “You’ll never get your jalopy back. And if you don’t lay off trying to find me or your car, you’re going to get hurt!”

“Whew!” cried Joe. “This is getting serious!” Callie and Iola had clutched their throats and were staring wild-eyed at Chet. Frank, about to speak, happened to glance out the window toward the barn. For an instant he thought his eyes were playing tricks on him. But no! They were not. A figure was sneaking from the barn and down the lane toward the highway.

“Fellows!” he cried suddenly. “Follow me!”

CHAPTER IV

Red Versus Yellow

BY THE time the Hardy boys and Chet had raced from the Mortons’ kitchen, the prowler was not in sight. Thinking he had run across one of the fields, the three pursuers scattered in various directions to search. Joe struck out straight ahead and pressed his ear to the ground to listen for receding footsteps. He could hear none. Presently the three boys met once more to discuss their failure to catch up to the man, and to question why he had been there.”Do you think he was a thief?” Joe asked Chet. “What would he steal?”

“Search me,” the stout boy replied. “Let’s take a look.”

“I believe he was carrying something, but I couldn’t see what it was,” Frank revealed.

The barn door had not been closed yet for the night and the boys walked in.

Chet turned on the lights and the searchers gazed around.

“Look!” Frank cried suddenly.

He pointed to the floor below the telephone extension in the barn. There lay a man’s gray wig.

“The intruder’s!” Joe exclaimed.

“It sure looks so,” Frank agreed. “And something must have scared him. In his hurry to get away he must have dropped this.”

Frank picked up the wig and examined it carefully for a clue. “No identifying mark in it. Say, I have an idea,” he burst out. “That man phoned you from here, Chet.”

“You mean he’s the one who threatened me?”

“Yes. If you know how, you can call your own telephone number from an extension.”

“That’s right.”

Chet was wagging his head. “You mean that guy bothered to come all the way here to use this phone to threaten me? Why?”

Both Hardys said they felt the man had not come specifically for that reason.

There was another more important one. “We must figure it out. Chet, you ought to be able to answer that better than anybody else. What is there, or was there, in this barn to interest such a person?”

The stout boy scratched his head and let his eyes wander around the building.

“It wouldn’t be any of the livestock,” he said slowly. “And it couldn’t be hay or feed.” Suddenly Chet snapped his fingers. “Maybe I have the answer.

Wait a minute, fellows.”

He disappeared from the barn and made a bee-line for the garage. Chet hurried inside but was back in a few seconds.

“I have it!” he shouted. “That guy came here to get the spare tire for the jalopy.”“The one you had is gone?” Frank asked.

Chet nodded. He suggested that perhaps the man was not too far away. He might be on some side road changing the tire. “Let’s find out,” he urged.

Although the Hardys felt that it would be a useless search, they agreed to go along. They got on their motorcycles, with Chet riding behind Joe. The boys went up one road and down another, covering the territory very thoroughly.

They saw no parked car.

“Not even any evidence that a driver pulled off the road and stayed to change a tire,” Frank remarked. “No footprints, no tool marks, no treads.”

“That guy must have had somebody around to pick him up,” Chet concluded with a sigh.

“Cheer up, Chet,” Frank said, as they walked back to the house. “That spare tire may turn out to be a clue in this case.”

When the boys entered the kitchen again, they were met with anxious inquiries from Callie and Iola.

“What in the world were you doing-dashing out of here without a word?”

Callie asked in a shaking voice.

“Yes, what’s going on? You had us frightened silly,” Iola joined in. “First Chet gets a threatening phone call, and then suddenly all three of you run out of the house like madmen!”

“Calm down, girls,” Frank said soothingly. “I saw a prowler, and we were looking for him, but all we found was this!” He tossed the gray wig onto a chair in the hall.

Suddenly there was a loud wail from Chet. “My Welsh rabbit! It’s been standing so long it will be ruined!”

Iola began to giggle. “Oh, you men!” she said. “Do you suppose Callie and I would let all that good cheese go to waste? We kept that Welsh rabbit at just the right temperature and it isn’t spoiled at all.”

Chet looked relieved, as he and the others took their places at the table.

