Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
“I guess there's no chance of that now,” Joe said.
“Are you so sure he's gone?” Sara asked.
“I saw his yachtâ” Joe said.
“But you didn't see him
the yacht, right?” Sara interrupted. “That's why I came around here today. I needed to hear if he was on the yacht from an eyewitness. Did any of you actually see him on the
All the boys had to admit they hadn't.
“So you think he wasn't on that yacht when it went up?” Joe asked.
“I'm saying it happened at an interesting time,” Sara replied. “It was just after the feds raided his office and found that millions of dollars were missing.”
Chet laughed. “You think Pete has a treasure chest full of hundred-dollar bills?”
“Maybe a briefcase full of thousand-euro notes,” Sara replied. “There are also smaller, more valuable items that you could fit in a lunch bag. If I could find where he stashed his loot, I could really hurt him.”
Frank raised an eyebrow. “Another reason for the film scam and getting aboard his yacht.”
“It seemed like the obvious place to look,” Sara said in her defense. “At least till it blew up. I've
tried looking around out here, but this site is too big. Can you guys suggest any places where Pete spent a lot of time?”
“The mobile office for Matling Construction,” Chet answered promptly. “That's where he usually was.”
“An office?” Sara looked doubtful. “Seems like there'd be an awful lot of people going in and out.”
“Yeah, but it's a whole trailer,” Chet said.
“One that could be wheeled out of here at any moment,” Frank noted.
“But it's still here now,” Mrs. Buckmaster said. “I guess it's worth checking out.”
“That won't be so easy,” Frank said. “It's sure to be locked.”
Joe grinned. “We could take a look at it, see what we could do.”
“Technically it wouldn't be breaking and entering,” Sara said. “We're trying to recover stolen property.”
Frank wasn't convinced of that, but he went along with the others as they headed for the Matling trailer.
Joe examined the lock. “Not too easy, but not impossible,” he announced, taking some small tools from a case. It required a little work, but soon the door was unlocked and swung open.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Frank said, but he followed the others into the trailer. The interior was pretty crowded, with two desks, filing cabinets, a pair of computer terminals, and chairs for meetings.
“Briefcases!” Chet announced, pointing to a rack with several bags.
“Kind of out in the open for hidden millions,” Joe said. He picked one up. “This one isn't even locked.”
They checked all the briefcases but didn't find any money. No other suspicious cases turned up, although they searched pretty thoroughly.
Sara crawled out from under one of the desks and brushed off her knees. “A bag of gemstones would take up a lot less room,” she said. That set them off on a new search for nooks and crannies. They found a lot of dust, several lost pens, and someone's secret stash of candyâbut no secret fortune.
“This is getting us nowhere.” Mrs. Buckmaster finally had to admit. She bit her lip in frustration.
“Maybe he really did feel like he just messed up and couldn't bear to face the consequences,” Frank said.
“You wouldn't say that if you really knew him,” she replied. “He always planned ahead. When we
broke up, he had a whole program laid out to get me out of his life.”
“Which didn't exactly work,” Frank replied.
Sara Buckmaster's face tightened. “It came close enough.”
She turned away and looked blindly out the window of the trailer. “I can't shake the feeling that he's out there somewhere, laughing, waiting for things to die down a little before he picks up his ill-gotten gains and disappears into the world again.”
Frank stood beside her. “You might believe thatâ”
He broke off, staring at the last thing he expected to see on the abandoned construction site: the beam of a flashlight, coming from the gate!
Joe stepped over to the window to see what Frank was looking at. “Speak of the devil?” he whispered. The oncoming gleam vanished for a moment, hidden by the bulk of one of the trailers. When it reappeared, the light had split in two. To judge from the way the beams bobbled over the rough ground, there had to be two intruders.
Pete,” Sara Buckmaster muttered, “who's with him?”
As the lights came nearer, they heard a familiar pair of voices arguing.
“So, dude, if we're going for a big payday, why not try for the whole enchilada?”
