Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
“Chief Collig,” Nelson said, looking pleased.
Buckmaster nodded. “And I'm sure there's a police benefit fund where I can make a contribution?”
When he wanted to be, the big businessman was good at smoothing things over. Almost before Officer Nelson knew what was going on, he was climbing down the ladder to his boat.
Meanwhile, Pete Buckmaster was asking the crews of the other two boats to come aboard.
Zack Harris's thatch of bright red hair soon appeared over the deck line. The first words out of his lips were aimed at Sprock: “Does your team have the McGuffin?”
“McGuffin?” said Pete Buckmaster.
Clearly Buckmaster needed a more detailed explanation of what the “chase situation” was about. Interestingly, it turned out Buckmaster was a big Alfred Hitchcock fan, so their project was fairly easy for him to understand.
Buckmaster insisted on being introduced to everyone involved in
As he asked more and more questions about Zack's project, the filmmaker's natural enthusiasm took over.
Truly Buckmaster's interest was more than flattering. Dollar signs were dancing in Zack's eyes as he talked about the film. If a heavy hitter like Buckmaster got involved, Zack could expand his budget, and good-bye, Ms. Athelney.
“Shipwreck Cove, you say?” Buckmaster laughed when he heard where the filmmakers had buried
the McGuffin. “I'm building a new house there. Maybe you saw the docks?”
“Sounds as though you folks will need to regroup,” the financier said. “I'm sorry my rescue fouled up your plans. How can I make it up to you? Suppose you use my docks as your staging area? It's the least I can do.”
Trying not to appear too eager, Zack agreed.
“I was heading to the cove now,” Buckmaster said. “Why don't you kids come along? I'll give you the guided tour.”
They all headed back to their boats, then followed the
back to Shipwreck Cove and tied up at the docks.
“There's enough room for a small fleet here,” Chet said, looking at the big yacht and the smaller boats bobbing in the water.
A rope ladder came down the side of the
and Pete Buckmaster made his way down.
The financier had changed into a designer sweat-suit, the kind that never actually sees sweat. He squinted as he looked at the stairway zigzagging up the cliff face.
“They told me the property had a wonderful view, but they didn't explain why. Remind me to talk to the architect about putting in an elevator.”
“You mean you didn't see the place before you bought it?” Joe asked in disbelief.
Buckmaster shrugged. “That's what staffs are for.”
He didn't need to go far for the architect. The moment he arrived on the building site, people came charging out of the trailers. The general contractor wanted approvals for several bills. The architect was waving complicated plans.
“We had to resite the two swimming pools,” the architect said. He held out a sketch of a fancy building big enough to be a two-family house. “And you need to approve the design changes for the spa.”
It was all a little much for Joe. But he saw that Zack, Mel, and Sprock were filming away as if there were no tomorrow.
More contractors and foremen appeared, and Buckmaster marched off to a meeting in the Matling mobile office.
“So much for the grand tour,” Frank said with a laugh.
Willow Sumner sniffed. “I thought the mansion was all finished. Who wants to look at a bunch of holes in the ground?”
“I would.” Joe turned to Frank and Chet. “What do you say, guys?”
“I didn't realize you were a construction buff,” Chet said as they walked off to one side of the bustling site.
“I'm not,” Joe whispered. “I just wanted to get away from that bunch.”
Most of the area had been scraped down to bare earth. A little strip of grass remained along the chain-link fence that surrounded the property.
Joe led the way over to the grass so they could stretch their legs a little. The ground rose a little higher closer to the spot.
“You know,” he said, “if we walk a little farther along, I'll bet we'd get a decent view of the whole site.”
He was right. The fence cut across a hilltop where the boys could look down on the area they'd searched the evening before. Chet leaned back against the fence. “It would have been a lot easier looking for Tony's make-believe intruder if weâhey!”
Joe and Frank turned to find their friend lying flat on his back, on the other side of the chain-link fence.
