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Franklin W. Dixon

Hardy Boys Mystery Stories: Volume One

 

The Tower Treasure

Copyright by Simon & Schuster, Inc

Published by Grosset & Dunlap, Inc

This is original text, 1927

 

A dying criminal confesses that his loot has been secreted "in the tower." Both towers of the looted mansion are searched in vain. It remains for the Hardy boys to make an astonishing discovery that clears up the mystery.

 

CHAPTER I

The Speed Demon

 

"After the help we gave dad on that forgery case I guess he'll begin to think we could be detectives when we grow up."

"Why shouldn't we? Isn't he one of the most famous detectives in the country? And aren't we his sons? If the profession was good enough for him to follow it should be good enough for us."

Two bright-eyed boys on motorcycles were speeding along a shore road in the sunshine of a morning in spring. It was Saturday and they were enjoying a holiday from the Bayport high school. The day was ideal for a motorcycle trip and the lads were combining business with pleasure by going on an errand to a near-by village for their father.

The older of the two boys was a tall, dark youth, about sixteen years of age. His name was Frank Hardy. The other boy, his companion on the motorcycle trip, was his brother Joe, a year younger.

While there was a certain resemblance between the two lads, chiefly in the firm yet good-humored expression of their mouths, in some respects they differed greatly in appearance. While Frank was dark, with straight, black hair and brown eyes, his brother was pink-cheeked, with fair, curly hair and blue eyes.

These were the Hardy boys, sons of Fenton Hardy, an internationally famous detective who had made a name for himself in the years he had spent on the New York police force and who was now, at the age of forty, handling his own practice. The Hardy family lived in Bayport, a city of about fifty thousand inhabitants, located on Barmet Bay, three miles in from the Atlantic, and here the Hardy boys attended high school and dreamed of the days when they, too, should be detectives like their father.

As they sped along the narrow shore road, with the waves breaking on the rocks far below, they discussed their chances of winning over their parents to agreement with their ambition to follow in the footsteps of their father. Like most boys, they speculated frequently on the occupation they should follow when they grew up, and it had always seemed to them that nothing offered so many possibilities of adventure and excitement as the career of a detective.

"But whenever we mention it to dad he just laughs at us," said Joe Hardy. "Tells us to wait until we're through school and then we can think about being detectives."

"Well, at least he's more encouraging than mother," remarked Frank. "She comes out plump and plain and says she wants one of us to be a doctor and the other a lawyer."

"What a fine lawyer either of us would make!" sniffed Joe. "Or a doctor, either! We were both cut out to be detectives and dad knows it."

"As I was saying, the help we gave him in that forgery case proves it. He didn't say much, but I'll bet he's been thinking a lot."

"Of course we didn't actually do very much in that case," Joe pointed out.

"But we suggested something that led to a clue, didn't we? That's as much a part of detective work as anything else. Dad himself admitted he would never have thought of examin ing the city tax receipts for that forged signature. It was just a lucky idea on our part, but it proved to him that we can use our heads for something more than to hang our hats on."

"Oh, I guess he's convinced all right. Once we get out of school he'll probably give his permission. Why, this is a good sign right now, Isn't it? He asked us to deliver these papers for him in Willowville. He's letting us help him."

"I'd rather get in on a real, good mystery,"' said Frank. "It's all right to help dad, but if there's no more excitement in it than delivering papers I'd rather start in studying to be a lawyer and be done with it."

"Never mind, Frank," comforted his brother. "We may get a mystery all of our own to solve some day."

"If we do we'll show that Fenton Hardy's sons are worthy of his name. Oh boy, but what wouldn't I give to be as famous as dad! Why, some of the biggest cases in the country are turned over to him. That forgery case, for instance. Fifty thousand dollars had been stolen right from under the noses of the city officials and all the auditors and city detectives and private detectives they called in had to admit that it was too deep for them."

"Then they called in dad and he cleared it up in three days. Once he got suspicious of that slick bookkeeper whom nobody had been suspecting at all, it was all over but the shouting. Got a confession out of him and everything."

"It was smooth work. I'm glad our suggestion helped him. The case certainly got a lot of attention in the papers."

"And here we are," said Joe, "plugging along the shore road on a measly little errand to deliver some legal papers at Willowville. I'd rather be on the track of some diamond thieves or smugglers-or something." , "Well, we have to be satisfied, I suppose," replied Frank, leaning farther over the handlebars. "Perhaps dad may give us a chance on a real case some time."

"Some time! I want to be on a real case now!"

