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CHAPTER XI

Anxious Waiting

THE suspect, the Hardys learned, was out of prison on parole. His name was John Jackley, but he was known as Red Jackley because when caught before going to prison he had been wearing a red wig.

“He lives right here in New York, and maybe he’s back home by this time,”

Joe spoke up. “Let’s go see him.”

“Just a minute,” Mr. Hardy said, holding up his hand. “I don’t like to leave Mother alone so long. Besides, in this type of sleuthing three detectives together are too noticeable to a crook. This Jackley may or may not be our man. But if he is, he’s probably dangerous. I want you boys to take the evening plane home. I’ll phone the house the minute the thief is in custody.”

“All right, Dad,” his sons chorused, though secretly disappointed that they had to leave.

When they reached home, Frank and Joe learned that their mother had been working on the case from a completely different angle. Hers was the humanitarian side.”I went to call on the Robinsons to try to bolster their spirits,” she said. “I told them about your trip to New York and that seemed to cheer them a lot.

Monday I’m going to bake a ham and a cake for you to take to them. Mrs.

Robinson isn’t well and can do little in the kitchen.”

“That’s swell of you!” Frank said admiringly. “I’ll go.”

Joe told them he had a tennis match to play. “I’ll do the next errand,” he promised.

Monday, during a change of classes, Frank met Callie Shaw in the corridor.

“Hit” she said. “What great problem is on Detective Hardy’s mind? You look as if you’d lost your best criminal!”

Frank grimaced. “Maybe I have,” he said.

He told Callie that he had phoned home at noon confidently expecting to hear that his father had reported the arrest of the real thief of the Apple-gate money and the exoneration of Mr. Robinson. “But there was no word, Callie, and I’m worried Dad may be in danger.”

“I don’t blame you,” she said. “What do you think has happened?”

“Well, you never can tell when you’re dealing with criminals.”

“Now, Frank, you’re not trying to tell me your father would let himself get trapped?” Callie said.

“No, I don’t think he would, Callie. Maybe Dad hasn’t returned because he still hasn’t found the man he was looking for.”

“Well, I certainly hope that thief is caught,” said Callie. “But, Frank, nobody really believes Mr. Robinson did it!”

“Nobody but Hurd Applegate and the men who employ people. Until they find the man who did take the stuff, Mr. Robinson is out of a job.”

“I’m going over to see the Robinsons soon. Where are they living?”

Frank gave Callie the address. Her eyes widened. “Why, that’s in one of the poorest sections of the city! Frank, I had no idea the Robinsons’ plight was that bad!”

“It is-and it’ll be a lot worse unless Mr. Robinson gets work pretty soon.

Slim’s earnings aren’t enough to take care of the whole family. Say, Callie, how about going over to the Robinsons’ with me after school? Mother’s sending a ham and a cake.”“I’d love to,” Callie agreed. The two parted at the door of the algebra teacher’s classroom.

As soon as the last bell had rung, Frank and Callie left the building together.

First they stopped at the Shaw house to leave the girl’s books.

“I think I’ll take some fruit to the Robinsons,” Callie said, and quickly filled a bag with oranges, bananas, and grapes.

When the couple reached the Hardy home, Frank asked his mother if any messages had come. “No, not yet,” she answered.

Frank said nothing to her about being concerned over his father, as he tucked the ham under one arm and picked up the cakebox. But after he and Callie reached the street, he again confided his concern to Callie.

“It does seem strange you haven’t heard anything,” she admitted. “But don’t forget the old saying, ‘No news is good news,’ so don’t worry.”

“I’ll take your advice,” Frank agreed. “No use wearing a sour look around the Robinsons.”

“Or when you’re with me, either,” Callie said, tossing her head teasingly.

Frank hailed an approaching bus bound for the section of the city in which the Robinsons lived. He and Callie climbed aboard. It was a long ride and the streets became less attractive as they neared the outskirts of Bayport.

“It’s a shame, that’s what it is!” declared Callie abruptly. “The Robinsons were always accustomed to having everything so nice! And now they have to live here! Oh, I hope your father catches the man who committed that robbery-and soon!”

Her eyes flashed and for a moment she looked so fierce that Frank laughed.

“I suppose you’d like to be the judge and jury at his trial, eh?”

“I’d give him a hundred years in jail!” Callie declared.

When they came to the street where the Robinsons had moved they found that it was an even poorer thoroughfare than they had expected. There were small houses badly in need of paint and repairs. Shabbily dressed children were playing in the roadway.

At the far end of the street stood a small cottage that somehow contrived to look homelike in spite of the surroundings. The picket fence had been repaired and the yard had been cleaned up.”This is where they live,” said Frank.

Callie smiled. “It’s the neatest place on the whole street.”

Paula and Tessie answered their knock. The twins’ faces lighted up with pleasure when they saw who the callers were.

“Frank and Callie!” they exclaimed. “Come in.”

The callers were greeted with kindly dignity by Mrs. Robinson. She looked pale and thin but had the same self-possession she had always shown at Tower Mansion.

