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Authors: Franklin W. Dixon

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BOOK: Hide-and-Sneak
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8 Abandoned Ship?

“Looks like this is where we live up to the title of your movie, Sprock,” Frank said coyly. “
Hide-and-Sneak.
Brace yourselves, guys.” Frank pushed the throttle forward.

The engines bellowed in response, and the
Sleuth
shot forward, leaving the fishing trawler behind.

The mouth of the cove where the girls' boat had been stranded was still ahead of them. As if on cue, the red and white jet boat appeared. It immediately began charging toward the
Sleuth.

Frank veered away. In a straight-out race, he'd still bet on his Chris-Craft, but in the confined waters of the bay the jet boat was more agile. It
could cut tight corners and go closer to the islands than larger boats. The jet boat continued to speed toward the boys.

Can't outrun them, so
we've got to lose them,
Frank told himself.

An island rose in front of them. Frank steered around it, then changed course, aiming for another island.

He managed to get the new island behind him before the jet boat cleared the first one. The roar of the other engine checked for a moment, then started again.

Joe handed the binoculars to Chet. “Let us know whenever you see one of the other boats. If we see them, they'll probably see us.”

Joe knelt beside Frank, spreading out the chart of the bay. “There're a bunch of little islands coming up on your left,” he said.

Frank steered left, but the “islands” were a disappointment. They had just a few straggling bushes. No trees, nothing that would really block the other teams' sight lines.

If one of the other boats came along now,
we'd be spotted,
Frank thought.

“Go on through,” Joe said, rattling the map. “There should be bigger islands a little farther along.”

“There's only one problem with going this way,”
Frank replied. “Sooner or later we're going to run out of bay.”

“I see Andy's boat,” Chet suddenly said. “And wait, they're turning.”

Frank kept their boat on course to the bigger islands Joe had mentioned. He swung the boat around to hide behind the first island he found, and killed the throttle. “Okay. They won't be able to see us for a moment or two,” he said, reaching for the map. “Let's see—”

The roar of the jet boat's engine was coming clearly from the other side of the island.

They're able to get closer in than we can,
Frank reminded himself. He hit the throttle, spinning the wheel.

They darted back and forth among the islands. Some were large, some small. It was like some sort of nightmare geometry test, a constantly shifting set of triangles. Every time Frank managed to ditch one boat, he wound up being spotted by the other.

Twice he tried to turn around and head back up the bay. Both times Andy cut him off.

That guy may not have the fastest boat in the world, but he sure knows how to handle it,
Frank thought.

On the other hand, Willow Sumner kept appearing from places she really shouldn't have been able to
reach. She was getting pretty reckless, obviously determined to get revenge for Joe's trick with her anchor.

By the time she tags us and takes McGuffin, Andy will be close enough to tag
her
and take it,
Frank thought. Still, he didn't want to give up and meekly hand the prize over.

Frank pulled behind yet another island, the last in the area. The next stretch of the bay was just open water.

“Take the binoculars and see if you can spot any other traffic,” Frank told Joe.

A second later Joe was back. “We've got two boats,” he reported. “Off to the left is the tourist ferry, heading back to the Bayport docks.”

Then he pointed almost straight ahead. “There's a good-size yacht out there. I can't figure out if it's anchored or just lazing along.”

“So,” Frank said, “two possible hiding places. One moving toward Bayport, the other standing still—or close to it.”

He glanced at Joe. “Which would you choose?”

“The moving one,” Joe answered promptly.

“Hmm. I think we should go for the other.” Frank started the engines again. “Sprock,” he called over his shoulder, “another rules question.”

The cameraman came forward, still shooting the action. “What's up?”

“We've got a yacht ahead of us. It's big enough to hide behind. Can I put a lookout aboard it so we can see if it's safe to sneak back into this maze of islands?”

Sprock thought for a moment. “At the risk of sounding as though I'm taking sides . . . why not?”

The ship ahead slowly came into better view. It was a nice-size cabin cruiser, painted a perfect white.