Hal Preston's drawl was unmistakable, and a second later the boys heard Andy Slack's voice. “Well, duh, there's only two of us and three boats. Besides, it would be harder to sell that big Chris-Craft. The jet boat, though, that'll go fast.”
“Yeah, but think of those wannabes standing on the dock,” Hal said. “That Melanie chick going, âZack, man, our fleet is gone!'”
“Melody,” Andy said with a laugh. “Yeah. Snob-girl Willow will eat Zack alive if anything happens to Daddy's boat.”
The pair continued their banter until they were right outside the trailer.
“We can't let them do this,” Frank said.
“We don't have to get involved.” Sara reached into her jacket pocket. “I've got a cell phone. We can call the harbor policeâ”
But Joe was already opening the door. “Yo, dudes,” he said, “why don't you just head home and chill?”
Andy shook his head. “That Zack guy needs a lesson. He dumped all over my ideas, wouldn't listen. He's got money, and he won't share.”
Hal gave the boys and Mrs. Buckmaster a puzzled look. “So, what are you doing here? You going for a payday of your own?”
Frank now stood on the wooden stairs leading to
the trailer door. He was soon joined by a reluctant Chet and an even more reluctant Sara.
“This is Mrs. Buckmaster,” Joe said. “We're trying to help her find something that belonged to her husband.”
Andy responded with a nasty laugh. “Big rich guy, lots of big talk. âMaybe I'll help with this film.' âMove my swimming pools over there.' And he was really broke all along!”
“Look.” Frank impatiently came down the stairs to stand in front of Andy. “Whatever you were going to do isn't going to happen now, because you've got an audience. Why don't youâ”
get out of our way?” Andy had worked himself into a rage. His hand went to his belt. A second later the flashlight beams were reflected in a long fisherman's knife.
“Move it,” Andy demanded, “or I'll gut you like a fish!”
“Great,” Joe mumbled, jumping down to the ground. Chet slowly started walking down the stairs.
In a move almost too quick to follow, Frank's hand fastened on Slack's wrist. He hauled Andy's arm out straight and pivoted, twisting and applying pressure with his other hand.
Andy yelled with pain. His hand twitched, and the knife went flying to the ground.
“Martial Arts 101,” Frank said, pushing him away. “How to deal with loudmouths waving knives.”
Andy might have lost his weapon, but he was still furious. Roaring, he hurled himself at Frank. Hal followed suit.
Joe flung himself forward and tackled Hal. Andy's friend went down, but on his way he managed to clip Joe. Hal quickly got to his feet and threw a punch at Chet.
Bad move. Chet was a peaceful guy, but he knew how to fight when he had to. He hunched, taking Hal's wild swing on the shoulder. His counterpunch caught Hal in the gut and folded him in half. By then Joe was on his feet, and he grabbed Hal's arm and twisted it behind him. Andy Slack still lay on the ground, thanks to Frank's martial arts expertise. The fight was really just about over when a pistol shot rang out.
All the boys whirled around to see a white-faced Sara. Standing behind her, holding a pistol to her head, was Peter Buckmaster!
“That was just to let you know I've got a gun,” he said.
And a hostage,
“So why don't you all be smart and get on the ground? Sit on your hands.”
Everyone followed Buckmaster's instructions.
Frank knew how hard it would be for him to get quickly to his feet from this position.
“Very good,” Buckmaster said. “Some of you don't seem all that surprised to see me. I'll bet I have Sara to thank for that. She always had a suspicious mind.”
“I wonder why,” Joe replied sacastically. “What are you going to do now? You can't keep us here forever.”
“Hey, Mr. Buck
Hal and I will help you out,” Andy Slack suddenly said. “We're capitalists, just like you, only on a smaller scale.”
“Interesting,” Buckmaster said. “Why don't you go find some rope?”
Andy came back with a coil of rope and began tying together each person's ankles and wrists. He jerked on the ropes that restrained Frank. Very soon the older Hardy began to lose feeling in his hands.