Although there was a great deal of bantering during the meal, the conversation in the main revolved around Chet’s missing jalopy and the thief who evidently wore hair disguises to suit his fancy.

Frank and Joe asked Chet if they might take along the gray wig and examine it more thoroughly. There might be some kind of mark on it to indicate either the maker or the owner. Chet readily agreed.But when supper was over, Callie said to Frank with a teasing gleam in her eyes, “Why don’t you hot-shot sleuths examine that wig now? I’d like to watch your super-duper methods.”

“Just for that, I will,” said Frank.

He went to get the wig from the hall chair, and then laid it on the kitchen table. From his pocket he took a small magnifying glass and carefully examined every inch of the lining of the wig.

“Nothing here,” he said presently.

The hair was thoroughly examined and parted strand by strand to see if there were any identifying designations on the hair piece. Frank could discover nothing.

“I’m afraid this isn’t going to help us much,” he said in disgust. “But I’ll show it to the different wig men in town.”

As he finished speaking the telephone rang and Iola went to answer it. Chet turned white and looked nervous. Was the caller the man who had threatened him? And what did he want?

Presently Iola returned to the kitchen, a worried frown on her face. “It’s a man for you, Chet. He wouldn’t give his name.”

Trembling visibly, Chet walked slowly to the telephone. The others followed and listened.

“Ye-yes, I’m Chet Morton. N-no, I haven’t got my car back.”

There was a long silence, as the person on the other end of the line spoke rapidly.

“B-but I haven’t any money,” Chet said finally. •”I_ Well, okay, I’ll let you know.”

Chet hung up and wobbled to a nearby chair. The others bombarded him with questions.

The stout boy took a deep breath, then said, “I can get my jalopy back. But the man wants a lot of money for the information as to where it is.”

“Oh, I’m glad you’re going to get your car back! Callie exclaimed.

“But I haven’t got any money,” Chet groaned.

“Who’s the man?” Frank demanded.There was another long pause before Chet answered. Then, looking at the waiting group before him, he announced simply, “Smuff. Oscar Smuff !”

His listeners gasped in astonishment. This was the last thing they expected to hear. The detective was selling information as to where Chet would find his missing jalopy!

“Why, that cheap so-and-so!” Joe cried out angrily.

Chet explained that Smuff had said he was not in business for his health. He had to make a living and any information which he dug up as a detective should be properly paid for.

Frank shrugged. “I suppose Smuff has a point there. How much does he want for the information, Chet?”

“His fee is twenty-five dollars!”

“What!” the others cried out.

After a long consultation it was decided that the young people would pool their resources. Whatever sum they could collect toward the twenty-five dollars would be offered to Oscar Smuff to lead them to Chet’s car.

“But make it very plain,” Frank admonished, “that if it’s not your jalopy Smuff leads us to, you won’t pay him one nickel.”

Chet put in a call to Smuff’s home. As expected, the detective grumbled at the offer of ten dollars but finally accepted it. He said he would pick up the boys in half an hour and take them to the spot.

About this time Mr. and Mrs. Morton returned home. Chet and Iola’s father was a good-looking, jolly man with his son’s same general build and coloring.

He was in the real-estate business in Bay-port and ran the farm as a hobby.

Mrs. Morton was an older edition of her daughter Iola and just as witty and lighthearted. But when she learned what had transpired and that her son had been threatened, she was worried.

“You boys must be very careful,” Mrs. Morton advised. “From what I hear about Smuff, this red-haired thief could easily put one over on him. So watch your step!”

Chet promised that they would. “Good luck!” Callie called out, as Smuff beeped his horn outside the door. “And don’t be too late. I want to hear the news before I have to go home.”

Frank, Joe, and Chet found Smuff entirely uncommunicative about wherethey were going. He seemed to enjoy the role he was playing.

“I knew I’d be the one to break this case,” he boasted.

Joe could not resist the temptation of asking Smuff if he was going to lead them to the thief as well as to the car. The detective flushed in embarrassment and admitted that he did not have full details yet on this part of the mystery.

“But it won’t be long before I capture that fellow,” he assured the boys. They managed to keep their faces straight and only hoped that they were not now on a wild-goose chase.

