Adelia Applegate's Compliment 4 глава





"All the more reason why we should get busy and clear up the affair," returned Mr. Hardy. "You boys can help."

"How?"

"By keeping your eyes and ears open and try using your wits. That's all there is to detective work."

"Well, you can just bet that if it will clear Slim's dad we'll be listening and looking for clue there is," Joe assured his father

 

CHAPTER X

An Important Discovery

 

When the Hardy boys returned from school next afternoon they saw that a crowd had collected about the bulletin board in the post office.

"Wonder what's up now?" said Joe, pushing his way forward. Boylike, he was able to make his way through the crowd with the agility of an athlete, and Frank was not slow in following.

On the board was a large poster, the ink on which was scarcely dry. At the top, in enormous black letters, they read:

$1000 REWARD

Underneath, in slightly smaller type, came the following:

The above reward will be paid for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons who broke into Tower Mansion and stole from a safe in the library - jewels and securities, as follows-

Then came a list of the jewels and negotiable bonds that had been taken from Tower Mansion, the jewels being fully described and the numbers of the bonds being given. It was announced that the reward was offered by Hurd Applegate.

"Why, that must mean that the charge against Mr. Robinson has been dropped!" ex claimed Joe.

"It looks like it. Let's go and see if we can find Slim."

All about then, people were commenting on the size of the reward, and there were many expressions of envy for the person who should be fortunate enough to solve the mystery.

"A thousand dollars!" said Frank, as they made their way out of the post office. "That's a lot of money, Joe."

"I'll say it is."

"And there's no reason why we haven't as good a chance of getting it as any one else."

"Golly-if we only could!"

"Why not? Let's get at this case in real earnest. Of course, we would do what we could anyway, but - "

"A thousand dollars!"

"It's worth trying for."

"Dad and the police are barred from the reward, for it's their duty to find the thief if they can But if we find him we get the money,," And we'll have the satisfaction of clearing Mr. Robinson too. Joe, let's get at this case in earnest. We have some clues right now, and we can follow them up."

"I'm with you. But there's Slim now."

Perry Robinson was coming down the street toward them. He looked much happier than he had been the previous evening, and when he saw the Hardy boys his face lighted up.

"Dad is free," he told them. "Thanks to your father. The charge has been dropped."

"Gee, but I'm glad to hear that!" exclaimed Joe. "I see they're offering a reward."

"Your father convinced Mr. Applegate that it must have been an outside job. That is, that it was the work of a professional crook. And the police admitted there wasn't much evidence against dad, so they let him go. I tell you, it was a great thing for my mother and sisters. They were almost crazy with worry."

''No wonder,'' commented Frank. '' What is your father going to do now?"

"I don't know," Slim admitted heavily. "Of course, we've had to move out of Tower Mansion. Mr. Applegate said that while the charge had been dropped, he wasn't altogether convinced in his own mind that dad hadn't had something to do with it. So he dismissed him."

"That's tough luck. But he'll be able to get another job somewhere."

"I'm not so sure about that. People aren't likely to employ a man that's been suspected of stealing. Dad tried two or three places this afternoon, but he was turned down."

The Hardy boys were silent. They were sorry for the Robinsons, for they knew only too well that the family were badly off financially and that in view of the robbery it would indeed be difficult for Mr. Robinson to get another position.

"We've rented a small house just outside the city," went on Slim. "It is cheap, and we'll have to get along." There was no false pride about Perry Robinson. He faced the facts as they came, and made the best of them. "But if dad doesn't get a job it will mean that I'll have to go to work."

"But, Slim-you'd have to quit school!"

"I can't help that. I wouldn't want to, you know I was trying for the class medal this year. But-oh, well-"

The Hardy boys realized how much it would mean to their chum to leave school at this stage, Perry Robinson was an ambitious boy and one of the cleverest in his class. He had always wanted to continue his studies, go to a university, and his teachers had predicted a brilliant career for him. Now it seemed that all his ambitions would have to be thrown overboard because of this misfortune.

"Don't worry, Slim," comforted Frank. "Joe and I are going to plug away at this affair until we get at the bottom of it."

"It's mighty good of you, fellows," said Slim gratefully. "I won't forget it in a hurry. You've been pretty white to me all through this - "

"Aw, shucks!" muttered Frank, embarrassed. "It's the reward we're after. Applegate is offering a thousand dollars."

"Oh, I know it isn't altogether the reward. You would do it to help us anyway, and you know it. Look what you've already done!"

