Adelia Applegate's Compliment 6 глава





"That's my affair."

Detective Smuff and Chief Collig looked at one another.

"You ain't co-operatin'," complained Chief Collig. "You're goin' to put us to a whole lot of worry and expense just because you Won't give us a little co-operation."

"Just what do you mean?"

"Detective Smuff and me was thinking of goin' over to the hospital where this man Jackley is and givin' him the third degree about the Tower case."

Fenton Hardy's lips narrowed into a straight line.

"You can't do that. The doctor won't let you see him."

"We're going to try, anyway. There's a ttrain at seven o'clock, and we aim to have a talk with this fellow Jackley tonight."

Mr. Hardy shrugged his shoulders.

"Go ahead. It means nothing to me. But if you take my advice you'll stay away. Youll just spoil everything. Jackley will talk when the time comes."

"Oh, ho!" said Detective Smuff triumphantly. "Then there is something to it."

"I knew there was," said Chief Collig. Come on, Smuff. We'll make this man Jackley talk yet. We're officers of the law, we are, and I'd like to see any doctor keep us from doin’ our duty."

He mopped his brow again, put on his hat, nodded to Fenton Hardy, and clumped out of the room. Detective Smuff, putting his notebook into his pocket, followed. The door closed behind them.

Mr. Hardy sat back with a gesture of despair.

"They'll spoil everything," he said. "They're just so clumsy that Red Jackley will close up like a clam if they try to make him talk."

"Perhaps," remarked Frank significantly "they'll miss their train."

At that moment the telephone rang. Mr. Hardy answered it.

"Hello - yes, this is Fenton Hardy - yes - oh, yes, doctor - he is - well, well - is that so? - won't live until morning - I can see him? - fine - thank you - goodbye."

He put back the receiver.

"There," he said wearily, "just my luck. Red Jackley is dying, and the doctor says I can see him tonight. But Collig and Smuff will have first right to talk to him, for they are officials and I'm only a private detective!"

"If Jackley confesses, they'll have the credit for it."

"They'll just have to miss their train," said Frank. "Come on, Joe. Let's see what we can do!"

 

CHAPTER XV

The Chief get's a Bomb

 

"What's up now?" asked Joe, when the Hardy boys had left the house.

"Chief Collig and Detective Smuff must miss that train."

"But how?"

"I don't know just yet, but they've got to miss it. If they reach the hospital tonight they'll interview Jackley first. One of two things will happen. They'll either get a confession and take all the credit for clearing up the case, or they'll go about it so clumsily that Jackley will say nothing and spoil everything for dad."

The Hardy boys walked along the street in silence. They realized that the situation was urgent, but although they racked their brains trying to think of some way in which to prevent Chief Collig and Detective Smuff from catching the train, it seemed hopeless.

"Let's round up the gang," suggested Joe. "Perhaps they can think of something."

"'The gang" consisted of the boys who been with Frank and Joe the day they held the picnic in the woods. There was, of course, Chet Morton. Besides him were Allen Hooper, otherwise known as "Biff", because of his passion for boxing, Jerry Gilroy, Phil Cohen and Tony Prito, all students at the Bayport high school. They were usually to be found on the school campus after hours, playing ball, and there the Hardy boys soon located them. The game was just breaking up.

"Bikers," grinned Chet Morton when he saw the Hardy boys approaching. "You wouldn't play ball when we asked you to, and now you come around when the game's all over."

"We had something more important on our minds," replied Frank. "We need your help."

"What's the mattah?" asked Tony Prito. Tony was the son of a prosperous Italian building contractor, but he had not yet been in America long enough to talk the language without an accent, and his attempts were frequently the cause of much amusement to his companions. He was quick and good-natured, however, and laughed as much at his own errors as any one else did.

"Chief Collig and Detective Smuff are buttling into one of dad's cases, "said Frank. "We can't tell you much more about it than that

But the whole thing is that they mustn't catch the seven o'clock train."

"What do you want us to do?" asked Biff Hooper. " Blow up the bridge ?''

"We might lock Collig and Smuff in one of their own cells," suggested Phil Cohen.

"And get locked in ourselves," added Jerry Gilroy. "Be sensible. Are you serious about this, Frank?"

"Absolutely. If those two catch that train dad's case will be ruined. And I don't mind telling you it has something to do with Perry Robinson."

Chet Morton whistled.

"Ah, ha! I see now. The Tower affair. In that case, we'll see to it that the seven o'clock train leaves here without our worthy chief and his equally worthy-although dumb-detective." He hated Smuff, for the sleuth had once or twice tried to arrest the boys for bathing in a forbidden section of the bay.