“We can’t stay long,” Callie explained. “But Frank and I just thought we’d run out to see how you all are. And we brought something for you.”

The fruit, ham, and cake were presented. As the twins ohed and ahed over the food, Mrs. Robinson’s eyes filled with tears, “You are dear people,” she said. “Frank, tell your mother I can’t thank her enough.”

Frank grinned as Mrs. Robinson went on, “Callie, we shall enjoy this fruit very much. Many thanks.”

Paula said, “It’s a wonderful gift. Say, did you know Perry got a better job the second day he was at the supermarket?”

“No. That’s swell,” Frank replied. “It didn’t take the manager long to find out how smart Slim is, eh?”

The twins giggled, but Mrs. Robinson said dolefully, “I wish my husband could find a job. Since no one around here will employ him, he is thinking of going to another city to get work.”

“And leave you here?”

“I suppose so. We don’t know what to do.”

“It’s so unfair!” Paula flared up. “My father didn’t have a thing to do with that miserable robbery, and yet he has to suffer for it just the same!”

Mrs. Robinson said to Frank hesitantly, “Has Mr. Hardy discovered anything-yet?”

“I don’t know,” Frank admitted. “We haven’t heard from him. He’s been in New York following up some clues. But so far there’s been no word.”

“We hardly dare hope that he’ll be able to clear Mr. Robinson,” the woman said sorrowfully. “The whole case is so mysterious.”“I’ve stopped thinking of it,” Tessie declared. “If the mystery is cleared up, okay. If it isn’t-we won’t starve, at any rate, and my father knows we believe in him.”

“Yes, I suppose it doesn’t do much good to keep talking about it,” agreed Mrs. Robinson. “We’ve gone over the whole matter so thoroughly that there is nothing more to say.”

So, by tacit consent, the subject was changed and for the rest of their stay Frank and Callie chatted of doings at school. Mrs. Robinson and the girls invited them to remain for supper, but Callie insisted that she must go. As they were leaving, Mrs. Robinson drew Frank to one side.

“Promise me one thing,” she said. “Let me know as soon as your father returns-that is, if he has any news.”

“I’ll do that, Mrs. Robinson,” Frank agreed. “I know what this suspense must be like for you and the twins.”

“It’s terrible. But as long as Fenton Hardy-and his sons-are working on the case, I’m sure it will be straightened out.”

Callie and Frank were unusually silent all the way home. They had been profoundly affected by the change that the Tower Mansion mystery had caused in the lives of the Robinsons. Callie lived but a few blocks from the Hardy home, and Frank accompanied her to the door.

“See you tomorrow,” he said.

“Yes, Frank. And I hope you’ll hear good news from your father.”

The boy quickened his steps and ran eagerly into the Hardy house. Joe met him.

“Any phone call?”

Joe shook his head. “Mother’s pretty worried that something has happened to Dad.”

CHAPTER XII

A Disturbing Absence

ANOTHER whole day went by. When still no word had come from Mr.Hardy, his wife phoned the New York hotel. She was told that the detective had checked out the day before.

Discouraged and nervous about the new mystery of their father’s disappearance, Frank and Joe found it almost impossible to concentrate on their studies.

Then, the following morning when Mrs. Hardy came to awaken them, she wore a broad smile. “Your father is home!” she said excitedly. “He’s all right but has had a bad time. He’s asleep now and will tell you everything after school.”

The boys were wild with impatience to learn the outcome of his trip, but they were obliged to curb their curiosity.

“Dad must be mighty tired,” Joe remarked, as Mrs. Hardy went downstairs to start breakfast. “I wonder where he came from.”

“Probably he was up all night. When he’s working on a case, he forgets about sleep. Do you think he found out anything?”

“Hope so, Frank. I wish he’d wake up and tell us. I hate to go back to school without knowing.”

But Mr. Hardy had not awakened by the time the boys set out for school, although they lingered until they were in danger of being late. As soon as classes were over, they shattered all records in their race home.

Fenton Hardy was in the living room, and as they rushed in panting, he grinned broadly. He looked refreshed after his long sleep and it was evident that his trip had not been entirely without success, for his manner was cheerful.

“Hello, boys! Sorry I worried you and Mother.”

“What luck, Dad?” asked Frank.

“Good and bad. Here’s the story: I went to the house where Red Jackley was boarding. Although he seemed to be an exemplary parolee, I decided to watch him a while and try to make friends.”

“How could you do that?”

“By taking a room in the same house and pretending to be a fellow criminal.”

“Wow!” Joe cried. “And then?”“Jackley himself spoiled everything. He got mixed up in a jewel robbery and cleared out of the city. Luckily, I heard him packing, and I trailed him. The police were watching for him and he couldn’t get out of town by plane or bus.

He outwitted the police by jumping a freight on the railroad.”

“And you still followed?”

“I lost him two or three times, but fortunately I managed to pick up his trail again. He got out of the city and into upper New York State. Then his luck failed him. A railroad detective recognized Jackley and the chase was on. Up to that time I had been content with just keeping behind him. I had still hoped to pose as a fellow fugitive and win his confidence. But when the pursuit started in earnest, I had to join the officers.”