Twenty minutes later Smuff pulled into the town of Ducksworth and drove straight to a used-car lot. Stopping, he announced, “Well, here we are. Get ready to fork over that money, Chet.”

Smuff nodded to the attendant in charge, then led the boys down a long aisle past row after row of cars to where several jalopies were lined up against a rear fence. Turning left, the detective finally paused before a bright red car.

“Here you are!” said Smuff grandly, extending his right hand toward Chet.

“My money, please.”

The stout boy as well as the Hardys stared at the jalopy. There was no question but that it was the same make and model as Chet’s.

“The thief thought he could disguise it by painting it red,” Smuff explained.

“Is that your guess?” Frank asked quietly.

Oscar Smuff frowned. “How else could you figure it?” he asked.

“Then there’ll be yellow paint under the red,” Frank went on. “Let’s take a look to make sure.”

It was evident that Smuff did not like this procedure. “So you doubt me, eh?”

he asked in an unpleasant tone.

“Anybody can get fooled,” Frank told him. “Well, Chet, let’s operate on this car.”

The detective stood by sullenly as Frank pulled out a penknife and began to scrape the red paint off part of the fender.

CHAPTER V The Hunt Is Intensified

“HEY!” Oscar Smuff shouted. “You be careful with that penknife! The man who owns this place don’t want you ruinin’ his cars!”

Frank Hardy looked up at the detective. “I’ve watched my father scrape off flecks of paint many times. The way he does it, you wouldn’t know anybody had made a mark.”

Smuff grunted. “But you’re not your father. Easy there!”

As cautiously as possible Frank picked off flecks of the red paint in a spot where it would hardly be noticeable. Taking a flashlight from his pocket, he trained it on the spot.

Joe, leaning over his brother’s shoulder, said, “There was light-blue paint under this red, not yellow.”

“Right,” Frank agreed, eying Smuff intently.

The detective reddened. “You fellows trying to tell me this isn’t Chefs jalopy?” he demanded. “Well, I’m telling you it is, and I’m right!”

“Oh, we haven’t said you’re wrong,” Joe spoke up quickly. Secretly he was hoping that this was Chet’s car, but reason told him it was not.

“We’ll try another place,” Frank said, straightening up, and walking around to a fender on the opposite side.

Here, too, the test indicated that the car had been painted light blue before the red coat had been put over it.

“Well, maybe the thief put blue on and then red,” said Smuff stubbornly.

Frank grinned. “We’ll go a little deeper. If the owner of this establishment objects, we’ll pay for having the fenders painted.”

But though Frank went down through several layers of paint, he could not find any sign of yellow.

All this time Chet had been walking round and round the car, looking intently at it inside and out. Even before Frank announced that he was sure this was not the missing jalopy, Chet was convinced of it himself.

“The Queen had a long, thin dent in the right rear fender,” he said. “And that seat cushion by the door had a little split in it. I don’t think the thief would have bothered to fix them up.”Chet showed his keen disappointment, but he was glad that the Hardys had come along to help him prove the truth. But Smuff was not giving up the money so easily.

“You haven’t proved a thing,” he said. “The man who runs this place admitted that maybe this is a stolen car. The fellow who sold it to him said he lived on a farm outside Bayport.”

The Hardys and Chet were taken aback for a moment by this information.

But in a moment Frank said, “Let’s go talk to the owner. We’ll find out more about the person who brought this car in.”

The man who ran the used-car lot was very cooperative. He readily answered all questions the Hardys put to him. The bill of sale revealed that the former owner of the red jalopy was Melvin Schuster of Bayport.

“Why, we know him!” Frank spoke up. “He goes to Bayport High-at least, he did. He and his family moved far away. That’s probably why he sold his car.”

“But Mr. Smuff said you suspected the car was stolen,” Joe put in.

The used-car lot owner smiled. “I’m afraid maybe Mr. Smuff put that idea in my head. I did say that the person seemed in an awful hurry to get rid of the car and sold it very cheap. Sometimes when that happens, we dealers are a little afraid to take the responsibility of buying a car, in case it is stolen property. But at the time Mr. Schuster came in, I thought everything was on the level and bought his jalopy.”

