Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
"He probably won't arrive until Walker does, and then it will be too late," Frank said. "You've got to okay that search."
"I can't do that unless you can give me something more solid to go on." The chief climbed into his car. "Sorry, boys."
"We blew it!" Joe said as the chief's car roared off.
"I know, and I can hardly believe it." Joe had to strain to hear his brother's voice over the noise of the departing engine.
"We've got to convince them. "But how?" Frank's murmuring was still almost inaudible under the engine noise-even though the chief's taillights were rapidly disappearing.
Something's not right, Joe thought, turning to Frank. At that second, in Callie's beams, he caught a silhouette. A dark sedan, lights out, was heading straight for them!
THE ONRUSHING CAR flashed in front of Callie Shaw's Nova, obviously aiming for Frank and Joe. But the Hardys weren't standing targets. They split up, heading for either shoulder of the road.
Tires squealed as the driver changed course. "Frank!" Callie screamed. The roar of the engine drowned out her words. Frank Hardy whirled to find the car almost on top of him, and no place to run. His muscles clenched for a dive he knew wouldn't take him far enough.
From the corner of his eye, he caught movement. Joe was sprinting across the road toward him, racing the car, throwing himself at Frank in a flying tackle. His extra momentum flung them out of danger even as the car swerved in a futile effort to nail them. The Hardys tumbled through the underbrush as the car roared down the road.
Frank untangled himself from Joe and staggered to his feet. "Get up! We still have a chance to catch him!"
Joe followed him to the road. "Callie! Start the car! We're going after him!"
They piled in and the Nova shot forward. "That guy was moving pretty fast," Joe said. "Do you think the Nova can catch him?"
"He's boxed in," Frank said. "Chief Collig is ahead of him, and we're behind. If he zooms past the chief's car - "
"Collig will go after him." Joe grinned. "I don't think the chief would enjoy someone trying to blow his doors off."
"And we're here to keep him from doubling back," Callie added.
"Right," said Frank. "We've got him-as long as there are no turnoffs. Does either of you know this stretch of road?"
"We have miles before we hit anything," Callie said. "It's pretty desolate around here. No roads, no houses, no driveways."
"There is one turnoff, though," Joe remarked. "A little bit ahead of here. It's a hill overlooking the river. Iola and I used to come - " He broke off whatever he was going to say.
"We, uh, know the place you mean," Callie said. "But you'd really have to live around here to know about it."
"And Al-Rousasa is a stranger to Bayport," Frank pointed out. "I think it's safe to go on."
Two seconds after passing the turnoff, they heard a car engine behind them. Joe swore between gritted teeth, staring out the rear windshield. The escaping car had no lights. Only the faintest traces of movement showed in the dark. "He was in there."
Callie sent the car in a wild U-turn, nearly spinning them out. She hit the gas, and the Nova sped back the way it had come. But the pursuit was hopeless. They never caught sight of the car. Joe said nothing, just pounded his fist into the backseat over and over again. The silence grew thick.
"All right." Frank's voice was quiet. "We're back to square one. Anyone get a look at the car? The driver? 'the license plate?"
"Everything happened so quickly," Callie said. "I hardly had a chance."
"I was too busy rolling around with Frank." Joe turned to his brother. "If you want a good description of the third button on your shirt, I could give you that."
"Callie's lights were shining in my eyes." Frank shook his head. "All I saw was a silhouette of one person in the car." "Al-Rousasa?" Joe said.
Frank shrugged. "If it was, I couldn't tell you anything except that his ears don't stick out. I didn't see any features."
"What do you mean, 'If it was?'" Callie asked. "Who else would it have been?"
"Whoever tried to run us down followed us from the police station," Frank said. "There's no way he'd know we'd follow Chief Collig or that we'd stop here. This hit-and-run thing wasn't planned. But this guy used that turnoff-something nobody from out of town would know about. "
"You're right," Callie said. "Every kid in town knows about this spot. It's a great place to go after a date."
"Except for the cops who shine flashlights in the window," Frank said.
"So, either Al-Rousasa is a make-out artist, or he's got some local help," Joe said. "Great. What do we do now?"
"We could go back to the police," Callie said. "That guy just tried to kill you."
"Yeah, but where are the witnesses?" Joe asked.