“And they caught Jackley?”

“Not without great difficulty. Jackley, by the way, was once a railroad man.

Strangely enough, he worked not many miles from here. He managed to steal a railroad handcar and got away from us. But he didn’t last long, for the handcar jumped the tracks on a curve and Jackley was badly smashed up.”

“Killed?” Frank asked quickly.

“No. But he’s in a hospital right now and the doctors say he hasn’t much of a chance.”

“He’s under arrest?”

“Oh, yes. He’s being held for the jewel thefts and also for the theft from the actor’s dressing room. But he probably won’t live to answer either charge.”

“Didn’t you find out anything that would connect him with the Tower robbery?”

“Not a thing.”

The boys were disappointed, and their expressions showed it. If Red Jackley died without confessing, the secret of the Tower robbery would die with him.

Mr. Robinson might never be cleared. He might be doomed to spend the rest of his life under a cloud, suspected of being a thief.

“Have you talked to Jackley?” Frank asked.

“I didn’t have a chance-he wasn’t conscious.”

“Then you may never be able to get a confession from him.”

Fenton Hardy shrugged. “I may be able to. If Jackley regains consciousnessand knows he’s going to die, he may admit everything. I intend to see him in the hospital and ask him about the Tower robbery.”

“Is he far away?”

“Albany. I explained my mission to the doctor in charge and he promised to telephone me as soon as it was possible for Jackley to see anyone.”

“You say he used to work near here?” Joe asked.

“He was once employed by the railroad, and he knows all the country around here well. Then he became mixed up in some thefts from freight cars, and after he got out of jail, turned professional criminal. I suppose he came back here because he is so familiar with this area.”

“I promised to call Mrs. Robinson,” Frank spoke up. “Okay to tell her about Jackley?”

“Yes, it may cheer her up. But ask her not to tell anyone.”

Frank dialed the number and relayed part of his father’s story. The accused man’s wife was overwhelmed and relieved by the news, but promised not to divulge the information. Just as Frank finished the call, the doorbell rang.

Frank ushered in the private detective Oscar Smuff.

“Your pa home?” he asked.

“Yes. Come in.” Frank led the way into the living room.

Smuff, although he considered himself a top-notch sleuth, stood in awe of Fenton Hardy. He cleared his throat nervously.

“Good afternoon, Oscar,” said Mr. Hardy pleasantly. “Won’t you sit down?”

Detective Smuff eased himself into an armchair, then glanced inquiringly at the two boys. At once Mr. Hardy said, “Unless your business is very private, I’d like to have my sons stay.”

“Well, I reckon that’ll be all right,” Smuff conceded. “I hear you’re working on this Applegate case.”

“Perhaps I am.”

“You’ve been out of town several days,” Smuff remarked cannily, “so I deduced you must be workin’ on it.”

“Very clever of you, Detective Smuff,” Mr. Hardy said, smiling at his visitor.Smuff squirmed uneasily in his chair. “I’m workin’ on this case too-I’d like to get that thousand-dollar reward, but I’d share it with you. I was just wonderin’ if you’d found any clues.”

Mr. Hardy’s smile faded. He said, with annoyance, “If I went away, it is my own business. And if I’m working on the Tower robbery, that also is my business. You’ll have to find your own clues, Oscar.”

“Well, now, don’t get on your high horse, Mr. Hardy,’ the visitor remonstrated. “I’m just anxious to get this affair cleared up and I thought we might work together. I heard you were with the officers what chased this here notorious criminal Red Jackley.”

Mr. Hardy gave a perceptible start. He had no idea that news of the capture of Jackley had reached Bayport, much less that his own participation in the chase had become known. The local police must have received the information and somehow Smuff had heard the news.

“What of it?” Mr. Hardy asked in a casual way.

“Did Jackley have anything to do with the Tower case?”

“How should I know?”

“Wasn’t that what you were workin’ on?”

“As I’ve told you, that’s my affair.”

Detective Smuff looked sad. “I guess you just don’t want to cooperate with me, Mr. Hardy. I was thinkin’ of goin’ over to the hospital where this man Jackley is and questionin’ him about the case.”

Mr. Hardy’s lips narrowed into a straight line. “You can’t do that, Oscar. He isn’t conscious. The doctor won’t let you see him.”

“I’m goin’ to try. Jackley’ll come to some time and I want to be on hand.

There’s a plane at six o’clock, and I aim to leave my house about five-thirty and catch it.” He thumped his chest in admiration. “Detectives don’t have to show up for a plane till the last minute, eh, Mr. Hardy? Well, I’ll have a talk with Jackley tonight. And I may let you know what he says.”

“Have it your own way,” said Mr. Hardy. “But if you take my advice you’ll not visit the hospital. You’ll just spoil everything. Jackley will talk when the times comes.”