"Well, we're going to get busy," Joe said hastily. "See you later, Slim. Don't worry too much. I think everything will be all right."

Slim tried to smile, but it was evident that he was deeply worried, and when he walked away it was not with the light, springy, carefree step his chums had previously known.

"What's the first move, Frank!"

"Better get a full description of those jewels. Perhaps the thief tried to pawn them. We can call at all the pawnshops and see what we can find out. Then we may be able to get a line on the thief. You know, he might have pawn something here - if he had to have money with which to get out of town."

"Good idea! Do you think Applegate will give us a list?"

"We won't have to ask him. Dad should have all that information."

"Let's go and ask him right now."

But when the lads returned home and asked their father for a description of the jewels, they met with a disappointment.

"I'm quite willing to give you all that information," said Fenton Hardy; "but I don't think it will be much use. Furthermore, I'll bet I can tell just what you are going to do."

"What?"

"You're going to make the rounds of the pawnshops and see if any of the jewels have been turned in."

The Hardy boys looked at one another in consternation.

"How did you ever guess that?" asked Frank.

Their father smiled.

"Because it is just what I have already done. Not an hour after I was called in on the case, I had a full description of all those jewels in every pawnshop in the city. More than that, the description has been sent to jewelry firms and pawnshops in other cities near here, and also to the New York police. Here's a duplicate list if you want it, but you'll just be wasting time by going around to the shops. They are all on the lookout for the stuff."

Mechanically, Frank took the list

"And I thought it was such a bright idea!"

"It is a bright idea. But it has been used before. Most jewel robberies are solved in just this manner-by tracing the thief when he tries to get rid of the gems."

"Well," said Joe gloomily, "I guess that plan is all shot to pieces. Come on, Frank, We'll think of something else."

"Out after the reward, eh?" said Mr. Hardy shrewdly.

"Yes; and we'll get it, too!"

"I hope you do. But you can't ask me to help you any more than I've done. It's my case too, remember. So from now on, you are part of my opposition."

"It's a go!"

"More power to you, then," and Mr. Hardy returned to his desk. He had a sheaf of reports from shops and agencies in various parts of the State, through which he had been trying to trace the stolen jewels and securities, but In every case the report was the same. There had been no trace of the gems or bonds taken from Tower Mansion.

When the boys left their father's study they went outside and sat on the back steps, silently regarding their motorcycles.

"What shall we do now?" asked Joe.

"I don't know. Dad sure took the wind off our sails."

''I'll say he did. But it was just as well, Saved us a lot of trouble."

"We might have been going around to all the pawnshops in the city and not getting any where."

"Looks as if dad has the inside track on the case, anyway. If any of the jewels are turned in he will be the first to hear of it. What chance have we?"

"I'm hanged if I'll give up!" declared Frank, with determination. "We know that there was a strange man hanging around Tower Mansion and we know that there was a redheaded crook in town. Perhaps those two facts aren't connected, but I think they are. And we know he stole Chet's roadster."

"And left it in the woods."

"Yes-and say, Joe! We didn't take much time to look around when that roadster was found, did we?"

''What was the use ? The roadster was there and Chet got it back."

"No, but the man who stole the car had been there too. Perhaps he left some clue."

Joe slapped his knee with an open hand.

"I never thought of that, Frank. Let's go right back there now."

"Come on."

Eagerly, the Hardy boys dashed over to their motorcycles. In a few minutes they were speeding through the streets of Bayport, out toward the woods where Chet Morton's roadster had been abandoned.

They were fired with enthusiasm again, im spite of the momentary setback they had received when their father squelched Frank's plan of going around to the pawnshops. They felt now that they were on a new trail.

They came to the abandoned road that led into the woods and they brought their motorcycles as far as possible, finally leaving them by the roadside and going ahead on foot, Frank located the place where the roadster had been driven off into the woods, for the trees were still bent and broken, and the two boys plunged into the depths of the thickets.

At last the Hardy boys emerged into the little cleared space where the roadster had been found. Everything was just as they had left it. They examined the ground carefully.

"He might have dropped letters from his pocket, or something," said Joe hopefully, as they explored the clearing.

But the auto thief had not been so careless. There was not even a footprint, for the boys had trampled the ground thoroughly after the roadster had been discovered.

"If I had only thought to look for footprints at the time!" groaned Joe, in disappointment

"Or fingerprints. He must have left fingerprints somewhere about the car. If he wasn't a professional crook we could have traced him easily."