Frank said that he was sure everything was all right, and after the dealer described Melvin Schuster, there was no question but that he was the owner.

Smuff was completely crestfallen. Without a word he started for his own car and the boys followed. The detective did not talk on the way back to the Morton farm, and the boys, feeling rather sorry for him, spoke of matters other than the car incident.

As the Hardys and Chet walked into the Morton home, the two girls rushed forward. “Did you find it?” Iola asked eagerly.

Chet sighed. “Another one of Smuff’s bluffs,” he said disgustedly. He handed back the money which his friends had given to help pay the detective.

Frank and Joe said good-by, went for their motorcycles, and took Callie home. Then they returned to their own house, showered, and went to bed.

As soon as school was over the next day, they took the gray wig and visitedSchwartz’s shop. The owner assured them that the hair piece had not come from his store.

“It’s a very cheap one,” the man said rather disdainfully.

Frank and Joe visited Flint’s and Ruben Brothers’ shops as well. Neither place had sold the gray wig. Furthermore, neither of them had had a customer in many weeks who had wanted a red wig, or who was in the habit of using wigs or toupees of various colors.

“Today’s sleuthing was a complete washout,” Joe reported that night to his father.

The famous detective smiled. “Don’t be discouraged,” he said. “I can tell you that one bit of success makes up for a hundred false trails.”

As the boys were undressing for bed later, Frank reminded his brother that the following day was a school holiday. “That’ll give us hours and hours to work on the case,” he said enthusiastically.

“What do you suggest we do?” Joe asked.

Frank shrugged. Several ideas were brought up by the brothers, but one which Joe proposed was given preference. They would get hold of a large group of their friends. On the theory that the thief could not have driven a long distance away because of the police alarm, the boys would make an extensive search in the surrounding area for Chet’s jalopy.

“We’ll hunt in every possible hiding place,” he stated.

Early the next morning Frank hurried to the telephone and put in one call after another to “the gang.” These included, besides Chet Morton, Alien Hooper, nicknamed Biff because of his fondness for a distant relative who was a boxer named Biff; Jerry Gilroy, Phil Cohen, and Tony Prito. All were students at Bayport High and prominent in various sports.

The five boys were eager to co-operate. They agreed to assemble at the Hardy home at nine o’clock. In the meantime, Frank and Joe would lay out a plan of action.

As soon as breakfast was over the Hardys told their father what they had in mind and asked if he had any suggestions on how they might go about their search.

“Take a map,” he said, “with our house as a radius and cut pie-shaped sections. I suggest that two boys work together.”

By nine o’clock his sons had mapped out the search in detail. The first recruitto arrive was Tony Prito, a lively boy with a good sense of humor. He was followed in a moment by Phil Cohen, a quiet, intelligent boy.

“Put us to work,” said Tony. “I brought one of my father’s trucks that he isn’t going to use today.” Tony’s father was in the contracting business. “I can cover a lot of miles in it.”

Frank suggested that Tony and Phil work together. He showed them the map, with Bayport as the center of a great circle, cut into four equal sections.

“Suppose you take from nine o’clock to twelve on this dial we’ve marked.

Mother has agreed to stay at home all day and act as clearing house for our reports. Call in every hour.”

“Will do,” Tony promised. “Come on, Phil. Let’s get going!”

The two boys were just starting off when Biff and Jerry arrived at the Hardy home on motorcycles. Biff, blond and long-legged, had an ambling gait, with which he could cover a tremendous amount of territory in a short time. Jerry, an excellent fielder on Bayport High’s baseball team, was of medium height, wiry, and strong.

Biff and Jerry were assigned to the section on the map designated six to nine o’clock. They were given further instructions on sleuthing, then started off on their quest.

“Where’s Chet?” Mr. Hardy asked his sons. “Wasn’t he going to help in the search?”

“He probably overslept. Chet’s been known to do that,” Frank said with a grin.

“He also might have taken time for a double breakfast,” Joe suggested.

Mrs. Hardy, who had stepped to the front porch, called, “Here he comes now. Isn’t that Mr. Morton’s car?”