Joe whistled. “That little toy cost quite a bit of money.” He grinned at Frank. “Can you imagine how many little jobs we'd have to take to afford a boat like that?”

“By the time we got that much money, we'd be too old to run the boat,” Frank replied with a laugh.

As they swung around the vessel's stern, they found a painting of a pirate flag: white skull and crossbones on a black background. Beside it large black letters announced the ship's name,
Jolly Roger.

“Nice name,” Joe said. “I hope that doesn't mean we're going to be boarded by pirates.”


We're
going to board
them
—I hope.” Frank reversed the engines and brought the
Sleuth
to a stop.

“Hello?” he called out.

No answer.

Frank tried again. “Ahoy,
Jolly Roger
!” He smiled at Joe. “Does that sound as corny as I think it does?”

Joe shrugged. “Doesn't matter. They're not answering anyway.”

“Maybe something's wrong.” Chet came forward and pointed to the rope ladder hanging from the yacht's side. “I'll go check.”

Chet's just trying to grab the spotlight,
Frank thought. Then he shrugged. That was why they'd let Chet talk them into this whole crazy venture; so he could have his moment of film glory.

“Knock yourself out, Chet,” he said.

A couple of quick maneuvers with the throttle and the wheel, and Frank pulled the
Sleuth
to within grabbing distance of the rope ladder. Chet kept a determined look on his face as he seized the ladder. Then he almost fell into the water.

While Sprock filmed Chet's climb, Frank and Joe kept their comments to themselves. Their pal had another moment of trouble pulling himself onto the yacht's deck. A moment or two later his head popped over the gunwale.

“There's nobody here,” Chet called down. “There're all sorts of fancy computer controls. They seem to say the boat is just drifting.”

Frank and Joe exchanged a look.

“I'll go check it out,” Joe said.

Frank swung past the rope ladder again, and Joe began hauling himself up. He climbed much faster than Chet and swung himself aboard.

In a few minutes he reported back. “The cabins are empty, and it looks as though this sucker slipped its anchor. Weird.”

His eyebrows drew together. “Hey, Sprock! Is this one of those plot twists Zack promised us?”

Kerwin gave a quick laugh. “I wish.”

Joe shrugged. “Maybe we should change the name from the
Jolly Roger
to the
Marie Celeste.

Sprock looked confused. “The who?”

“I guess you're not the biggest nautical trivia fan,” Frank said with a grin.

Kerwin shook his head. “Neither was Zack, until that businesswoman began talking about the romance of the sea. Poor Melody wound up doing this whole pile of research so Zack could impress Ms. Athelney.”

Sprock bit his lip.

I'll bet he feels he's giving too many inside secrets away,
Frank figured. He decided to change the subject.

“The
Marie
or
Mary Celeste
is one of the great mystery ships of sailing history,” Frank told Kerwin. “A merchant ship found it drifting along. All the crew and passengers were gone. There was a small,
half-eaten meal on the table.” He paused for a moment, then added, “We'll call this in to the harbor police—after we get away from here.”

Frank called up to his teammates on board the
Jolly Roger,
“Come on back. Let's haul out—”

He was cut off by the whoop of a siren.

Oh, great,
Frank thought.
Perfect time for the harbor police to catch up with us.

9 The Financier

Chet Morton ran for the rope ladder. “We've got to get out of here!” he cried, panic in his voice.

Joe took his friend by the arm. “If they haven't spotted us already, the cops are sure to see us any second.”

He gave his pal a lopsided smile. “I'd rather explain what we were doing here than why we were running away. Besides, if we're lucky, this won't be our sunburned friend from yesterday.”

But luck wasn't on their side. The first face to appear over the rope ladder was sunburned and peeling.

Obviously the harbor patrolman had recognized
the
Sleuth.
His expression grew more grim as he got closer.

“We had a report that the owner of this vessel wasn't responding to calls.” The officer took Joe by the arm and began leading him toward the bow of the boat. “Can you tell us anything about that?”

