Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
“I still say we could have just tailed that loudmouth Zack. It would have saved us a lot of nonsense.” Joe squinted at the next sheet of paper. “Oh, great. It's marked âClues.'”
He began reading:
To find McGuffin, sail Barmet Bay.
Exactly where, we cannot say.
You'll know you've gotten where you oughta
All's quiet and dead in the water.
“Poetry?” Frank said in disbelief.
“Bad poetry too.” Joe handed over the sheet.
“I don't like that âdead in the water' part,” Chet said.
“Nowadays, when people say something's dead in the water, it usually doesn't happen,” Frank explained. “It's sailor's slang, an expression that describes when a ship's engines don't work or if there's no wind for the sails.”
“Well, I spent the whole afternoon tuning up our engines.” Joe laughed. “And when it comes to wind, the bay usually has more than people want.”
Frank and Chet nodded. Barmet Bay had a reputation for sudden squalls.
As if in answer, the breeze off the water began picking up. Most of the docked vessels around them were sailboats. Riggings began to clang against tall aluminum masts. The marina filled with an echoing, ghostly sound.
“We're going to get a great night's sleep with that racket,” Joe growled, grabbing the chart so it didn't blow away. Frank was still looking at the clue list.
You'll know exactly where to pick it,
A watery graveyardâthat's the ticket.
“More cheerful clues,” Chet said, furrowing his brow. He bent over the map. “You see any cemeteries down by the bay?”
“No, because your head is blocking the light!” Joe shifted the map. “Somehow a beach doesn't sound like a good place for a graveyard. One good storm could wash everything away.”
His finger went to an island at the mouth of the harbor. “But I think there's a grave here on Merriam Island. They buried the old lighthouse keeper out there. It was a story on the news awhile back.”
“We might be looking around the lighthouse,”
Frank said slowly, “but for a different reason. Some of those squiggles on the map look like sunken ships, don't they?”
“Yeah,” Joe said, squinting again. “There's a big cluster of them near the lighthouse. I guess that's why they built the thing.”
Chet nodded. “To warn people off Barmet Shoals.”
“Yeah. But there are rocks around the lighthouse too,” Joe said. “We almost tore the bottom off the
out there once.”
“It's not as bad as Cape Hatteras,” Frank said. “People called that the Graveyard of the Atlantic.”
“âA watery graveyard,'” Chet said.
Joe leaned forward. “Where a lot of people probably wound up âdead in the water.'” The pieces were fitting together.
“That gives us two possible, and fairly dangerous, places to go looking.” Frank cocked his head for a look at the map. “Any other places marked?”
“There are a couple here and there.” Chet bent over, his finger tracing along the map. “Whoa! Here's a whole crop of 'em!” Chet said.
Joe followed Chet's pointing finger. “âShipwreck Cove,'” he read. “Nice name. There are coves all along the shores of the bay. How did the channel here nail so many ships?”
Frank tapped the map. “The only safe way in is
this narrow channel. Sea captains would steer for what looked like a safe place to drop anchor. Instead they'd smash into these sandbanks.” He ran his finger along the shore. “Any other places like this?”
They scoured the map but found no more clumps of shipwreck symbols. “That leaves us three places to check tomorrow,” Frank said.
“As long as we don't wrack up the boat getting there.” Chet stretched to unkink his backâand froze.
“Uh, guys,” he said, his voice dropping to a hoarse whisper, “don't look now, but I think somebody's spying on us.”
“Don't be stuâ” Joe broke off as his eyes caught a hint of motion. He lowered his voice. “Hey, what's that? Two boats down, across the slip?”
Chet nodded, leaning over the map as if he were pointing something else out. “Thought I saw somebody ducking down.”
“Let's get a little closer and see.” Joe made a big production of stretching and yawning. “I think I'll go to the snack bar and grab a soda,” he said loudly. “You guys want anything?”
“I'll go with you,” Chet told him.
They swung over onto the dock, heading for shore and toward the boat where they'd spotted
the intruder. It was a good-size sailboat. Joe jumped up onto the deck.