"There is only one question left," said Phil solemnly.

"And what is that?"

"How to keep them from getting on the train."

"Get your brains to work, fellows - if you have any," ordered Jerry Gilroy. "Let's figure out a plan."

A dozen plans were suggested, each wilder than the one before. Biff Hooper was in favor of kidnapping the chief and his detective, binding them hand and foot and setting them adrift in the bay in an open boat.

Phil Cohen suggested putting the chief's watch an hour ahead. That plan, as Frank observed, would have been a good one but for the little difficulty of laying hands on the watch.

Chet Morton thought it would be a good idea to start a fight in front of the police station just as Collig and Smuff were about to leave for the train. The possibility that they might all land in jail as a result made this suggestion unpopular.

"If we were in Italy we could get the Black Hand to help," said Tony Prito.

"The Black Hand!" declared Chet. "That's a good idea!"

"We got no Black Hand society in Bayport," objected Tony.

"Let's get one up. Send the chief a Black Hand letter warning him not to take that train."

"And if he ever found who wrote it, we'd all be up to our necks in trouble," pointed out Joe. "I'd like to put a bomb under his old police station."

"Fine idea!" applauded Tony. "Where we get the bomb?"

"Leave it to me," announced Chet Morton. mysteriously. "I'll get a bomb. I'll guarantee to keep the chief in town."

"Not a real bomb?" asked Frank.

"Why not?" said Chet. "Listen to me."

Chet proceeded to lay forth his plan in a stealthy whisper. It was received with chuckles and murmurs of admiration. His companions clapped him on the back, and when he had finished the boys hastened down the street toward the Hardy home.

In the rear of the house were a garage and an old barn. In the barn was a gymnasium that the Hardy boys had fitted out for themselves, and here was the usual collection of old toys, footballs, broken baseball bats and such paraphernalia, to be found wherever boys store their cherished possessions. Frank groped about among the rubbish in one corner until at last he rose with an exclamation of triumph, holding aloft a shining object.

"It's here!" he said. "Let's get busy. There's no time to lose."

An old box was quickly produced, and in it the shining object was placed. The box was then carefully wrapped up, and in a few minutes the boys left the barn, Tony carrying the package under one arm.

Not far from the Bayport police station was a fruit stand over which presided an Italian by the name of Bocco. He was a simple, genial soul, who believed almost everything he heard and, like most of his countrymen, he was of an excitable nature. Toward Bocco's fruit stand the boys made their way. Bocco was sorting over his oranges when they approached. Tony, with the box under his arm, hung in the background, while Chet stepped boldly forward.

"How much are your oranges, Bocco?" he asked.

Bocco, with much explanatory waving of arms, recited the prices of the various grades of oranges.

''Too much. There's a fellow at another fruit stand on the next street sells them a nickel a dozen cheaper "

"He no can do!" shrieked Bocco. '' My price is da low." Then, angered by this reflection on the prices of his wares, he burst into a lengthy explanation of the struggles confronting a poor Italian trying to get along in a new country. He grabbed Chet by the coat collar, dragged him to a corner of the fruit stall, bade him inspect the fruit, gabbled off prices, and generally worked himself into a state of high indignation. In the meantime, Tony Prito made good use of his time to shove the mysterious package under the front of the stall. Then he joined the other boys who had screened his movements by gathering about Bocco.

"You'll have the Black Hand after you if you go on charging such high prices - that's all I can say!" declared Chet, as the boys moved away.

"Poof! Wat do I care for da Black Hand, No frighten me!" said Rocco bravely, but he gulped when he said it and there was no doubt that the shot had gone home.

It was now after six o'clock, and the boys decided that in the interests of their plan they would have to break the parental wrath by being late for supper. Frank had assumed that Chief Collig and Detective Smuff would be leaving to catch the train at about ten minutes to seven, so shortly after six-thirty, Phil Cohen who had remained in the background during the interview with Bocco, walked smartly up to the fruit stand again. The others were viewing the scene from around the corner of a near-by building.

"Banana," said Phil briefly, tossing a nickel on the counter. When he had received the fruit he began to eat it, at the same time chatting with Bocco.

"Wat you t'ink?" snickered the Italian, "'some boys come here a while ago and say da' Blacka Hand t'ink I charga too much for da fruit."

"Well, you do charge too much, Everybody says so."

"I sella da good fruit at da good price."

Phil turned aside and at the same time accidentally knocked an apple to the ground. He bent to pick it up, Bocco eyeing him narrowly In case he tried to slip it into his pocket. But Phil did not get up at once. Instead, he said:

"Oi! What's this?"