The motorcycles roared along the narrow road that skirted the bay. An embankment of tumbled rocks and boulders sloped steeply to the water below, and on the other side of the road was a steep cliff. The roadway itself was narrow, although it was wide enough to permit two cars to meet and pass, and it wound about in frequent curves and turnings. It was a road that was not often traveled, for Willowville was only a small village and this shore road was an offshoot of the main highways to the north and the west.

The Hardy boys dropped their discussion of the probability that some day they would be come detectives, and for a while they rode on in silence, occupied with the difficulties of keeping to the road. For the road at this point was dangerous, very rough and rutty, and it sloped sharply upward so that the embankment leading to the ocean far below became steeper and steeper.

"I shouldn't want to go over the edge here," remarked Frank, as he glanced down the slope.

"It's a hundred-foot drop. You'd be smashed to pieces before you ever hit the shore."

"I'll say! It's best to stay in close to the cliff. These curves are bad medicine."

The motorcycles took the next curve neatly, and then the boys confronted a long, steep slope. The rocky cliffs frowned on one side, and the embankment jutted far down to the tumbling waves below, so that the road was a mere ribbon before them.

"Once we get to the top of the hill we'll be all right. It's all smooth sailing from there to Willowville," remarked Frank, as the motorcycles commenced the climb.

Just then, above the sharp put-put of their own motors, they heard the high humming roar of an automobile approaching at great speed. The car was not yet in sight, but there was no mistaking the fact that it was coursing along with the cut-out open and with no regard for the speed laws.

"What idiot is driving like that on this kind of road!" exclaimed Frank. They looked back.

Even as he spoke the automobile flashed into sight.

It came around the curve behind and so swiftly did the driver take the dangerous turnoff that two wheels were off the ground as the car shot into view. A cloud of dust and stones arose, the car veered violently from left to right, and then it roared at headlong speed down the slope.

The boys glimpsed a tense figure at the wheel. How he kept the car on the road was a miracle, for the racing automobile swung from side to side. At one moment it would be in imminent danger of crashing over the embankment, down on the rocks below; the next instant the car would be over on the other side of the road, grazing the cliff.

"He'll run us down!" shouted Joe, in alarm. "The idiot!"

Indeed, the position of the two lads was perilous.

The roadway was narrow enough at any time, and this speeding car was taking up every inch of space. In a great cloud of dust it bore directly down on the two motorcyclists. It seemed to leap through the air. The front wheels left a rut, the rear of the car skidded violently about. By a twist of the wheel the driver pulled the car back into the roadway again just as it seemed about to plunge over the embankment. It shot over toward the cliff, swerved back again into the middle of the roadway, and then shot ahead at terrific speed.

Frank and Joe edged their motorcycles as far to the right of the road as they dared. To their horror they saw that the car was behind again.

The driver made no attempt to slacken speed.

The automobile came hurtling toward them.

 

CHAPTER II

The Stolen Roadster

 

The auto's brakes squealed.

The driver of the oncoming car swung the wheel viciously about. For a moment it appeared that the wheels would not respond Then they gripped the gravel and the automobile swerved, then shot past.

Bits of sand and gravel were flung about the two boys as they crouched by their motorcycles at the edge of the embankment. The car had missed them only by inches!

Frank caught a glimpse of the driver, who turned about at that moment and, in spite of the speed at which the automobile was traveling and in spite of the perils of the road, shouted something they could not catch at them and shook his fist.

The car was traveling at too great a speed to enable the lad to distinguish the driver's features, but he saw that the man was hatless and that he had a shock of red hair blowing in the wind.

Then the automobile disappeared from sight around the curve ahead, roaring away in a cloud of dust.

"The road hog!" gasped Joe, as soon as He had recovered from his surprise.

"He must be crazy!" Frank exclaimed angrily. "Why, he might have pushed us both right over the embankment!"

"At the rate he was going I don't think he cared whether he ran any one down or not."

Both boys were justifiably angry. On such a narrow, treacherous road there was danger enough when an automobile passed them traveling at even a reasonable speed, but the reckless and insane driving of the red-headed motorist was nothing short of criminal.

"If we ever catch up to him I'm going to give him a piece of my mind!" declared Frank. "Not content with almost running us down he had to shake his fist at us."

"Road hog!" muttered Joe again. "Jail is too good for the likes of him. If it was only his own life he endangered it wouldn't be so bad. Good thing we only had motorcycles. If we had been in another car there would have been a smash-up, sure."