“So there is somethin’ in it!” Smuff said triumphantly. “Well, I’m goin’ over there and get a confession!” With that he arose, stumped out of the room,and left the house.

CHAPTER XIII

Teamwork

AFTER Smuff left the house, Mr. Hardy sat back with a gesture of despair.

“That man,” he said, “handles an investigation so clumsily that Red Jackley will close up like a clam if Smuff manages to question him.”

At that moment the telephone rang. The boys listened excitedly as Mr. Hardy answered. “Hello. . . . Oh, yes, doctor. … Is that so? . . . Jackley will probably live only until morning? … I can see him. . . . Fine. . . . Thank you. Good-by.”

The detective put back the receiver and turned to the boys. “I’ll take that six-o’clock plane to Albany. But if Smuff goes too, it may ruin everything. The Albany police and I must question Jackley first.”

“When’s the next commercial flight after six?” Joe asked.

“Seven o’clock.”

“Then,” said Frank, “Smuff can take that one and question Jackley later.

Come on, Joe. Let’s see what we can do to help Dad!”

“Don’t you boys do anything rash,” their father warned.

“We won’t.”

Frank led the way outdoors and started walking down the street.

“What’s on your mind?” Joe asked as they ! reached the corner.

“We must figure out how to keep Detective Smuff in Bayport until seven o’clock.”

“But how?”

“I don’t know yet, but we’ll find a way. We can’t have him bursting into that hospital room and spoiling the chance of Dad’s getting a confession. Smuff might ruin things so the case will never be solved.”

“You’re right.”

The brothers walked along the street in silence. They realized that thesituation was urgent. But though they racked their brains trying to think of a way to prevent Detective Smuff from catching the six-o’clock plane, it seemed hopeless.

“Let’s round up our gang,” Joe suggested finally. “Perhaps they’ll have some ideas.”

The Hardys found their friends on the tennis courts of Bayport High.

“Hi, fellows!” called Chet Morton when he saw

Frank and Joe approaching. “You’re too late for a game. Where’ve you been?”

“We had something important to do,” Frank replied. “Say, we need your help.”

“What’s the matter?” asked Tony Prito.

“Oscar Smuff is trying to win that thousand-dollar reward and get himself on the Bayport police force by interfering in one of Dad’s cases,” Frank explained. “We can’t tell you much more than that. But the main thing is, we want to keep him from catching the six-o’clock plane. We-er- don’t want him to go until seven.”

“What do you want us to do?” Bill Hooper asked.

“Help us figure out how to keep Smuff in Bay-port until seven o’clock.”

“Without having Chief Collig lock us up?” Jerry Gilroy put in. “Are you serious about this, Frank?”

“Absolutely. If Smuff gets to a certain place before Dad can, the case will be ruined. And I don’t mind telling you that it has something to do with Slim Robinson.”

Chet Morton whistled. “Oh, ho! I catch on. The Tower business. If that’s it, we’ll make sure the six-o’clock plane leaves here without that nutty detective.” Chet had a special dislike for Smuff, because the man had once reported him for swimming in the bay after hours.

“So our problem,” said Phil solemnly, “is to keep Smuff here and keep out of trouble ourselves.”

“Right.”

“Well,” Jerry Gilroy said, “let’s put our heads together, fellows, and work out a plan.”A dozen ideas were put forth, each wilder than the one before. Biff Hooper, with a wide grin, went so far as to propose kidnaping Smuff, binding him hand and foot, and setting him adrift in the bay in an open boat.

“We could rescue him later,” he said. The proposal was so ridiculous that the others howled with laughter.

Phil Cohen suggested setting the detective’s watch back an hour. That plan, as Frank observed, was a good one except for the minor difficulty of laying hands on the watch.

“We might send him a warning not to take a plane before seven o’clock,”

Tony Prito said, “and sign it with a skull and crossbones.”

“That’s a keen ideal” Chet cried enthusiastically. “Let’s do it!”

“Wait a minute, fellows,” Frank spoke up. “If Smuff ever found out who wrote it, we’d be up to our necks in trouble. We could all be arrested!”

“I know!” Joe cried suddenly, snapping his fingers. “Why didn’t I think of it before? And it’s so simple, too.”

“Well, tell us!” Frank urged.

Joe explained that every once in a while he and Frank went down to Rocco’s fruit store to act as clerks while the owner went home to supper. He stayed open evenings until nine.

“Rocco’s is only a block from Smuff’s house. Smuff knows Frank and I go there, so he wouldn’t be surprised to see us in the neighborhood. I suggest that the bunch of us meet casually down near the store and one boy after another stop Smuff to talk. Maybe we can even get him into the shop. You know Smuff loves to eat.”

“You can’t hate him for that,” Chet spoke up. “I’ll be glad to invite him in and buy him an apple for his trip.”

“A fifteen-minute delay for Smuff is all we need,” Frank said.

“I think it’s a swell idea,” Biff spoke up. “And I’m sure Mr. Rocco will co-operate.”

“Who’s going to persuade him?” Phil asked.

“That’s Frank and Joe’s department,” Jerry replied.