"Wat you find?"

"What's this, Bocco?" Phil rose from in front of the stand, with the package in his hands. "I found this under the counter."

Bocco stared. His mouth opened in dismay. For, sounding clearly from the inside of the package, came a steady "tick-tock, tick-tack."

"Bomb!" he shrieked. "Put heem down!''

Thereupon he scrambled wildly over the array of fruit at the back of the stand, knocked over a tray of oranges, and went sprawling over the opposite counter, roaring, "Police!" at the top of his lungs.

Phil, with a fine imitation of fright, put the package on top of the counter and fled.

Bocco, in his white apron, was dancing about in the middle of the street, yelling, "Bombs! Police! Da Blacka Hand!" Then, suddenly fearing that the supposed bomb might explode at any moment, he whirled rapidly about and raced down the street away from the stand, in the general direction of the police station.

He reached the doorway just as Chief Collig and Detective Smuff were leaving for the train. Panting with fear and excitement, Bocco implored them to save him from the Black Hand who had put a bomb under his fruit stand.

"Da bomb, she go 'teek-tock' ", he wailed. "She blowa da stand into da little piece!"

"A bomb!" exclaimed Chief Collig. "Surely not in Bayport!"

"I always thought there was Black Handera around here," said Smuff.

"She blowa up da fruit stand! Come queeck!"

Chief Collig and Detective Smuff followed Bocco to the corner. Then they peeped around until they could see the deserted fruit stand, with the package on the counter.

"You say it goes 'tick-tock'?"

"Just like da clock."

"Must be a bomb, all right," said Smuff. "They run by clockwork."

"Might go off any minute," observed the chief. "I hate to go near it. Smuff, you go and pour a pail of water over it."

"Me?"

"Yes, you. You're not afraid, are you ?"

"No-I'm not afraid," muttered Smuff, mopping his brow. "But I got to think of my wife and family."

"Coward!" said the chief. "I'd do it myself, only it wouldn't be right, seeing I'm your superior officer. Bad for discipline."

The worthy officers stared at the package on the fruit stand counter, while Bocco danced with impatience. Neither Collig nor Smuff dared approach closer, but they realized something must be done.

"Where's Riley?" asked the chief at last

"Out on his beat, around the corner."

"Get him."

Smuff departed hastily, glad of the chance to get away from the vicinity of the bomb. He was some time in locating Con Riley, and when at last that minion of the law was escorted back to the chief, seven o'clock had come and gone. So had the train.

 

CHAPTER XVI

A confession

 

"Con Riley!" ordered the chief, "see that package on the counter of the fruit stand. Go and get it and pour a pail of water over it."

"Huh?" exclaimed Riley, gaping.

"Pour a pail of water over it."

Riley took off his helmet and scratched his head. He began to wonder if his chief's braim had been affected by the heat.

"Don't stand there staring at me!" snapped Collig. "Hurry up and obey orders."

"This is the meanest job I ever got," observed Con Riley. But he ambled across the street, wondering why a crowd of people had collected-for word had quickly spread that a bomb had been found under bocco's fruit stand, and when he reached the package he inspected it wonderingly.

"Mebbe she blowa him all to da bits!" suggested Rocco fearfully.

"He has insurance," consoled the chief.

"We’ll give him a good funeral," observed the Chief.

Con Riley hunted around the fruit stand until he found a pail, and then he went up the street until he located a tap. Finally, with the pail full of water, he went back to the fruit stand, dumped the water over the package, and stood awaiting further orders.

"Soak it again!" roared the chief, who was taking no chances.

Con Riley sighed, but did as he was told. For five minutes he was kept busy dumping innumerable pails of water over the package, and only then did Chief Collig and Detective Smuff venture forth. Then, with fear and trembling, Chief Collig handed the package to Smuff and bade him open it.

Smuff's hands were shaking so that he could scarcely tear apart the coverings from the water-soaked parcel. The chief withdrew to a safe distance. Con Riley, who had just been told by a friend that he had been pouring water over a live bomb, was trying to achieve a sickly smile as the crowd congratulated him on his bravery.

Detective Smuff opened the package. The coverings fell away. The cardboard box, dripping with water, tumbled apart.

A bright object fell to the pavement with a tatter.

Everybody jumped.

But there was no cause for fear. The bright object was nothing more harmful than an old alarm clock.

The Hardy boys and their chums, mingling with the crowd, roared with laughter, and when the crowd saw how Chief Collig and his assistants had been duped they joined in the merriment.