"What am I? Pizza dough?" Callie said. "I saw the whole thing."
"Yeah, and you just happen to be Frank's girlfriend.”
"Joe means we need someone who isn't quite so personally attached to us," Frank tried to explain.
"You mean they'd think ... they'd say ... " Callie's face froze in a murderous expression. She jabbed a finger at the radio, and the roar of an old Led Zeppelin number filled the car as she drove back to town.
Joe leaned over to Frank. "I don't think she wants to talk for a while." Frank nodded absently, trying to figure out what moves they could make.
Warn Walker? But it was obvious. That Walker knew of the danger; that was why Fenton Hardy was working so hard. Walker wouldn't pullout of the rally because of a terrorist. It would destroy his whole campaign.
And who else would believe Frank and Joe without proof? Frank could imagine what the FBI would say. "Whatsamatter, kid? Watching too many spy movies?"
"I wonder if we made a call to England . . ." Frank wondered out loud.
"You mean Sir Nigel?" said Joe.
"Bad idea." Frank shook his head. "Did you happen to get his phone number? I don’t think he answers casual phone calls. We'd have to work our way up through the bureaucracy. And by the time we did that - "
"Time!" Joe burst out, pounding into the back seat again. "We don't have time!" "Hey!" Callie switched off the radio. "What are you doing back there? Trying to punch through to my trunk?"
"Sorry, Callie," Joe apologized. “I’m going a little crazy. I don't know what I'm doing." He stared at Frank. "Or what we're going to do." "I know what we're going to do." Frank came to a decision. "If the cops aren't going to investigate the mall, we will." "Great!" said Callie. "When do we start?"
"Hey, wait a minute," said Joe. "He didn't mean you. He was talking to me." Callie hit the brakes and pulled to the side of the road. "Well, he meant me, too, unless you want to walk the last couple of miles into town." "But this is going to be dangerous," Joe said. "And you're a girl." "Gee, it's too bad that guy didn't try to run you down, Joe," Callie said. "He'd have wrecked his car on that thick head of yours." "Callie-" Frank began. "Are you going to start this 'poor, helpless female' stuff too?" she demanded. "I'll take that from Mr. Macho back there, but not from you. Look," she said, drawing in a shaky breath, "Iola was my friend, too. And I'm going to help. You might as well get used to that." Frank and Joe looked at each other. "She's got a point," Frank said.
"Okay," Joe finally agreed. "I just hope you don't regret it," he said to Callie.
"We've got a whole mall to search. Who else do you think should be in on this?" Frank asked.
Joe thought for a moment. "Chet Morton. He deserves the chance." "And one more person-Tony Prito. He knows the mall, and," - Frank smiled - "there are other reasons. Okay." He turned to Callie. "We meet at your house, one O'clock tomorrow . You call Chet and Tony."
"You're turning me into your secretary now?" Callie asked.
"We don't know who might be listening in on the phone in my house," Frank explained. "And right now you've got an even more important job.” "Yeah?" said Callie. "What's that?" "Chauffeur," said Frank. "I'd like to get home. I'm beat."
The sun shone brightly on Callie Shaw's yard the next afternoon. But Frank and Joe Hardy moved slowly, their eyes heavy.
"I thought you were going to sleep last night," Callie said, looking at Frank.
"I was. But Joe insisted that we sleep in shifts, keeping an eye out for Assassins." He yawned. "I got eight hours of sleep in two four-hour clumps, with four hours of guard duty in between. "
"Well, we're still alive," Joe said, also yawning. "Yeah," Frank replied. "Barely."
The others who had been called to the meeting arrived together. As they came through the door, Joe found that he couldn't look Chet Morton in the eyes. Chet stood in silence, running his fingers through his curly brown hair. "Joe," he finally said, his round face serious, "I had a long talk on the phone with Callie last night. She told me a lot of the story. That's why I'm here. If you guys think the killer is in the mall, I want to help." Joe still didn't look up.
"And I want to say ... I don't blame you for anything, Joe. Who could expect terrorists in little old Bayport? But we're going to get this guy, right?"
At last, Joe looked at Chet. "Yeah. We're going to get him."
"So what's the plan, Frank?" Tony Prito asked. "Callie said you especially needed me."