''Too late now. Chet has had the car washed since then - we didn't think of it in time." Their search was without success, and the Hardy boys were about to give up in disappointment when Frank left the clearing and began to hunt about in the bushes.

"I guess we might as well go home," said Joe. "We've come hunting for clues too late, If we had any sense we would have looked for fingerprints and - "

He was interrupted by a shout from his brother.

"Joe? Come here, quick! I've found something!"

There was no mistaking the excitement in Frank's voice. Joe lost no time in scrambling through the bushes until he reached his brother's side.

Frank was standing in the midst of a thickets, folding up something red and bushy.

It was a wig!

"The red wig!" exclaimed Joe, his eyes widening.

"Not only the wig," replied Frank. He bent over to pick up a battered hat from the ground. "And this!" Then he picked up a worn coat

"They belong to the crook!"

"It couldn't have been anyone else's. He must have disguised himself here and left the wig and things in the bush when he abandoned the car."

 

CHAPTER XI

Mr. Hardy Investigates

 

The Hardy boys looked at one another in growing excitement.

"What ought we do about it?" asked Joe.

"I'm going to tell dad what we've found."

"But didn't he say he would be working the case on his own and that we would be opposition?"

"This is different. We have a real clue here, but we don't know how to use it. You can bet dad will know what to do. He'll act fairly with this. If it leads to anything, he'll see that we get credit for what we've done."

"I guess you're right, Frank. This is a little too big for us to handle ourselves. But imagine finding that wig! What luck!''

"There's nothing else around, is there? Let's look."

Although the Hardy boys scoured the woods in that vicinity thoroughly, they found nothing more. But the wig, the hat and the coat gave promise of interesting developments. Frank hunted through all the pockets of the coat in the faint hope of finding something that would identify the previous wearer, but in this he was 'disappointed.

So they went back to the abandoned road and remounted their motorcycles, returning to Bayport with the articles they had found in the woods.

Their disappointment had turned to jubilation, for now they felt that they were definitely on the trail of the mysterious man in the red wig, and while ostensibly there was no connection between this fellow and the thief who had robbed Tower Mansion, Frank had, as he said, "a hunch" that the auto thief and the robber of the mansion were one and the same man.

"If we ever lay our hands on the man who stole Chet's roadster I'm sure we'll have gone a long way toward solving the Tower affair," said Frank to his brother. "I may be wrong but I have an idea that the fellow was a professional crook who first set out to rob the steamboat office. Then, when he was frightened off, he hung around the city and waited his chance to rob Tower Mansion."

Mr. Hardy was still in the library when the boys returned home. The great detective was frankly surprised when his sons again entered the room, and he looked up with the suspicion with a twinkle in his eyes.

"What! More clues!" he exclaimed. "Surely not so soon."

"You bet we have more clues!" exclaimed Frank eagerly. "And real clues this time. We're going to turn them over to you."

"But I thought the two of you were working this case in your own way. Remember, I'm your opposition."

"Well, to tell the truth, we don't know just what to do with what we've found," admitted Frank. "And, anyway, we know you'll be fair with us, so it doesn't matter. Look!"

And with that he tossed the red wig on the table. He kept the coat and hat behind his back.

Fenton Hardy leaned forward quickly and picked up the wig with an inquiring glance at his sons.

"So!" he murmured. ''You found the wig!"

He examined it intently. Then he opened a drawer of his desk and produced the fragment of wig that the boys had found in the smashed car by the road. This he applied to a torn part of the wig itself. It fitted perfectly.

"It's the wig all right," he declared, looking up. "Where did you find it? By the smashed car?"

"No. Hidden in the bushes near the place where Chet's roadster was found." Mr. Hardy whistled solemnly.

"Good work." He turned the wig over and over in his hands, carefully examined it under a microscope, and then tossed it back on the desk.

"There aren't so many wigs sold that one can't trace them,'' he observed. '' This happens to be made by a small company that doesn't turn out a great many wigs in a year. It's a sort of side line with them."

"How can you tell?"

"There's a little mark on the inside that distinguishes the manufacturer. Just a trademark-hardly noticeable."

"And we found these as well," said Frank handing over the coat and hat.

Mr. Hardy's eyes opened wide.

"Well, well!" he exclaimed. "You have been busy, haven't you?"

"They were all hidden in the same place."

"And well hidden, too, I'll warrant."

"We were sure there must be clues of some kind around that car, so we searched every inch of the woods roundabout."