“Leaving the property, Chet?” Joe asked.
“Hey, I just went to sit down,” Chet said, scrambling to his feet. “The next thing I know, I'm out here.”
Frank didn't find it so funny. He shook the fence, and a section of the metal mesh fell off.
“I think we can stop talking about make-believe intruders.” Frank gently pulled on the loose section. The gap he created was tall enough for a good-size person to get through without even bending.
Frank let the section snap back. “I'd say a real, live person cut himself a private entrance.”
Frank held the slit in the fence open while Chet climbed back through.
“We'd better let somebody know about this,” Joe said.
Frank nodded, leading the way back to the Matling Construction trailer, where everybody else was. A flood of people was coming out of the mobile office. As the boys neared the trailer, they could see a guy with a hard hat marked
blocking the door.
“Sorry,” the man said. “Mr. Buckmaster has moved from the construction business to just plain business. He's temporarily taken over my office.”
Frank looked suspiciously at the manager. “That
seems a funny way to do things, even for a Wall Street genius.”
The site manager shrugged. “It's the way he does things sometimes. I worked on another Buckmaster project and got kicked out of my own office several times. The guy lives on his cell phone. He's also got a whole office set up on his yacht, so he can do business wherever he sails.”
Sprock Kerwin came over. “Where did you guys go? Zack just got a message from Mr. Buckmaster.”
Zack was trying to play it cool, but Frank could tell that the film student was really excited. “Mr. BuckmasterâPeteâapologizes, but he's going to be tied up the rest of the day. I've decided to suspend shooting. Mel, Sprock, and I have work to do. We have a two o'clock meeting with Mr. Buckmaster tomorrow!”
Behind her glasses, Melody Litovsky's eyes gleamed. Sprock punched Zack on the shoulder. “Way to go!”
Zack turned back to his cast members. “Pete gave the okay for you to keep your boats at the dock,” he told them, “and he's offering us lifts home.”
“I could go for that.” Joe stretched. “A nice, long nap in my own bedÂ .Â .Â .”
“We'll meet here tomorrow at three o'clock,”
Zack said. “I hope to have some exciting announcements to make by then.”
Joe was still chuckling over that as they got into one of the contractor's company cars. “Big announcements,” he said. “Zack's probably hoping for a special effects budget that will have us playing
“As long as he doesn't replace us with realâI mean, professional actors.” Chet gave his address to the construction worker serving as their chauffeur.
“I don't think that's likely,” Frank said. “Zack already has almost half his film shot.”
They dropped Chet off, and then the Hardy boys were driven home to Oak Street. True to his word, soon after taking a quick shower, Joe hit the sack.
Frank, however, sat down in front of his computer. Once on the Internet, he did a Web search for “Buckmaster.”
It was almost dinnertime when Joe stuck his head in the door. “Have you been Web surfing all the time I was sleeping?”
Frank leaned back in his chair. “I guess so,” he said. “Found some interesting articles about our new friend Pete Buckmaster.”
Joe laughed. “Zack's new friend maybe. So what did you find out about the guy?”
“It's your basic business story. He made a lot of people rich and got very rich himself in the process. Turns out he's a real film nut. He collects film memorabilia, like a sword from
a pirate movie, the hat some actor wore while playing a detective.Â .Â .Â . Here's a funny story about how he scored tickets for last year's Oscars.” Frank brought up an article on his computer.
“You're usually not this interested in someone unless there's a crime involved,” Joe said. “What's the dirt on this guy?”
“His marriage broke up about a year ago.” Frank called up some more files. “Looks as though it got pretty ugly.”
He glanced at his brother. “And there are interesting rumors flying around about Buckmaster right now. Seems as though his financial empire may be on shaky ground. Bad investments, bad management. Maybe he should spend more time in the office than on his yacht.”
Joe shook his head. “Typical media nonsense,” he commented. “First the reporters make a celebrity out of the guy; then they begin chipping away at him. After meeting him, I'd say Buckmaster is okay.”