Rocco was a hard-working man who had come from Italy only a few years ago. He was a simple, genial person and had great admiration for the Hardyboys.

The whole group made their way toward the fruit store, but only the Hardys went inside. The others spread out to watch for Smuff, who was expected to leave his house soon. Each boy went over his part in the plan.

When Frank and Joe walked into the fruit store, they found the dark-eyed Rocco sorting oranges. “Buona sera” he said. “Good evening. How you like my fix the place?”

“Looks swell,” Frank answered. “New bins. Better lights.” Then he added, “How does your neighbor Smuff like it?”

Rocco threw up his hands in a gesture of disgust. “Oh, that man! He make me mad. He say I charge too much. He tell me I ought to go back to old country.”

“Don’t pay any attention to him,” Joe advised. “Say, Mr. Rocco,” he went on, “you look tired. Why don’t you go home for an hour or so and let Frank and me take over here?”

“You think I look tired? That worry my wife. Then Rosa say I must close up early.” Rocco sighed. “You very kind boys. I do what you say. Come back six-thirty.”

As Rocco removed his apron, he said, “I fix trash in yard to burn. You do that?”

“Glad to.”

Rocco showed them a wire incinerator in the yard, then left the store. Five minutes later there was a whistle from the street. A signal from Jerry I Frank and Joe went to the front door to watch. Smuff was just backing his car out of the driveway. As prearranged, Phil hurried over and stopped him.

The detective and the boy apparently got into an argument, but it did not last long enough to satisfy Frank and Joe. The conversation took less than two minutes, then Smuff backed around into the street.

“Hey, Frank,” said Joe, “I have an idea. Go light that trash. Make it a roaring fire!”

Without further explanation he dashed into the street, but Frank figured out what was in his brother’s mind. He dashed through the store and into the yard. Quickly he lighted the papers in the incinerator in several places. The rubbish blazed lustily.

Joe was intently watching the scene down the street. Smuff was now being”interviewed” by Biff, and Chet came forward to urge Smuff to take some fruit with him on his trip. The detective hesitated, then shook his head and started off in his car.

Only five of the necessary fifteen-minute delay had elapsed I Joe hesitated no longer. Running down the street, he held up one hand for the oncoming car to stop.

“Come quick, Smuff!” he called out “There’s a fire back of Rocco’s!”

“Well, you put it out. I’m in a hurry!” the detective told the boy tartly.

“You mean you’d let all of Bayport burn down just because you’re in a hurry?” Joe pretended to scoff.

Smuff winced, but still did not move. Joe said, starting back to the store, “Well, Frank and I will have to take care of it alone.”

This brought the detective to action. He realized he might be missing a chance to become a hero! In a flash he drove his car down the street and parked in front of the fruit store.

“Where’s the fire?” Smuff cried out, nearly bumping into Frank who was dashing from the front door of Rocco’s.

“The fire-is-back there-in the yard.” Frank pretended to pant. “You go look and see if we ought to turn in an alarm.”

Smuff dashed inside the store and hurried to the yard. By this time the Hardys’ friends had gathered in Rocco’s fruit store. They asked excitedly what was going on.

“Frank! Joe!” yelled Smuff from the rear of the store. “Where’s Rocco?

Where’s a pail? Where’s some water?”

CHAPTER XIV

The Confession

“Rocco’s not around,” Joe replied to Smuff. “There’s water in the sink-in the back. Shall I call the fire department?”

“No, I can manage this,” Smuff declared. “But where’s a pail?”Frank dashed into the back room and found a pail under the sink. He filled it with water and handed the pail to Smuff, who hurried to the yard. He doused the incinerator flames which hissed and crackled, then died.

“Some people have no sense,” Smuff commented. “The idea of anyone starting a fire, then going off and leaving it! I’ll bet that was Rocco’s work!

As for you boys-you had to call me. Didn’t have the savvy to put out a simple fire.”

“Good thing you were around,” Frank observed, suppressing a smile.

“I’ll say it was,” Smuff agreed. “And Chief Collig is sure goin’ to hear about this.”

“Oh, please don’t tell him about us,” Joe spoke up, half closing his eyes so Smuff could not see the twinkle in them.

“I didn’t mean that. Oscar Smuff is no squealer. I mean Collig is goin’ to hear what I did.” The detective chuckled. “One more notch in my gun, as the cowboys say.”

Suddenly Smuff sobered and looked at his wrist watch. “Oh, no!” he cried out. “Ten minutes to six! I can’t make my plane!”

“That’s a shame,” Frank said consolingly. “But cheer up, Smuff, there’s a seven-o’clock plane for Albany. I wish you luck in your interview.”

Smuff stormed out of the fruit store and disappeared with his car. The Hardys and their friends burst into roars of laughter which did not stop until a woman customer came into the shop. All the boys but Frank and Joe left.

Rocco returned at six-thirty, pleased that so much fruit had been sold during his absence. “You better salesman than Rocco.” He grinned widely.