Suddenly, a dark figure sprang to the stern of the boat standing alongside.
“Run ahead, cut him off!” Joe yelled to Chet, who was still scrambling aboard.
Thudding footsteps on the dock told Joe that his friend was on his way. Meanwhile Joe charged along the narrow deck, then leaped off the front of the boat.
His speed carried his body across the gap to the next vessel. He hit the deck, staggered, and continued his mad dash as the waves slapped between the two boats.
Joe couldn't make out the shadowy figure ahead. Whoever it was wore baggy clothes that blended in with the darkness, and some kind of hatâ
It was a baseball cap. Joe caught a glimpse of the visor as the intruder shot a glance over his shoulder.
Just then the spy tripped on something on the deck. While his running feet stumbled, Joe poured on the speed.
Chet must have seen what was happening too. “Hold it!” he yelled, rushing onto the deck.
His cry of triumph turned into a squawk as the staggering figure's knee connected with the side of his face. Chet tumbled sideways and landed in the water with a splash.
The intruder pulled himself together, swung down to the dock, and ran off at top speed.
Joe stopped at the prow of the boat, listening to his spluttering, splashing friend below. Sighing, he turned to find a rope.
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For about the fifth time Frank said, “I don't get it. What was this spy supposed to hear? The rattling from these masts would drown out our voices.”
Joe turned to Chet, who sat huddled in a blanket, sipping the cup of hot chocolate Frank had gotten for him. “You got pretty close to this character, Chet. Did you see who it was?”
Chet gave him a look. “All I saw was his knee. If I see it again, I'll definitely let you know.”
“Nothing at all?”
Chet's hand went up to massage his cheek. “It was bony.”
“Most knees are,” Frank said. “Okay, so you didn't see, or feel, much of anything. How about your other senses? Close your eyes and think back. Did you smell anything?”
“Not till I got really close to the water,” Chet answered.
“What was he supposed to smell on this guy?” Joe asked.
“For one thing, proof that maybe it wasn't a guy,” Frank replied. “For instance, your new best friend Trisha Eads wears a pretty strong perfume, as I'll bet you noticed.”
Joe was about to argue, but then he snapped his mouth shut. Could the intruder have been a girl? He tried to call up an image of the shadowy figure he'd pursued: baggy clothes, baseball capÂ .Â .Â .
“It could have been a girl,” he said.
“A nice, healthy chase would be just the thing to get us all off the
get aboard for a little sabotage,” Frank said.
“You've got a very twisted, untrusting mind, Frank,” Joe remarked. “Speaking of twists, remember what Zack said? To expect plot twists?”
“I didn't see any cameras,” Chet said.
“You're just hoping there weren't any cameras to catch your belly flop,” Joe told him.
“They didn't need to film anything,” Frank said slowly, shaking his head. “Just plant a seed in our minds for a payoff later.”
“You mean, someone might be playing with our heads,” Joe said angrily, “or setting us up?”
“Whatever our visitor was afterâsabotage or plot twistsâI think we shouldn't play his or her game.” Frank smiled. “Let's just keep this among the three of us and see what happens.” He yawned.
“Right now I want to turn inâunless you want to go looking for an all-night laundry to dry Chet's clothes.”
“Just spread âem out on the deck,” Chet said. “We're not leaving this boat.”
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By the time Sprock Kerwin arrived with his camera, the early-morning sun had dried Chet's jeans and sweatshirt. The young cameraman immediately began filming Chet as he was explaining the whole hide and sneak idea to a woman on a nearby boat.
The woman was sitting cross-legged, working to splice two pieces of rope together. As her fingers deftly wove the fibers together, she nodded, shaking her gray pigtails. Large sunglasses hid her eyes. Joe couldn't tell if she was really interested in what Chet was saying or if her eyes were glazing over with boredom.
Kerwin turned from the scene, a look of pleasant surprise on his face. “Your buddy did a good job of explaining the film.”
“Probably better than your pal Zack,” Joe said. “I'm surprised he didn't have you filming his little speech the other day.”