''An alarm clock!'' roared some one. ''They thought an alarm clock was a bomb. Pouring water over an alarm clock!"

Chief Collig and Smuff returned to the police station with all the dignity they could muster under the circumstances. The crowd howled and whooped with laughter.

The Hardy boys went home smiling. The seven o'clock train had left half an hour before,, Their father was making the trip to the city without the interference of the chief and his assistant, Smuff.

Fenton Hardy returned home late that night, and at the breakfast table next morning he was in high spirits.

"Solved another mystery!" asked Mrs. Hardy gaily, as she poured the coffee. She seldom asked questions about her husband's work, being of a gentle nature that instinctively shrank from any discussion of crime. It frequently distressed her that Mr. Hardy's occupation should be one that meant terms of imprisonment for those whom his cunning and cleverness had brought to justice. But her husband's attitude this morning was so unmistakably jubilant that she was glad for his sake if he had scored another success.

"Practically solved, my dear. If you'd care to hear all about it - "

"Not me. You know I don't care to hear about these terrible things."

"Well, the boys shall hear of it then. They are interested. If they'll come into my den after breakfast I'll tell them all about it."

"That means you succeeded," Frank said.

"Eat your bacon and eggs and don't be impatient."

After breakfast the boys went with their father into the den off the library, eagerly awaiting news of his mission of the previous evening. They had not told him how Chief Collig and Detective Smuff had missed the train, but they were shrewdly certain that their efforts in this respect had been of considerable assistance to Mr. Hardy.

"First of all," said the detective, "Jackley's dead."

"Did he confess?"

"You're not very sympathetic for the poor fellow. Yes, he confessed. Fortunately, Cheif Collig and Detective Smuff didn't show up!"

Fenton Hardy saw that Joe and Frank glanced at one another, and he smiled quietly.

"I have an idea that you two scamps know more about that than you would care to tell However, they failed to show up, and I had a clear field ahead of me. I saw Jackley just before he died. And I questioned him about the Tower robbery."

"He admitted it?"

"He admitted everything. He said he came to Bayport with the intention of robbing the ticket office. When he failed in that attempt he decided to hang around for a few days, and then he hit upon Tower Mansion as his next effort, He entered the place and opened the safe, Then he took the jewels and the bonds."

"What did he do with the loot?"

"That's what I'm coming to. I had quite a time making Jackley confess to the Tower affair and it was not until he was on the point of death that he admitted it. Then he said, "Yes, I took the stuff-but I couldn't get away with it. You can get it back easily. I hid it in the old tower-'

"That was all he said. He became unconscious then and died in a few minutes. Just why he couldn't get away with the loot and why he hid it in the tower, I don't know. He didn't have time to tell me. But he said it was hidden in the old tower."

"Why, we'll find it in no time!" exclaimed Frank. "Tower Mansion has two towers - the the old and the new. We'll search the old tower."

"The story seems likely enough," said Mr Hardy. "Jackley would gain nothing by lying about it when he was on his deathbed. He probably became frightened after he committed the robbery and hid in the old tower until he saw the coast was clear and he was able to get away. Then 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."

"That was why he couldn't be traced through the jewels and the bonds," Joe said. "They were never disposed of at all. 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," continued Fenton Hardy, "but he died before he could say any more. 'I hid it in the old tower. He just managed to gasp that out before he became unconscious."

"It shouldn't be hard to find the stuff, now that we have a general idea of where it is," Frank pointed out. "Probably he didn't hide it very carefully. The old tower has been unoccupied for a long time and it is rarely entered. The stuff would be as safe there as if he had hidden it miles away."

Joe got up from his chair.

"I think we ought to get busy and go search the old tower right away. Oh, boy. If we can only hand old Applegate his jewels and bonds this morning and clear Mr. Robinson. Let's start."

"I'll leave it to you boys to make the search," said Mr. Hardy, with a smile. "I've no doubt the stuff will be easily recovered, and you can have the satisfaction of turning it over 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."

"And I wouldn't have got very far if it hadn't been for you, so we're even," smiled Mr. Hardy. "Be on your way, then, and good luck to you."

"We'll find it, never fear," promised Frank, putting on his cap. "I hope the Applegates don't throw us out when we ask to be allowed to look around in the old tower."

"Just tell them you have a pretty good clue to where the bonds and jewels are hidden and they'll let you search to your heart's content," Mr. Hardy advised.

"Come on then, Joe. We'll have that thousand dollar reward before the morning is over."

Their father glanced at them shrewdly.

"Don't count your chickens before they are hatched," he said. And then, as the boys hastened out of the den, he called after them "Also, you might remember the old proverb that there is many a slip between the cup and the lip."