“Yes, it is,” Frank replied.

Chet’s father let him off in front of the Hardy home and the stout boy hurried to the porch. “Good morning, Mrs. Hardy. Good morning, Mr. Hardy. Hi, chums!” he said cheerily. “Sorry to be late. My dad had a lot of phoning to do before he left. I was afraid if I’d tried to walk here, I wouldn’t have arrived until tomorrow.”

At this point Mr. Hardy spoke up. “As I said before, I think you boys should work in twos. There are only three of you to take care of half the territory.”The detective suddenly grinned boyishly. “How about me teaming up with one of you?”

Frank and Joe looked at their dad in delight. “You mean it?” Frank cried out. “I’ll choose you as my partner right now.”

“I have a further suggestion,” the detective said. “It’s not going to take you fellows more than three hours to cover the area you’ve laid out. And there’s an additional section I think you might look into.”

“What’s that?” Joe inquired.

“Willow Grove. That’s a park area, but there’s also a lot of tangled woodland to one side of it. Good place to hide a stolen car.”

Mr. Hardy suggested that the boys meet for a picnic lunch at Willow Grove and later do some sleuthing in the vicinity. “That is, provided you haven’t found Chet’s jalopy by that time.”

Mrs. Hardy spoke up. “I’ll fix a nice lunch for all of you,” she offered.

“That sure would be swell,” Chet said hastily. “You make grand picnic lunches, Mrs. Hardy.”

Frank and Joe liked the plan, and it was decided that the boys would have the picnic whether or not they had found the jalopy by one o’clock. Mrs. Hardy said she would relay the news to the other boys when they phoned in.

Chet and Joe set off on the Hardy boys’ motorcycles, taking the twelve-to-three segment on the map. Then Mr. Hardy and Frank drove off for the three-to-six area.

Hour after hour went by, with the searchers constantly on the alert. Every garage, public and private, every little-used road, every patch of woods was thoroughly investigated. There was no sign of Chet’s missing yellow jalopy.

Finally at one o’clock Frank and his father returned to the Hardy home. A few moments later Joe and Chet returned and a huge picnic lunch was stowed aboard the two motorcycles.

When the three boys reached the picnic area they were required to park their motorcycles outside the fence. They unstrapped the lunch baskets and carried them down to the lake front The other boys were already there.

“Too bad we can’t go swimming,” Tony remarked, “but this water’s pretty cold.”

Quickly they unpacked the food and assembled around one of the park picnic tables.”Um! Yum! Chicken sandwiches!” Chet cried gleefully.

During the meal the boys exchanged reports on their morning’s sleuthing. All had tried hard but failed to find any trace of the missing car.

“Our work hasn’t ended,” Frank reminded the others. “But I’m so stuffed I’m going to rest a while before I start out again.”

All the other boys but Joe Hardy felt the same way and lay down on the grass for a nap. Joe, eager to find out whether or not the woods to their right held the secret of the missing car, plunged off alone through the underbrush.

He searched for twenty minutes without finding a clue to any automobile. He was on the point of returning and waiting for the other boys when he saw a small clearing ahead of him. It appeared to be part of an abandoned roadway.

Excitedly Joe pushed on through the dense undergrowth. It was in a low-lying part of the grove and the ground was wet. At one point it was quite muddy, and it was here that Joe saw something that aroused his curiosity.

“A tire! Then maybe an automobile has been in here,” he muttered to himself, although there were no tire marks in the immediate vicinity. “No footprints, either. I guess someone tossed this tire here.”

Remembering his father’s admonitions on the value of developing one’s powers of observation, Joe went closer and examined the tire.

“That tread,” he thought excitedly, “looks familiar.”

He gazed at it until he was sure, then dashed back to the other boys.

“I’ve found a clue!” he cried out. “Come on, everybody!”

مشارکت کنندگان در این صفحه

تا کنون فردی در بازسازی این صفحه مشارکت نداشته است.

🖊 شما نیز می‌توانید برای مشارکت در ترجمه‌ی این صفحه یا اصلاح متن انگلیسی، به این لینک مراجعه بفرمایید.