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Authors: Franklin W. Dixon

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BOOK: Hide-and-Sneak
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Joe sped up the boat again. At the last moment he jerked the
Sleuth
aside. The island rock whipped past on their left. “Hope they weren't just concentrating on us,” Joe said smugly. “Otherwise we may have a rescue on our hands.”

“They came around it,” Frank reported, “and they're closing the gap.”

“Oh, yeah? Let's see how they like this.” Joe sent the boat on a zigzag course. The powerful engines
churned the water, leaving a huge white wake in their trail. Following them, the jet boat kept hitting the big, man-made waves. Joe grinned. “Maybe they'll get tired of having us continually slap their faces with water.”

But the “babe boat” continued on their trail in spite of every one of Joe's maneuvers. The far shore of the bay was coming into view now. They were getting close to Shipwreck Cove.

“These girls just can't take a hint,” Joe said. “Hang on, everyone,” he yelled, spinning the wheel. The
Sleuth
swung in a tight circle until it was facing the other vessel. “Maybe a quick game of chicken will get the message across.”

Joe's hand went for the throttle. Before he could turn up the boat's speed, the shrill whoop of a siren cut across the water.

5 The Long Arm of the Law

“Heave to!” an annoyed voice ordered over a loudspeaker.

Startled, Frank Hardy swung the binoculars around. He and Chet had been so busy watching the pursuing jet boat they hadn't bothered to look elsewhere.

As Joe killed the
Sleuth
's engines, Frank thought:
Bad mistake.
The harbor police boat closed in on them.

“Busted,” Chet muttered.

On land the Hardys had a solid history with the Bayport police. In fact, Frank and Joe counted one officer, Con Riley, as a friend. One look at the grim, sunburned face of the officer climbing aboard, and
Frank figured that his past friendships with local officers wouldn't count for much.

“That was quite a show you put on,” the officer said admiringly to Joe. “Very impressive stunts. What are you doing, making a movie?”

“Actually—” Sprock Kerwin started.

The cop cut him off with a glare. “Turn the camera off, son.”

The student filmmaker did as he was told.

“You were operating this vessel at an excessive speed,” the officer said, “not to mention recklessly disregarding the rights of other boaters in the area.”

That was the moment the girls chose to drift by in their boat at a sedate pace. Frank was glad that their engines drowned out the girls' mocking giggles.

Still glaring at Joe, the officer didn't even seem to notice Willow, Trisha, and Christy. “Hmm,” he said. “Considering that recklessness, I wouldn't be surprised if you'd forgotten several items for your own safety.”

The harbor cop produced a piece of paper. “What do you say we just run down this little checklist, just to see?”

If the
Sleuth
was missing one item on the harbor police list, it would mean a ticket and a fine.

Frank had taken a lot of kidding from Joe and
Chet about getting the
Sleuth
completely ready. Now, he hoped his attention to the safety checklist was going to pay off.

“Considering it's your movie,” Chet whispered to Sprock Kerwin, “would you guys pay for the violation?”

Sprock shook his head. “With the tight budget Ms. Athelney's got us on, I don't know where we'd find the money.”

So far the harbor cop hadn't found a violation. He squinted. “I see you have four people aboard, all wearing life jackets.”

Joe nodded. That was the law after all.

“But this boat can hold six passengers,” the patrolman said triumphantly. “Where are the other two life jackets?”

Frank thought the officer was reaching a little. But the law was the law, and Frank had prepared for it.

“Right here, Officer.” He reached into a storage space under one of the seats and pulled out two inflatable life vests.

“Hmm.” If the cop's face hadn't been already sunburned, it would have probably turned beet red at this discovery.

The officer pressed on with his list. It wasn't just that the cop was supercareful; he was super
slow.
Long minutes crawled by as he searched for someplace where they'd come up short.

“I wonder what Willow and her gal pals are up to now,” Frank said as the cop inspected the rest of the boat.

Apparently Chet was thinking the same thing. He stepped around the harbor patrolman, to pick up the binoculars and turned them toward the shore.