“Your friend too,” Buckmaster said after Andy had finished with the Hardys and Chet. Andy followed Buckmaster's instructions.
“And now my wife, just the wrists.”
Frank could only watch as Andy bound Sara Buckmaster as well.
“Good job.” Their captor reached into his pocket and pulled out a large roll of bills. Andy stared at the money greedily, never noticing the pistol
swinging around. It caught him in the side of the head. He went down like a sack of potatoes.
Buckmaster tied up the unconscious Andy. “Not a very professional job, but it'll have to do. Now you know the first two rules of successful capitalism: Never do anything you can get someone else to do, and never pay for anything unless you have to.”
“You still won't get away with this,” Joe growled.
“I have so far,” Buckmaster said coolly. He held up a fat leather bag. “Top-quality gems,” he announced. “My rainy day fund. When I realized I'd have to sacrifice the
I stashed it in the foundation of the house.”
He shook his head. “And when I come to pick it up, what do I find but a bunch of boys fighting? With my dear wife as the audience! Sara will come along with meâat least for the first leg of the trip.”
Frank didn't like the sound of that. “What good will that do you?” he asked. “You might have pulled off this whole operation if everyone thought you were dead. But your secret is out now.”
“Who's going to believe a bunch of kids?” Buckmaster's laugh was like a snarl. “What proof do you have? Sara might have been able to convince people. That's why she's coming with me.”
Pete Buckmaster began pulling his bound wife toward the stairway to the docks.
As soon as he turned his back on the boys, Frank and Joe began desperately trying to loosen their bonds, but Andy's knots held.
Of course he had to get a fisherman's kid to do the job,
Frank thought bitterly.
No matter how Frank and Joe flexed and twisted, the ropes remained tight. They were beginning to lose all circulation in their hands and feet.
A strange scraping sound caught Frank's attention. He turned to see Chet bunch up his legs and push his body across the ground. Chet repeated this wormlike motion again and then again.
“What are you doing?” Frank asked. “Trying to scrape the ropes off?”
Chet shook his head. “I'm lookingâ”
He let out a sudden yell of pain. “Ow! I found it.”
“What?” Joe asked.
“Andy's knife,” Chet replied. “I thought it wound up over here, and I was right. It just stuck me in the rear.”
While Chet squirmed around, trying to grasp the knife without being stuck by the blade again, Joe and Frank wormed their way over to their friend.
“How are your hands?” Frank asked.
“I stopped feeling them about halfway over here,” Joe answered.
“He really went to town on mine,” Frank told Joe. “How about you, Chet?”
“Pins and needles, but I can still move them. Ha! Got it!” Chet twisted around. “Now what do I do with it?”
“We move back to back, and then you try to cut me loose,” Frank replied.
Joe had often tried to cut somebody's ropes with
his own hands tied behind his back. It was difficult enough with practice, but this was Chet's first time. “Just try not to cut Frank,” Joe said, trying to help.
“Yeah,” Chet said, trying to look over his shoulder.
With a lot of contortions, a few yells, and a brief delay when he lost the knife, Chet worked and worked. Finally, with a triumphant cry, Frank tore his hands free.
He winced as he rubbed some life into his blood-starved hands. Then he leaned over, took the knife, and cut the ropes around his ankles. Frank then turned to Joe.
“Hey!” Chet exclaimed.
“His hands are almost as bad as mine,” Frank said, cutting the bonds on Joe's wrists. He turned to Chet and cut him loose before cutting Joe's ankle ropes.
Hal Preston twisted around on the ground, looking up at Frank. “How about me?”
“I'm tempted to leave you here with your snoozing buddy,” Frank said.
At that moment Andy gave a low groan. “Whaâ”
Frowning, Frank cut the foot restraints on both of them. “I'm leaving your hands tied for now, but come with us,” he said.
The boys rushed down the stairs to the docks,
although they knew there was no hope of catching Buckmaster. While Chet had been getting the knife positioned on Frank's ropes, the sound of an engine had come up from the bay.
Still, they had to try.