But the Hardy boys scarcely heard him, so eager were they to begin searching the old tower and so confident were they that the mystery was about to be cleared up.

 

CHAPTER XVII

The Search of the Tower

 

When the Hardy boys reached Tower Mansion that morning the door was answered by Hurd Applegate himself. The tall, stooped gentleman peered at them through his thick lensed glasses. In one hand he held a sheet of stamps, for it was his custom to devote the mornings to his collection.

"Yes?" he said testily, for he was annoyed at being disturbed. "What do you boys want here at this hour of day!"

"You remember us, don't you?" asked Frank politely. "We're Mr. Hardy's sons."

"Fenton Hardy, the detective? Are you his sons?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, what do you want?"

"We'd like to take a look through the old Tower, if you don't mind. We've got a new clue about the robbery you had here a while ago."

"Want to look through the old tower? Of all the impudence! What do you want to look through the tower for? And what has that got to do with the robbery?"

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

"Oh! You have evidence, have you?" The old man peered at them very closely. It's that rascal Robinson, I'll warrant. He hid the stuff there, and now he's put you up to going and finding it, just to clear himself."

The Hardy boys had not considered the affair in this light, and they gazed at Mr. Applegate in consternation. At last Joe found his tongue.

"Mr. Robinson isn't mixed up in this at all," he said. "The real thief was found. He said the stuff 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, then?"

"We can't tell you just now, sir. Wait till we find the stolen goods and we'll tell you the whole story."

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

"Adelia!"

A high cracked voice from the dim regions of the hallway answered.

"What do you want?"

"Come here a minute."

There was a rustle of skirts, and then Adelia Applegate, maiden sister of the owner of Tower Mansion, appeared. She was a faded blonde woman, of thin features, and she was dressed in a gown of a fashion fifteen years back, in which every color of the spectrum fought for supremacy.

"What's the matter now!" she demanded. "'Can't a body sit down to do a bit of sewinf without you hollerin' at them?"

"These boys want to look through the old tower."

"What for? Up to some mischief, I'll be bound."

"They think they can find the bonds and jewels."

"Oh, they do, do they?" sniffed the woman. "And what would the bonds and jewels be doing in the old tower?"

"We have evidence that they were hidden there after the robbery," replied Frank.

Miss Applegate sniffed again and viewed the boys with frank suspicion.

"As if any thief would be fool enough to hide them right in the house he robbed!"

"These are Mr. Hardy's boys," explained Hurd Applegate. "He is the big detective, you know."

"All detectives," said Miss Applegate, "are laosey. Always pryin' into other people's affairs."

"We're just trying to help you," put in Joe politely.

"Go ahead, then. Go ahead," said Miss Applegate, with a sigh. "Come around at this hour of morning, disturbing honest folks. Go ahead, and tear the old tower to pieces if you like. But I'll he bound you won't find anything. It's all foolishness. You won't find anything."

Consent having been given, Hurd Applegate led the way through the gloomy halls and corridors of the mansion toward the old tower. He was inclined to share his sister's view that the boys' search would he in vain.

"Might as well save yourselves the trouble," he declared. "You won't find anything in the old tower. If anything was hidden there it's been taken away by this time."

"We'll make a try at it, anyway, Mr. Applegate."

"Don't ask me to help you. I've got better things to do. Just got some new stamps in this morning and you interrupted me when I was sortin' them out. I've got to get back to my work."

The man led the way into a corridor that was heavy with dust. It had not been in use for a long time and it was bare and unfurnished. Leading off this corridor was a heavy door. It was unlocked, and when Mr. Applegate opened It the boys saw that a flight of stairs lay beyond.

"There you are. Those stairs lead up into the tower. Search away. You won't find anything."

"I hope we do, Mr. Applegate," said Frank, "And I'm pretty sure we shall."

"Yes - boys are always goin' to do wonders. Go ahead. Live and learn. Waste your time."

And with this parting shot, Hurd Applegate turned and hobbled back along the corridor, the sheet of stamps still in his gnarled hand. He was muttering to himself as he departed. The Hardy boys looked at one another.

"Not very encouraging, is he, Frank?"

"Not a bit of it, But it will be so much the better for us if we get the stuff back for him. He won't think we were wasting our time then!"

"Let's get up into the tower. I'm anxious to start."

The tower was about five stories in height as compared with the rest of the mansion, which had but three stories. The lower floor was empty. The floors and walls were heavy with dust. Frank and Joe first examined the stairs carefully for footprints, but there were none to be seen.





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