Joe noticed that the cop's partner was questioning Chet, and taking him in the opposite direction—out of earshot. This was a typical police tactic, separating the suspects during questioning.

“Look, Officer”—Joe squinted to get a look at the nametag on the cop's blue windbreaker—“Nelson. We're working on a college film out here. Hoping to get a better view of the bay, we pulled up beside this yacht and called to the people on board. When we didn't get an answer, we figured we'd better check it out.”

“You didn't go into the cabins? You didn't touch anything?” Officer Nelson demanded.

Joe could feel the color rising in his own face. He fought down his anger before he said something stupid.

“Uh, Charlie?” The other officer interrupted. “Better take a look here. I brought this kid to the stern, and he spotted something in the water.”

Joe looked across the surface of the bay. What
was that bobbing there? A head?

Officer Nelson grabbed the mike to his radio and began giving directions to the police launch.

In very little time the officers took off. The deck of the
Jolly Roger
gave Joe and the others a perfect vantage point to watch the ensuing rescue operation. As the launch returned and moved in toward the yacht, the head looked up, and a pair of frantically waving arms appeared. One of the crewmen, carrying a line, dived in. A moment later the harbor patrol had the body out of the water.

Soon after that the rescued man stood wrapped in a police issue blanket on the deck of the
Jolly Roger.
Frank and Sprock Kerwin were also brought aboard. Sprock was of course filming everything.

The man was probably average height, but looked shorter thanks to his stocky build. With his brown hair plastered to his head by water, it was easy to see that he was beginning to go bald. He had a small snub nose and a strong chin.

What struck Joe, though, were the man's blue eyes. They were piercing and sharp.

The man abruptly stuck out his damp hand to shake with Joe. “Pete Buckmaster,” he said. “I understand I have to thank one of you young men for spotting me.”

Joe had to work to keep his jaw from dropping. Everyone had heard about Peter Buckmaster, Wall Street's latest big moneymaker; the man they nicknamed the Buckmeister and the Buccaneer.

“Joe Hardy,” he managed to say. “But the one you really want to thank is my pal Chet Morton over here.”

Buckmaster pumped Chet's hand. “Son, I owe a lot to your good eyes,” he said. “I brought the
Jolly Roger
into the bay last night and set the anchor.” The moneyman's lips twisted into a grimace. “At least I thought I did. When I tried a morning swim, the yacht kept moving away on me. Began to think I was a goner.”

“Don't you have a crew on board, sir?” Officer Nelson asked. Joe noticed his tone was a lot more respectful toward Buckmaster than toward the boys.

“Don't need one,” Buckmaster replied. “This boat is mechanized and computerized up the wazoo. Sailing gives me a chance to get out and be alone. Swimming, on the other hand . . .”

He shrugged, and the blanket opened to reveal a soft middle. “Let's say I learned my lesson. I think I'll stick to sailing for peace of mind.”

More engine noises filled the air. Joe looked over the side of the yacht to see the girls' boat and Andy Slack's trawler both bearing down on the
Jolly Roger.

Joe turned to Officer Nelson. “Here comes the rest of our film crew now.”

“Film crew?” Buckmaster asked.

Sprock Kerwin held up his camera. “It's a student project. We're filming an improvised chase situation here on the bay.”

“A sailing picture, huh?” Buckmaster's voice filled with enthusiasm. “You don't see many of those nowadays. Are you the director?”

“Um, no,” Sprock said. “The director's on board the trawler down there.” Sprock pointed toward Andy's boat.

“What do you say we invite him and the others up?” Buckmaster said.

Things were moving a little too fast for Officer Nelson. “Mr. Buckmaster,” he said, “what do you intend to do about these kids just climbing aboard your yacht?”

“Well, as you heard, I thanked them.” Buckmaster sounded irritated. “Indeed I have to thank you, Officer Nelson, and the other patrolmen too. As soon as I'm done here, I'll get on the line to the local chief. What's his name?”

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