The Hardys went home, well-satisfied with their day’s work. The six-o’clock plane had left without Smuff. Their father could make his trip to the hospital without the annoying detective’s interference.

Fenton Hardy did not return home until the next afternoon. When the boys came from school they found him in high spirits.

“Solved the mystery?” Joe asked eagerly.

“Practically. First of all, Jackley is dead.”

“Did he confess?”

“You’re not very sympathetic toward the poor fellow, Joe. Yes, he confessed.Fortunately, Oscar Smuff didn’t show up while Jackley was talking.”

Frank and Joe glanced at each other and their father smiled quietly. “I have an idea,” he said, “that you two sleuths know more about this Smuff business than you would care to tell. Well, anyhow, the Albany police and I had a clear field. I saw Jackley before he died and questioned him about the Tower robbery.”

“Did he admit everything?”

“Jackley said he came to Bayport with the intention of robbery. He stole a car, smashed it up, and took Chet’s. Then he went to rob the ticket office.

When he failed in that he decided to hang around town for a few days. He hit upon Tower Mansion as his next effort. Jackley entered the library with gloves on, opened the safe, and took out the jewelry and securities.” “What did he do with the loot?” “That’s what I’m coming to. It was not until Jackley knew he was at the point of death that he did confess to the Tower affair.

Then he said, ‘Yes, I took the stuff-but I didn’t dare try selling any of it right away, so I hid it. You can get all the stuff back easily. It’s in the old tower-‘

“That was all he said. Jackley lost consciousness then and never regained it.”

“When did Smuff get there?” Joe asked eagerly.

“Not until after Jackley had gone into a coma,” Mr. Hardy replied. “We both sat by his bed, hoping the man would awaken, but he died within an hour. Just where Jackley hid the loot in the old tower, he was never able to say.”

“Does Smuff know what Jackley said?”

“No.”

“If the loot’s hidden in the old Applegate tower, we’ll find it in no time!”

Frank exclaimed.

“Tower Mansion has two towers-the old and the new,” Joe reminded him.

“We’ll search the old tower first.”

“The story seems likely enough,” Mr. Hardy remarked. “Jackley would gain nothing by lying about it on his deathbed. He probably became panicky after he committed the robbery and hid in the old tower until he was able to get away safely. No doubt he decided to hide the stuff there and take a chance on coming back for it some time after the affair had blown over.”

Joe nodded. “That was why Jackley couldn’t be traced through the jewelsand the bonds. They were never disposed of-they’ve been lying in the old tower all this time!”

“I tried to get him to tell me in just what part of the tower the loot was hidden,” Mr. Hardy continued, “but he died before he could say any more.”

“Too bad,” said Frank. “But it shouldn’t be hard to find the loot, now that we have a general idea where it is. Probably Jackley didn’t hide it very carefully. Since the old tower has been unoccupied for a long time, the stuff would be safe there from snoopers.”

Joe jumped up from his chair. “I think we ought to get busy and go search the old tower right away. Oh, boy! Maybe we can hand old Mr. Applegate his jewels and bonds this afternoon and clear Mr. Robinson! Let’s go!”

“I’ll leave it to you boys to make the search,” said Mr. Hardy with a smile.

“Then you can have the satisfaction of turning over the stolen property to Mr. Applegate. I guess you can get along without me in this case from now on.”

“We wouldn’t have got very far if it hadn’t been for you,” Frank declared.

“And I wouldn’t have got very far if it hadn’t been for you, so we’re even.”

Mr. Hardy’s smile broadened. “Well, good luck to you.”

As the boys started from the study, Frank said, “Thanks, Dad. I only hope the Applegates don’t throw us out when we ask to be allowed to look around inside the old tower.”

“Just tell them,” his father advised, “that you have a pretty good clue to where the bonds and jewels are hidden and they’ll let you search.”

Joe grinned. “Frank, we’ll have that thousand-dollar reward before the day is over!”

The brothers raced from the house, confident that they were about to solve the Tower Treasure mystery.

CHAPTER XV

The Tower Search

WHEN the Hardy boys reached Tower Mansion at four o’clock the door wasopened by Hurd Apple-gate himself. The tall, stooped gentleman peered at them through his thick-lensed glasses. In one hand he held a sheet of stamps.

“Yes?” he said, seemingly annoyed at being disturbed.

“You remember us, don’t you?” Frank asked politely. “We’re Mr. Hardy’s sons.”

“Fenton Hardy, the detective? Oh, yes. Well, what do you want?”

“We’d like to look through the old tower, if you don’t mind. We have a clue about the robbery.”

“What kind of clue?”

“We have evidence that leads us to believe the jewels and bonds were hidden by the thief in the old tower.”

“Oh! You have evidence, have you?” The elderly man peered at the boys closely. “It’s that rascal Robinson, I’ll warrant, who gave it to you. He hid the stuff, and now he’s suggesting where you might find it, just to clear himself.”

Frank and Joe had not considered the affair in this light, and they gazed at Mr. Applegate in consternation. At last Joe spoke up.