Sprock's face tightened. Joe had obviously hit a sore spot. “These cameras are the latest thing.” The
young filmmaker held out an amazingly compact little unit, changing the subject. “Easy to handle, supposedly easy to use. They'll work with whatever light is available.” He sighed. “I hear that even beginners can get good results out of them, and I hope it's true. Zack ordered the top of the line, but they had to be shipped here. We only got them this morning. I had to teach the others how to use the stupid things while I was learning myselfâ”
Kerwin bit off his words, looking at his watch. “Almost time to get this show on the road.” He aimed his camera at Frank and Joe. “I expect you've checked your packet and the map.”
“Yeah,” Joe said sarcastically. “I'm surprised you didn't draw a skull and crossbones in the corner.”
Sprock stopped the camera and grinned. “Zack wanted to, but Melody thought it was too much.”
Joe called Chet on board. Together they undid the lines holding the
to the dock.
Frank was already sitting behind the wheel. He put the key in the ignition and turned it slightly. The Chris-Craft's big engines beneath the deck throbbed to life.
Kerwin was already shooting film. “Just head out into the harbor,” he said.
As Frank steered the
out, Joe spotted two other boats leaving the dock. One was a working
fishing trawler, big and weather-beaten. The other was a very sporty jet boat, white with a bright red trim, and a folded-back red and white canopy.
“The competition, I take it,” Joe said, nodding toward the two boats.
Sprock Kerwin nodded, panning his camera to take in the oncoming boats. “You can slow down here,” he told Frank.
Seconds later the boats were in a ragged row just outside the marina.
Zack Harris clambered onto the deck of the fishing boat. He had his camera in one hand and one of those horns that work off cans of compressed air in the other.
“Ready!” he yelled across to the other boats. Sprock and Melody both were filming him. “Set!”
He raised the hand with the horn. It gave off an earsplitting blast.
Andy Slack's fishing boat took off so suddenly Zack staggered. For a second Joe thought the director was going to drop his camera in the water. Instead he lost the airhorn, letting go of it to clutch the side of the boat.
The trawler was on the rounded, tubby side, but it had good engines. They kicked up a white wake as Andy set a course for the mouth of the bay.
“Looks like he's heading for the lighthouse,” Frank said, squinting in the sun.
“Either there or the shoals.” Joe kept a careful eye on Sprock Kerwin as he spoke. But the cameraman kept a poker face as he continued to record what was going on.
“Maybe we should aim for a spot with less competition.” Frank steered deeper into the bay.
The water was a little choppy, and the boat bumped a bit. Chet carefully made his way to the prow of the
To Joe, Chet looked like a ship's figurehead.
Suddenly Kerwin swung the camera on Joe, so Joe figured he should look as if he were doing something. He picked up the pair of binoculars from beside Frank's seat. First he focused them on the rapidly shrinking trawler. As he started looking along the bay, he noticed another boat.
“We've got company,” Joe announced.
With that distinctive set of colors, there was no mistaking the jet boat. It might look like an expensive toy, but Joe knew it could move faster than it was going. He focused in a little closer. The three girls on the boat had life jackets onâwith additional fashion touches. Willow Sumner was acting captain. She wore an emerald green one-piece bathing suit that brought out the red in her hair. The blond girl, Christy O'Hara, wore a wild Hawaiian shirt as a cover-up. Trisha Eads was in a bright red bikini.
“We've got the âbabe boat' on our tail.”
“I thought that's what you liked,” Chet said, heading back to get a look. “Pretty girls in bathing suits.”
“They're even chasing after you,” Frank said.
“Guess they might figure on letting us do the dirty work of digging up the McGuffin, then stealing it from under us.” Joe walked over to Frank's seat. “Let me take a crack at losing them.”
Frank got up and let Joe take command of the boat. As soon as Joe was behind the wheel, he pushed up the throttle.
“They're speeding up too,” Chet said. “Guess they know they've been busted.”
“Bring 'em on,” Joe growled. Gripping the wheel, he began easing the
through the water until it was headed directly for a small island. Actually this was more like a muddy rock with a couple of stunted trees growing out of it than an island.