The boys resumed their journey and by the time they had reached the curve ahead that enabled them to see the village of Willowville lying in a little valley along the bay beneath them, there was no trace of the reckless motorist.

Frank delivered the legal papers his father had given to him, and then the boys had the rest of the day to themselves.

"It's too early to go back to Bayport just now," he said to Joe. "What say we go out and visit Chet Morton?"

"Good idea," agreed Joe. "He has often asked us to come out and see him."

Chet Morton - was a school chum of the Hardy boys. His father was a real estate dealer with an office in Bayport, but the family lived in the country, about a mile from the city. Although Willowville was some distance away, the boys knew of a road that would take them across country to the Morton home, and from there they could return to Bayport. It would make their journey longer, but they would have the pleasure of visiting their chum. Chet was a great favorite with all the boys, not the least of the reasons for his popularity being the fact that he had a roadster of his own, in which he drove to school every day and with which he was very generous in giving rides to his friends after school hours.

The Hardy boys drove along the country, roads in the spring sunlight, enjoying the freedom of their holiday as only boys can. "When they had reached a culvert not far from the Morton place Frank suddenly brought his motorcycle to a stop and peered down into the clump of bushes in the deep ditch.

"Somebody's had a spill," he remarked.

Down in the bushes lay an upturned automobile. The car was a total wreck, and lay bottom upward, a mass of tangled junk.

"Must have been hitting an awful clip to crumple up like that," Joe commented. "Perhaps there's some one underneath. Let's go and see."

The boys left their motorcycles by the road and went down to the wrecked car. But there was no sign of either driver or passengers.

"If anyone was hurt they've been taken away by now. Probably this wreck is a day or so old," said Frank. "Let's go. We can't do any good here."

They left the wreckage and returned to the road again, resuming their journey.

"I thought at first it might be our red-headed speed fiend," said Frank. "If it was, he was sure lucky to get out of it alive."

The boys gave little further thought to the incident and before long they were in sight of the Mortons' house, a big, homelike, rambling old farmhouse with an apple orchard at the rear. When the boys drove down the lane they saw a figure awaiting them at the barnyard gate.

"That's Chet," said Frank. "I'm glad we found him at home. I thought he might have gone out in the car."

"It is strange," Joe agreed. "On a holiday like this he doesn't usually stay around the farm."

As they approached, they saw Chet leave the gate and come down the lane to meet them. Chet was one of the most popular boys at the Bayport high school, one reason for his popularity being his unfailing good nature and his ability to see fun in almost everything. He was full of jokes and good humor and was rarely seen without a smile on his plumps freckled face.

But today the Hardy boys saw that there was something wrong. Chet's face had an anxious expression, and as they brought their motorcycles to a stop they saw that their chum's usually cheery face was clouded.

"What's the matter?" asked Frank, as their friend hastened up to them.

"You're just in time," replied Chet hurriedly. "You didn't meet a fellow driving my roadster, did you?"

The brothers looked at each other blankly.

"Your roadster? We'd recognize it anywhere. No, we didn't see it," said Joe, "What's happened?"

"It's been stolen."

"Stolen?"

"An auto thief stole it from the garage not half an hour ago. He just went in as cool as you please and made away with the car. The hired man saw the roadster disappearing down the lane, but he supposed I was in it so he didn't think anything of it. Then he saw me out in the yard a little while later, so he got suspicious-and the roadster was gone."

"Wasn't it locked?"

"That's the strange part of it. The car was locked, although the garage door was open. I can't see how he got away with it."

"A professional job," commented Frank, "'These auto thieves always carry scores of keys with them. But we're losing time here. The only thing is to set out in pursuit and to notify the police. The hired man didn't see which way the fellow went, did he?"

"No."

"There is only the one road, and we didn't meet him, so he must have taken the turning to the right at the end of the lane."

"We'll chase him," said Joe. "Climb onto my bike, Chet. We'll get the thief yet."

"Wait a minute," cried Frank suddenly. "I have an idea! Joe, do you remember that car we saw wrecked in the bushes?"

"Sure."

Perhaps the driver stole the first automobile he could lay his hands on after the wreck.

"What wreck was that?" asked Chet.

The Hardy boys told him of the wrecked car they had found by the roadside. It had occurred to Frank that perhaps the smash-up might have occurred just a short while before and that the driver of the wrecked car had resumed his interrupted journey in a stolen automobile.

"It sounds reasonable," said Chet. "Let's go and take a look at this wreck. We can get the license number and that may help us find the name of the owner."