Frank managed to intercept him. “I don't think the officer's mood would improve if he thought we were girl watching,” he said in a low voice.

Chet blushed until he was almost as red as the cop.

At last the harbor cop reached the end of his list. The
Sleuth
had turned out to be fully stocked with safety equipment. He had no reason to issue a ticket.

That didn't stop him from giving them a stern, and long, lecture on safety. Joe listened with downcast eyes. Frank thought his brother was probably annoyed with himself for his stunt sailing—or for getting caught.

At last the harbor patrolman finished. “I hope you'll show better judgment in the future,” he said. “By way of encouragement, you might remember that we'll be keeping an eye on you.” He glared at the four boys. “Understand?”

“Yes, sir,” they mumbled.

“Good.” The officer got back on the patrol boat, swung it around, and pulled away.

“Hey, look,” Frank said, nodding toward the cop. He could see the red-faced officer aiming a pair of binoculars at them.

At last the cop turned away. Chet snatched up the binoculars and scanned the shore. “I don't see—wait! There's a big hole in the sand!”

“Forget the beach,” Joe said. “Check that out.” He pointed to a small boat.

A girl in shorts and a T-shirt—she looked like Melody Litovsky—was standing on the bow of the jet boat, filming. The other three girls were clustered in the rear of the vessel, struggling to get something stowed behind a pair of seats.

“Three guesses what that could be,” Sprock Kerwin said, nodding toward the girls. He too was operating his camera. Now he turned it on the boys. “What now, gentlemen?”

“I'll bet they've got the McGuffin,” Frank said slowly, “but that doesn't mean they get to keep it.”

Chet blinked. “What do you mean?”

“He means we can do what they intended,” Joe replied. “They were going to let us dig the thing up, then tag us.”

Frank nodded, heading for the wheel. “There's only one channel in or out of the cove, remember?
That's why there are so many wrecks. Well, I'm going to plant us right in the middle of their only way out.” He carefully consulted the chart so that he would avoid the dangerous sandbanks.

Chet grinned. “With us blocking the way out, they'll have no choice but to turn over the McGuffin.”

Still busy with their lopsided metal prize, the girls didn't even notice the boys' boat.

Melody finally turned, still filming. She suddenly swung the camera toward the girls, giving them a warning.

The McGuffin got one final kick from Willow before she and her friends dashed for their seats. Willow cranked up the boat's engine, a little too quickly, Frank thought. The engine sputtered for a moment before it caught. With Melody crouched in the tanning pit in the nose, the jet boat took off.

Frank's hand automatically dropped to the throttle. He was ready to move the
Sleuth
to cut them off in the channel.

But the girls didn't aim for the channel. They went straight for one of the sandbars!

“Get some ropes!” Joe looked torn between worry and annoyance. “We're going to be pulling them out of the water.”

“Where was that medical chest again?” Chet asked.

Frank focused his binoculars on the speeding boat.
It's like watching a car accident happen,
he thought.

Just then the prow of the jet boat hit the sandbar, throwing up a huge spray. The vessel jarred up, shot across the barrier, and landed in deeper water with a splash.

Through his binoculars Frank got a clear view of the rear end of the flying boat. The impeller, the part of the engine that provided the thrust for the boat, stuck straight out of the stern.

Unlike the
Sleuth,
the jet boat had no propellers sticking down, nothing to catch on the sand. The bigger Chris-Craft would get caught on the sand, but clearly, the girls' boat wouldn't.

Trisha stood up to wave good-bye as the “babe boat” took off. Sighing, Frank put down the binoculars and began backing through the channel.

“Hey!” Chet exclaimed. “They're coming back!”

Frank killed the throttle and turned around. Joe, Chet, and Sprock all were in the stern of the boat, staring ahead. Willow Sumner was looping her jet boat around. The boat seemed aimed right at the
Sleuth.

“What's she doing?” Chet asked in disbelief. “Playing chicken?”

“Not quite,” Frank replied. “I think this is payback for Joe's throwing them our wake before. Now they're going to zoom past and splash us.”