“Mr. Robinson has nothing to do with this,” he said. “The real thief was found. He said the loot was hidden in the old tower. If you will just let us take a look around, we’ll find it for you.”

“Who was the real thief?”

“We’d rather not tell you, sir, until we find the stolen property, then we’ll reveal the whole story.”

Mr. Applegate took off his glasses and wiped them with his handkerchief. He stared at the boys suspiciously for a few moments. Then he called out: “Adelia!”

From the dim interior of the hallway a high feminine voice answered.

“What do you want?”

“Come here a minute.”

There was a rustle of skirts, and Adelia Applegate appeared. A faded blond woman of thin features, she was dressed in a fashion of fifteen years before, in which every color of the spectrum fought for supremacy.

“What’s the matter?” she demanded. “I can’t sit down to do a bit of sewingwithout you interrupting me, Hurd.”

“These boys want to look through the old tower.”

“What for? Up to some mischief?”

Frank and Joe feared she would not give her consent. Frank said quietly, “We’re doing some work for our dad, the detective Fenton Hardy.”

“They think they can find the bonds and jewels in the tower,” Hurd Applegate explained.

“Oh, they do, do they?” the woman said icily. “And what would the bonds and jewels be doing in the old tower?”

“We have evidence that they were hidden there after the robbery,” Frank told her.

Miss Applegate viewed the boys with obvious suspicion. “As if any thief would be silly enough to hide them right in the house he robbed!” she said in a tone of finality.

“We’re just trying to help you,” Joe put in courteously.

“Go ahead, then,” said Miss Applegate with a sigh. “But even if you tear the old tower to pieces, you won’t find anything. It’s all foolishness.”

Frank and Joe followed Hurd Applegate through the gloomy halls and corridors that led toward the old tower. He said he was inclined to share his sister’s opinion that the boys’ search would be in vain.

“We’ll make a try at it, anyway, Mr. Applegate,” Frank said.

“Don’t ask me to help you. I’ve got a bad knee. Anyway, I just received some new stamps this afternoon. You interrupted me when I was sorting them. I must get back to my work.”

The man reached a corridor that was heavily covered with dust. It apparently had not been in use for a long time and was bare and unfurnished. At the end was a heavy door. It was unlocked, and when Mr. Applegate opened it, the boys saw a square room. Almost in the center of it rose a flight of wooden stairs with a heavily ornamented balustrade. The stairway twisted and turned to the roof, five floors above. Opening from each floor was a room.

“There you are,” Mr. Applegate announced. “Search all you want to. But you won’t find anything-of that I’m certain.”

With this parting remark he turned and hobbled back along the corridor, thesheet of stamps still in his gnarled hand.

The Hardy boys looked at each other. “Not very encouraging, is he?” Joe remarked.

“He doesn’t deserve to get his stuff back,” Frank declared flatly, then shrugged. “Let’s get up into the tower and start the search.”

Frank and Joe first examined the dusty stairs carefully for footprints, but none were to be seen.

“That seems queer,” Frank remarked. “If Jackley was here recently you’d think his footprints would still show. Judging by this dust, there hasn’t been anyone in the tower for at least a year.”

“Perhaps the dust collects more quickly than we think,” Joe countered. “Or the wind may get in here and blow it around.”

An inspection of the first floor of the old tower revealed that there was no place where the loot could have been hidden except under the stairs. But they found nothing there.

The boys ascended to the next floor, and entered the room to the left of the stair well. It was as drab and bare as the one they had just left. Here again the dust lay thick and the murky windows were almost obscured with cobwebs. There was an atmosphere of age and decay about the entire place, as if it had been abandoned for years.

“Nothing here,” said Frank after a quick glance around. “On we go.”

They made their way up to the next floor. After searching this room and under the stairway, they had to admit defeat.

The floor above was a duplicate of the first and second. It was bare and cheerless, deep in dust. There was not the slightest sign of a hiding place, or any indication that another human being had been in the tower for a long time.

“Doesn’t look very promising, Joe. Still, Jackley may have gone right to the top of the tower.” The search continued without success until the boys reached the roof. Here a trap door which swung inward led to the top of the tower. Frank unlatched it and pulled on the door. It did not budge.

“I’ll help you,” Joe offered.

Together the brothers yanked on the stubborn trap door of the old tower.

Suddenly it gave way completely, causing both boys to lose their balance.

Frank fell backward down the stairway.Joe, with a cry, toppled over the railing into space!

Frank grabbed a spindle of the balustrade and kept himself from sliding farther down the steps. He had seen Joe’s plunge and expected the next moment to hear a sickening thud on the floor five stories below.

“Joe!” he murmured as he pulled himself upright. “Oh, Joe!”

To Frank’s amazement, he heard no thud and now looked over the balustrade. His brother was not lying unconscious at the bottom of the tower.

Instead, he was clinging to two spindles of the stairway on the floor below.

Frank, heaving a tremendous sigh of relief, ran down and helped pull Joe to the safety of the steps. Both boys sat down to catch their breaths and recover from their falls.