"It won't work without you, Tony," Frank said. "We need to search the mall, and we can't do it during shopping hours. We need your help and Mr. Pizza's. You're the manager, right? Here's what I've got in mind. . . ."
That night, Mr. Pizza was really jumping. Hundreds of kids were hanging out at the mall or heading over to the six-plex movies. And every single one of them seemed to want a slice of pizza.
"Look at that crowd," Callie said to Joe Hardy as she sipped a Diet Coke. "How is Frank going to get past them?" "We'll see in a second," he answered.
As Frank approached the counter, Tony Prito swung the entrance open for him. Frank stepped into the workspace, right past Chet Morton, who was ordering a slice with the works. Chet didn't even give him a second glance. "One in. You're next," Joe said.
"Let's give it a couple of minutes," Callie replied. She waited awhile, then worked her way to the fringes of the crowd, aiming for an inconspicuous door off to one side of the restaurants. She leaned against it, hiding one hand with her body, and rapped her knuckles against the cold steel.
Immediately, the door gave way behind her back. Callie slipped in and found Frank standing on the other side. He gave her a quick hug.
"I don't know what it is with you. As soon as you're in a dark place, you get romantic," Callie whispered.
"Romance is wherever you find it," Frank whispered back, looking down the dingy corridor.
Before Callie could answer, another knock came at the door. Chet entered, still eating his slice of pizza.
"Greedy," Callie said. "I thought you'd at least bring some for us." "Couldn't," Chet said, chewing. "Would have looked suspicious." "What a detective," Frank commented.
Another knock on the door, and Joe was let in. "We're all together. Okay, let's go." Frank led the way down the corridor, passing locked doors. "These are the back entrances to all the mall restaurants," he said. "And this one," - he stopped by a door that was ajar - "is Mr. Pizza.'.
They stepped through the door.
'Charming," Callie remarked, looking around the restaurant storeroom.
"Make yourselves comfortable," Frank said. 'We're here until the mall closes."
Time passed slowly in the shadowy room. Gradually the Hardy boys and their friends noticed that less and less noise came from the restaurant outside. They ducked behind a stack of crates as they heard Tony overseeing the cleanup. Then all was quiet.
"Tony's supposed to let people see him leaving," Frank explained quietly. "Then he's got to sneak back in."
Five minutes later, they heard the rattle of keys at the storeroom door. "Hi, guys," said Tony, strolling in. "I just made it back here before they locked everything up. The security guy was getting ready to let the guard dogs loose."
"Guard dogs?" Chet said, turning to Frank. "I hope you thought of them."
"All taken care of," Frank said, lifting a gym bag from a pile of tomato-sauce cans.
"What have you got in there, knockout meatballs?" Tony asked.
"Better than that." Frank pulled a sleek metal pistol from the bag.
"Guns!" Callie exclaimed. "You expect us to shoot?"
"Dart guns," Frank explained. "I got the idea from the guys who tried to shoot us the last time we were here." He demonstrated opening the gun, inserting a dart, and snapping the pistol together again. "That will put a dog to sleep for hours-with no ill effects. I had to call in quite a few favors at the zoo and the university to get hold of these, but there's one for each of us."
He passed out the pistols and watched as everyone loaded up. "Here are your flashlights." He smiled tightly. "Well, we're as ready as we'll ever be."
Frank led the others down the corridor. They switched on their lights and opened the metal door. Before them was the food level, the restaurants closed up behind iron gates, the chairs upside down on the tables. The air smelled of old grease and cleaning ammonia. The flashlights barely lit the far walls. The mall was murkily dark and intensely quiet.
"Tony, do you have any idea where those dogs might be?" Frank's voice was hushed in the vast empty space.
"The guy usually lets them loose on the first shopping level. Where they wander after that. . ." Tony shrugged. "It's anybody's guess."
"Upstairs, then. I want to take care of them first. "
Tony led the way up a set of service steps. "This is the quickest way. They turn off the elevators and escalators," he explained.
They emerged on the first floor of stores, straining their ears for the clicking of claws on tile, the first hint that the dogs might be in the area.
The stores upstairs were also locked behind metal grilles. "No dogs in there," Joe said, flashing his light into a tie store.
"Guys!" Callie's voice hissed. She'd stepped out onto the circular promenade that overlooked the central well.