"Good!" said Mr. Hardy approvingly. "You didn't miss any chances. I'm not saying these clues will lead to the capture of the fellow, but they will go a long way toward finding him."

"What should we do with them?"

Mr. Hardy looked up at his sons and smiled.

"Well, you've shared your clues with me, and I suppose I may as well share some of my experience with you. What do you say if I go to the city and try to trace up some of these labels? This hat, for instance-" and he picked it up from the table, examining the band intently," There is a label here. Of course, the hat may have been sold a long time ago, and it isn't likely that the man who sold it would remember who bought it. But there is always the chance that the store may not be far from where the fellow lives. You get my idea? And the coat, too, If we can find any trace of who bought the wig we may be able to connect up the other things as well."

"Gosh, I never thought of that!" admitted Frank.

"It's a slim chance, but, as I said before, we can't afford to overlook any chances. I'll take them to the city and see what I can do. It may mean everything and it may mean nothing. Don't be disappointed if I come back empty-handed. And don't be surprised if I come back with some valuable information."

Mr. Hardy tossed the wig, the coat and the hat into a club bag that was standing open near his desk. The great detective was accustomed to being called away suddenly on strange errands, and he was always prepared to leave at a moment's notice.

"Not much use starting now," he said glancing at his watch. '"But I'll go to the city the first thing in the morning. In the meantime, don't rest on your oars, as the saying is, Keep your eyes and your ears open for more clues. The case isn't over yet by any means."

Mr. Hardy picked up some papers on his desk, as a hint that the interview was over, and the boys left the library. They were in a state of high excitement, for they were confident now that they had made valuable progress in the case and they were sure that if the wig and the garments could be of any use at all toward locating the crook, Mr. Hardy would be the man to use them.

When they went to bed that night they could hardly sleep, so elated were they over their discovery near the abandoned roadway.

"He must have been a pretty smart crook," murmured Joe, after they had talked long into the night. '' That idea about the wig was clever,, I'll bet he was an experienced guy!"

"The smarter they are, the harder they fall," replied Frank. "It's the experienced crook that the police always look for. If this fellow has any kind of a record at all it won't take long for dad to run him down. I've heard dad say that there is no such thing as a clever crook. If he was really clever he wouldn't be a crook at all."

"Yes, I guess there's something in that, too."

But it shows that we're not up against any ordinary amateur. This fellow must be a slippery customer."

"He'll have to be mighty slippery from now on. Once dad has a few clues to work on he never lets up till he gets his man."

"Well, let's hope he gets this one. He'll think a lot more of us as detectives if he does." And with that, the boys fell asleep.

When they went down to breakfast the following morning they found that Fenton Hardy had left for New York on an early morning train.

The Hardy boys went to school, but all through that morning they could scarcely keep their minds on their work. Their thoughts were far afield. They were wondering how Fenton Hardy was faring on his quest in New York and it was not until after Frank had drawn a reprimand from one of his teachers because he absent-mindedly answered, "red wig," when asked to name the capital of Kansas that they settled down to work and tried to put the affair of the wig and the abandoned clothes from their minds.

Slim Robinson was at school that day, but after four o'clock he confided to the Hardy boys that he was leaving.

"It's no use," he said. "Father can't keep me in school any longer and it's up to me i& pitch in and help the family. I'm to start work tomorrow for a grocery company."

"And you wanted to go to college!" exclaimed Frank. "It's a shame, that's what it is!"

"Can't be helped," replied Perry, with grimace. "I can consider myself lucky I got this far. I guess I'll have to give up all those ideas now and settle down to learn the grocery business. There's one good thing about it- I'll have a chance to learn it from the ground up. I'm starting in the delivery department. Perhaps in about fifty years I'll be head of the firm."

"You'll make good at whatever you tackle," Joe assured him. "But I'm sorry you won't be able to go through college as you wished. Don't give up hope yet, Slim. You never know what may happen. Perhaps they'll find this fellow who did rob Tower Mansion."

Both boys wanted to tell their chum about the clues they had discovered the previous day, but the same thought was in their minds - that it would be unwise to raise false hopes. It would go much harder with Perry, they knew, If he began to think the capture of the thief Was imminent, only to have the hope dashed to earth again. So they said good-bye to him and wished him good luck. Perry tried hard to be cheerful, but his smile was very faint as He turned away from them and walked off down the street.

"Gosh, but I'm sorry for him," said Frank as they went home. "He was such a hard worker in school and he counted so much on going to college."

"We've just got to clear up the Tower robbery, that's all there is to it!" declared his brother.