The motorcycles roared as the three chums set out back along the road toward the place where the upturned automobile had been seen among the bushes. The boys lost no time in reaching the place, for they realized that every second was precious and that the longer they delayed the greater was the advantage to the car thief.

The car had not been disturbed and apparently no one had been near it since the boys had discovered the wreck. They parked their motorcycles by the roadside and again went down into the bushes to examine the wrecked car.

To their disappointment the car bore no license plates.

"That looks suspicious," said Frank.

"It's more than suspicious," said Joe, who had withdrawn a little to one side and was examining the automobile from the rear,, "Don't you remember seeing this car before, Frank? It didn't occur to me until you mentioned the matter of license plates."

"I have been wondering if this isn't the same car that passed us on the shore road at the curve," replied Frank slowly.

"It is the same car. There's no doubt of it in my mind. It didn't have a license plate, I noticed at the time, for I wanted to get the fellow's number. And it was a touring car of the same make as this."

"You're right, Joe. There's no mistake. The red-headed driver came to grief in the ditch, just as we said he would, and then he went on to the nearest farmhouse, which happened to be Chet's place, and stole the first car he saw."

"The busted car was the one the fellow was running who nearly sent us over the cliff," Joe declared. "And it's ten chances to one that he's the fellow who stole Chet's roadster. And he's red-headed. We have those clues, anyway."

"And he went on past our farmhouse instead of turning back the way he came," cried Chet. "Come on, fellows-let's get after him! There was only a little bit of gas in the roadster anyway. Perhaps he's stalled by this time - "

Thrilling with the excitement of a chase, the boys clambered back onto the motorcycles and within a few moments a cloud of dust rose from the road as the Hardy boys and Chet Morton set out in swift pursuit of the red-headed automobile thief.

 

CHAPTER III

Traces of the Thief

 

Chet morton's roadster was a brilliant yet though, not easily mistaken, and the Hardy boys were confident that it would not be difficult to pick up the trail of the auto thief.

"The car is pretty well known around Bayport," said Chet. "It was certainly a gay-looking speed-wagon. Anyone who saw it would remember it."

"Seems strange that a thief would take a car like that," remarked Frank. "Auto thieves usually take cars of a standard make and standard color. They're easier to get rid off. He would know that a car like yours could be easily traced."

"I don't think he stole the car to sell it," Joe pointed out. "Take it from me, that chap was getting away from some place in a hurry and when his own car was smashed he just took the first one that came to hand. If we keep after him before he has a chance to get rid of it we'll run him down to earth."

A number of men in a hay-field near by attracted Frank's attention, and he brought his motorcycle to a stop.

"I'm going to ask these chaps if they saw him pass."

Frank scrambled over the fence and went over to talk to the farmhands, who watched his approach with curiosity.

"Didn't see a yellow roadster pass here within the last hour, did you?"

One of them, a lanky old farmer with a sun« burned nose, carefully laid down his scythe, put his hand to his ear and shouted:

"Eh?"

"Did you see a fellow pass along here in a roadster?" Frank repeated, in a louder tone.

The farmer turned to his companions, removed a plug of tobacco from the pocket of his overalls and took a hearty chew.

"Lad here want to know if we saw a roadster come by here!" he said slowly.

There were three other farmhands and all gathered around. They put down their scythes very deliberately, and the plug of tobacco was duly passed around the group.

Frank waited.

"A roadster, eh?" asked one.

"A yellow roadster," Frank told him.

One of the men removed his hat and mopped hiS brow.

"Seems to me," he observed, "I did see » car come by here a while ago."

"A yellow car?"

"No - it wasn't a yeller car. It was a delivery ftruck, if I remember rightly."

Frank strove to conceal his impatience.

"It was a roadster I was asking about. A yellow roadster."

"Not one of them there coops, hey?" asked the oldest man in the group doubtfully.

"No, not a coupe. A roadster."

"Roadster, eh?" remarked the old farmer. "That's one of them there automobiles with just two seats and a little cupboard in the back, eh?"

"My cousin has one," observed another member of the group. "He got it secondhand in Bayport. I never could see why he bought the doggone thing, for you can't take the folks out for a ride in it without havin' 'em all crowded somethin' fearful. Give me the old tourin' car every time."

"Cain't say as I agree with you," returned the old farmer. "What good's a tourin' car if you want to haul a load of grain into town. Once of them leetle trucks is the best, I've always thought. Then, if you want to go on a picnic or anythin' the family can all climb in the back. You get the use out of a car like that."

"Nope. Nothin' like a tourin' car."