Finally Joe said, “Thanks. For a second I sure thought I was going to end my career as a detective right here!”

“I guess you can also thank our gym teacher for the tricks he taught you on the bars,” Frank remarked. “You must have grabbed those spindles with flash-camera speed.”

Presently the boys turned their eyes upward. An expression halfway between a grin and a worried frown crossed their faces.

“Mr. Applegate,” Joe remarked, “isn’t going to like hearing we ruined his trap door.”

“No. Let’s see if we can put it back in place.”

The boys climbed the stairway and examined the damage. They found that the hinges had pulled away from rotted wood. A new piece would have to be put in to hold the door in place.

“Before we go downstairs,” said Joe, “let’s look out on the roof. We thought maybe the loot was hidden there. Remember?”

Frank and Joe climbed outside to a narrow, railinged walk that ran around the four sides of the square tower. There was nothing on it.

“Our only reward for all this work is a good view of Bayport,” Frank remarked ruefully.

Below lay the bustling little city, and to the east was Barmet Bay, its waters sparkling in the late afternoon.

“Dad was fooled by Jackley, I guess,” Frank said slowly. “There hasn’t beenanyone in this tower for years.”

The boys gazed moodily over the city, then down at the grounds of Tower Mansion. The many roofs of the house itself were far below, and directly across from them rose the heavy bulk of the new tower.

“Do you think Jackley might have meant the new tower?” Joe exclaimed suddenly.

“Dad said he specified the old one.”

“But he may have been mistaken. Even the new one looks old. Let’s ask Mr.

Applegate if we may search the new tower, too.”

“It’s worth trying, anyway. But I’m afraid when we tell him about the trap door, he’ll say no.”

The brothers went down through the opening. They lifted the door into place, latched it, and then wedged Frank’s small pocket notebook into the damaged side. The door held, but Frank and Joe knew that wind or rain would easily dislodge it.

The boys hurried down the steps and through the corridor to the main part of the house.

Adelia Applegate popped her head out of a doorway. “Where’s the loot?” she asked.

“We didn’t find any,” Frank admitted.

The woman sniffed. “I told you so! Such a waste of time!”

“We think now,” Joe spoke up, “that the stolen property is probably hidden in the new tower.”

“In the new tower!” Miss Applegate cried out. “Absurd! I suppose you’ll want to go poking through there now.”

“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble.”

“It would be too much trouble, indeed!” she shrilled. “I shan’t have boys rummaging through my house on a wild-goose chase like this. You’d better leave at once, and forget all this nonsense.”

Her voice had attracted the attention of Hurd Applegate, who came hobbling out of his study.

“Now what’s the matter?” he demanded. His sister told him and suddenly his face creased in a triumphant smile. “Aha! So you didn’t find anything afterall! You thought you’d clear Robinson, but you haven’t done it.”

“Not yet,” Frank answered.

“These boys have the audacity,” Miss Applegate broke in, “to want to go looking through the new tower.”

Hurd Applegate stared at the boys. “Well, they can’t do it!” he snapped. “Are you boys trying to make a fool of me?” he asked, shaking a fist at them.

Frank and Joe exchanged glances and nodded at each other. They would have to reveal their reason for thinking the loot was in the new tower.

“Mr. Applegate,” Frank began, “the information about where your stolen stuff is hidden came from the man who took the jewels and the bonds. And it wasn’t Mr. Robinson.”

“What! You mean it was someone else? Has he been caught?”

“He was captured but he’s dead now.”

“Dead? What happened?” Hurd Applegate asked in excitement.

“His name was Red Jackley and he was a notorious criminal. Dad got on his trail and Jackley tried to escape on a railroad handcar. It smashed up and he was fatally injured,” Frank explained.

“Where did you get your information then?” Mr. Applegate asked.

Frank told the whole story, ending with, “We thought Jackley might have made a mistake and that it’s the new tower where he hid the loot.”

Hurd Applegate rubbed his chin meditatively. It was evident that he was impressed by the boys’ story.

“So this fellow Jackley confessed to the robbery, eh?”

“He admitted everything. He had once worked around here and knew the Bayport area well. He had been hanging around the city for several days before the robbery.”

“Well,” Applegate said slowly, “if he said he hid the stuff in the old tower and it’s not there, it must be in the new tower, as you say.”

“Will you let us search it?” Joe asked eagerly.

“Yes, and I’ll help. I’m just as eager to find the jewels and bonds as you are.

Come on, boys!”

Hurd Applegate led the way across the mansion toward a door which openedinto the new tower. Now that the man was in a good mood, Frank decided that this was an opportune time to tell him about the trap door. He did so, offering to pay for the repair.

“Oh, that’s all right,” said Mr. Applegate. “I’ll have it fixed. In fact, Robinson- Oh, I forgot. I’ll get a carpenter.”

He said no more, but quickened his steps. Frank and Joe grinned. Old Mr.

Applegate had not even reprimanded them!

The mansion owner opened the door to the new tower and stepped into a corridor. Frank and Joe, tingling with excitement, followed.

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