The jet boat was moving fast enough to raise a white rooster tail of water in its wake.

“We're gonna get soaked,” Chet said.

The jet boat was close enough now that they could see Willow Sumner's pretty yet gloating face.

“She's cutting this awfully close,” Frank said with concern.

Christy O'Hara must have thought so too. She looked worried and started to say something to Willow, but the helmswoman turned and shot her what seemed like an angry reply. Unfortunately, her jerky movement made the wheel on the girls' boat turn slightly. Willow whipped around, so the boys could see that her face had become a mask of horror.

Now the jet boat wasn't going to splash past. It was going to crash right into the rear of the
Sleuth
!

6 Going Up?

Joe Hardy made a desperate dash for the
Sleuth
's controls, but Frank was already there. “Don't stall on us now,” Frank muttered, gripping the throttle and pushing it forward. The engines roared into life beneath the deck, sending the boat flying forward.

Joe staggered, and Chet nearly fell, while the jet boat with the girls shot past, just inches from the
Sleuth
's stern. Joe turned back just in time to see the other boat fly by and to get a stinging spray of water in the face. He shook his head to clear his eyes.

Chet, equally drenched, stood beside him. “I don't mind the water,” he said, “but they didn't even say sorry for almost crashing into us.
Where're the harbor police when you really need them?”

With a snarl of disgust, he shook the water off the binoculars.

Sprock Kerwin had taken the spray on his back. He'd turned away to protect his camera.

“Didn't want to record the crash?” Joe said, trying to lighten the mood. “I hope you got a shot of Frank saving our sterns.”

“It will probably come out looking like a very chaotic, jumpy pan,” Kerwin said sourly. “Very unprofessional. I won't even know what I caught.”

Curiosity aroused, he took a laptop computer out of one of the storage lockers and connected the camera. While Frank navigated through the channel, turned the
Sleuth
around in the cove, and headed back into the bay, Kerwin rewound the camera and replayed the tape.

“Nothing,” Sprock reported after looking over the last shot. “Everything's just a blur on the tape. Nothing useful at all.”

“That's about what we've got,” Joe said, scanning the bay with the binoculars. “Willow and her buddies tore out of here. I was able to see what they were up to until one of those islands came between us.”

Frank immediately directed the boat toward the island Joe was talking about. It was one of the
larger ones in the bay, with plenty of bushes, and a grove of trees. Now that it was high tide, most of the island was under the water.

A quick circle around the island showed nothing, and there was no hint of a boat in the bay beyond.

“We'll have to go in closer and take a better look,” Frank said.

Joe got into the bow of the boat. “Plenty of rocks and driftwood around here. Better move carefully.”

He watched for obstructions while Frank brought the boat in as near to the island as possible. Sprock scanned the island with his camera, but Joe wouldn't trust him to say anything if he spotted the girls' boat. Why would he?

Frank seemed to have the same idea. “Take the binoculars, Chet,” he said. “We know they can get in closer than we can.”

This time they gave the shoreline a thorough going-over, paying special attention to areas where half-drowned shrubs or tree branches might provide hiding places.

“Nothing, zip,
nada.
” Chet shook his head. “So where did they go?”

Frank gestured across the water ahead of them. “There are other islands,” he said.

They spent the next couple of hours hunting for possible hiding spots around the nearby islands.
They saw lots of scraggy trees and waterlogged bushes, but not a hint of the vanished jet boat.

In fact the only other vessel they spotted was the harbor police boat. Frank throttled back the engines. “Even if we had a reason to go racing around, that boat's presence would stop us,” he said.

“Let's face it, guys,” Chet said. “We've been suckered. Those girls have gotten away.” A grin crept onto his face. “Unless, of course, Frank brought along some special emergency gear. What do you say, Frank? Have you got a hot-air balloon packed away under one of the seats? Or maybe the makings of a seaplane?”

“Just didn't think of it,” Frank responded with a laugh. He became more serious as he turned back the way they'd come. “I see one way we could get an aerial view, though.”

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