"Bank extravagance, buyin' tourin' cars," put in another. "Horse and wagon is good enough for me."

"That's what I say," agreed the fourth.

"What with taxes the way they are - "

"And last year's crops wasn't any toe good - "

"I tell ye a tourin' car is the only thing nowadays - "

Somewhat astonished by the sudden turn the argument had taken, Frank vainly tried to make himself heard above the uproar.

"But about this roadster?" he asked. "Did any of you see it!"

But the four men in the field were not listening. Instead they were deep in a highly complicated argument regarding the faults and merits of various makes of cars and they paid no further attention to the youth.

"Can't afford to waste any more time here," he said to himself, and turned away. At the fence, he looked back. One of the farmhands was shaking his fist beneath the nose of a companion, while the other two were engrossed in a heated discussion. Their voices floated across the hayfield in the drowsy summer morning.

"It looks as if you started something," laughed Joe, as his brother returned to the motorcycle.

"I certainly did. Just asked them if they had seen a yellow roadster and they started to fight about what was the best car for a farmer to buy."

"And didn't they see the roadster?" asked Chet.

"I don't think so. If they had they would have told me. I guess they were glad of an excuse to quit work."

"Well, we'd better be getting on our way then. We've lost enough time already."

So, while the four farmhands wrangled loudly in the field, in an argument that bade fair to last until dinner-time at least, the three boys set out again in pursuit of the red-headed auto thief.

They were approaching Bayport when they saw a girl walking along the road ahead of them. There was something familiar about her appearance, and as they drew nearer Frank's face lighted up, for he recognized the girl as Callie Shaw, who was in his own class at Bayport high school. Of all the girls at the school, Callie was - the one most greatly admired by Frank. She was a pretty girl, with brown hair and brown eyes, always neatly dressed, and quick and vivacious in her manner.

As the boys brought their motorcycles to a stop, Frank saw that Callie was not in her actual bright and cheery humor. Under one arm she was carrying a parcel that had evidently become untied and the paper of which was badly torn. Her face was distressed and aS appeared that she had been crying.

Callie looked up and, recognizing the boyS ran over toward them.

"That awful man!" she wailed, even before they had time to ask her what the matter was. "He ran right over my parcel and smashed nearly all the cakes and jelly I was bringing to Mrs. Wills!"

And with that she held out the torn parcel Frank knew that Callie, who was a generous and good-hearted girl, had been in the habit of taking little delicacies to a widow, Mrs» Wills,, who lived just on the outskirts of Bayport.

Now he saw that the parcel had been smashed so that only one glass of jelly and a few of the cakes had been left intact.

"What man, Callie?" he asked. "What happened."

"He ran right over my parcel!" Just then Callie spied Chet Morton, and she pouted at him. "He was a friend of yours, too, Chet Morton, for he was driving your car!"

"My car!" gasped Chet.

"Your yellow roadster. He came driving along this road at such a terrible speed that I was frightened and I dropped my parceL Then he ran right over it,"

"Why, Callie, that's just the fellow we've been looking for!" said Frank quickly, "Chet's car has been stolen!"

"Well, whoever stole it, came by here not ten minutes ago,'' said the girl. "And he's a madman-by the way he was driving."

"Why, we're right on his trail then!" declared Frank. "He must have gone into Bayport."

"He was heading that way," Callie told them. "But at the rate he was going, you'll have a hard time catching him. Oh, Chet, I'm so sorry your car was stolen."

"Don't worry. We'll get it back," replied Chet grimly.

"Are you going back home, Callie?" asked Frank.

"No, I'm going on up to Mrs. Wills' place,, You needn't bother to drive me up. It's only a few yards farther on. I know you're anxious to chase that awful man."

"We'll chase him, all right!" declared Frank, as the motorcycles roared.

They bade good-bye to the girl and sped on their way into Bayport, leaving Callie to continue her journey to the home of Mrs. Willss with the remains of the cakes and jelly over which she had spent so much time and care.

They sped down the main street of Bayport which headed directly to the police station, where they intended to report the theft of Chet's car and a description of the thief, assuming him to be the red-headed man who had so nearly run down Frank and Joe on the shore road.

But when they reached the police station one farther surprise was in wait for them.

 

CHAPTER IV

The Hold-Up

 

Chief Inspector Collig, of the Bayport police department, was a burly, red-faced individual, much given to telling long-winded stories.

Usually, Collig was to be found reclining in his swivel chair in his office, with his feet on the desk, reading the comic papers or polishing up his numerous badges, but this day something had happened to shake him out of his custom-azy calm.





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