"Perhaps dad is back by now. There's a train from New York at three o'clock. Let's hurry home and see."

But when the Hardy boys arrived home they found that their father had not yet returned from the city.

"We'll just have to be patient, I guess,'" said Frank. "No news is good news."

And with this philosophic reflection the Hardy boys were obliged to comfort themselves against the impatience that possessed them to learn what progress their father was making in the city toward following up the clues they had given him.

 

CHAPTER XII

Days of Waiting

 

Fenton hardy had high hopes of a quick solution of the mystery when he went to New York. Possession of the wig, the hat and the coat gave him three clues, any one of which might lead to tracing the previous owner quickly, and the detective was confident that it would not he long before he would unravel the tangled threads. He had not stated his optimism to the boys, being careful not to arouse their hopes, but in his heart he thought it would be but a matter of hours before he ran the owner of the red wig to earth.

But obstacles presented themselves before him in bewildering succession.

The wig appeared to be his chief clue, and when he arrived in the city he went directly to the head office of the company that had manufactured it. "When he sent his card in to the manager he was readily admitted, for Fenton Hardy's name was known from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

"Some of our customers in trouble, Hardy?" asked the manager, when the great detective tossed the red wig on his desk.

"Not yet. But one of your customers will be §n trouble if I can ever trace the purchaser of this wig."

The manager picked it up. He inspected it carefully and frowned.

"We are not, as you know, a wig-making firm," he said. "That is, the wig department is a very small side line with us."

"The very reason I thought it would be easier to trace this," replied Mr. Hardy. "If you turned out thousands of them every year it might be more difficult. You sell to an exclusive theatrical trade, I believe."

"Exactly. If an actor wants a wig of some special nature, we do our best to please him. We only make the wigs to order."

"Then you will probably have a record of this one."

The manager turned the wig over in his hands, glanced carefully at the inside, felt of the weight and texture, then pressed a button at the side of his desk. A boy came and departed with a message.

"It may be difficult. This wig is not new. In fact, I would say it was turned out about two years ago."

"A long time. But still - "I'll do the best I can."

A bespectacled old man shuffled into the office at that moment, in response to the manager's summons, and stood waiting in front of the desk.

"Kauffman, here," said the manager, "is our expert. What he doesn't know about wigs isn't worth knowing.'' Then, turning to the old man, he handed him the red wig. Remember it, Kauffman?"

The old man looked at it doubtfully. Then he gazed at the ceiling.

"Red wig ... red wig..." he muttered.

"About two years old, isn't it?" prompted the manager.

"Not quite. Year'n a half, I'd say. Looks like a comedy character type. "Wait, I think There ain't been, so many of our customers playin' that kind of a part inside a year and a half. Let's see. Let's see." The old man paced up and down the office, muttering names under his breath. Suddenly, he stopped, snapping his fingers.

"I have it," he said. "It must have been Morley who bought that wig. That's who it was! Harold Morley. He is playing in Shakespearian repertoire with Hamlin's company. Very fussy about his wigs. Has to have 'em just so. I remember he bought this one because he came in here about a month ago and ordered another just like it."

"Why would he do that?" asked Mr. Hardy.

Kauffman shrugged his shoulders.

"Ain't none of my business. Lots of actors keep a double set of wigs. Morley's playing down at the Crescent Theater right now. Call him up."

"I'll go and see him,'' said Mr. Hardy, rising, "You're sure he is the man who ordered that wig?"

"Positive!" replied Kauffman, looking hurt, "I know every wig that goes out of my shop. I give 'em all my pers'nal attention. Morley got the wig-and he got another like it a month ago. I remember."

"Kauffman is right," put in the manager, "Morley has a very good account with us. If Kauffman says he remembers the wig, it must be so."

"Well, thank you for your trouble," answered Fenton Hardy. "I may be able to see Mr. Morley in his dressing room if I hurry. It lacks about half an hour of theater time."

"You'll just about make it. Glad to have been of service, Mr. Hardy. Any time we can do anything for you, just ask."

"Thank you," and Fenton Hardy shook hands with Kauffman and the manager, then left the office, bound for the Crescent Theaters

But the detective's hopes were not as high as the manager's had been. He knew that Morley, the actors was certainly not the man who had worn the wig on the day the roadster was stolen, for the Shakespearian company of which Morley was a member had been playing a three months' run in New York. It would be impossible for the actor to get away from the theater long enough for such an escapade, just as it was improbable that he would even try to do so.





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