Frank shrugged. “We were with him for what, ten minutes? It's not hard to be a nice guy for that long.”
“True.” Joe took a deep breath. “Mmm, I smell
pot roast. I'll have a little of that, watch some TV, and thenÂ .Â .Â .” He yawned. “I think I'll catch up on a little more sleep.”
â¢Â Â Â â¢Â Â Â â¢
The next afternoon Frank and Joe got into their van and headed to Chet's house. Their friend stood outside, waiting for the Hardys.
“So, do you think Zack will have a big announcement to make today?” Chet asked as he got in.
Joe grinned. “Maybe he'll tell us that
will be coming to a theater near you.”
“I only wish.” Chet sighed.
They reached the edge of Shipwreck Cove, and parked the van against the chain-link fence. Then they went to the gate and gave their names to a construction worker with a clipboard.
“Over there,” the man said, pointing to a spot inside the gate. Frank spotted the three filmmakers and Willow with her friends.
Zack Harris did not look as if he were full of great announcements. “Our meeting has been pushed back,” he said. “Seems Mr. Buckmaster is working on something big.”
“So we just get to hang out here,” Melody Litovsky ran a hand through her sandy hair.
“Okay if we check out our boat?” Frank asked. Melody nodded.
“I guess those older models need a lot of maintenance,” Willow Sumner said snidely.
Joe shook his head as he and his friends moved around the construction site to the top of the cliff. “Talk about high maintenance.” He was clearly referring to Willow.
“I'm sure the
is fine,” Chet said, as they reached the stairs.
“Not if people fool around with her,” Frank replied. “I just want to make sure nobody was down on the dock, loosening wiresâ”
“Or messing around with the plug down in the bilge,” Joe added.
“Plug?” Chet echoed. “Do you mean an electrical plug?”
Joe laughed. “More like a bathroom plug. It's something you pull when you want to drain water out of the bottom of the boat. Of course, if someone fools with it while the boat is still in the waterÂ .Â .Â .”
“Let's go check it out,” Frank said.
Chet looked at the long walk downÂ .Â .Â . and thought of the equally long walk up. “I don't want to get in the way. I'll wait here for you guys.”
Frank and Joe headed down. A quick check of the
revealed no sabotage. As they tramped back up the cliff steps, Joe said, “I wonder if Buckmaster told his architect about the elevator.”
“It won't be helping us anytime soon.” Frank took a deep breath. “We're almost to the halfway mark, though.”
The stairway suddenly rattled with the sound of heavy footfalls coming from above.
Frank looked up. Was Chet coming down to join them? No, it was Peter Buckmaster.
“Hello,” Frank said to the financier.
But Buckmaster was not in nice guy mode today. He brushed past the Hardys without a word.
After exchanging a look and a shrug, the boys continued up the stairway. Chet stood at the top, looking downward, confusion on his face.
“Did you get hit by âMr. Sunshine' too?” Joe asked.
“That Buckmaster guy is severely weird.” Chet shook his head. “He came out of the trailer and got about three steps before his cell phone began bleeping.”
“Did you pick up any stock tips?” Frank asked.
“Not unless âyeah,' âum,' and “uh-huh' mean something special to you,” Chet said. “Then his answers started sounding more like grunts, and his face went dead white. He snapped the phone closed and came whipping right past me. For a second, I thought he was going to take a running jump.”
“But he decided to take the stairs instead,” Frank said.
Chet nodded. “I decided to take a look and see what he was up to. As you made it closer to the top, he got into his yacht.”
“Well, he's got an office setup in there,” Frank said. “Maybe he needed a computer.”
Zack Harris came hurrying over. “Was that Mr. Buckmaster who just flew past you? Did he say anything?”
The sudden roar of heavy engines interrupted the conversation. The four of them moved toward the cliff edge and looked down at the docks.
shook in the waves, in spite of the lines still holding it in place. As the ropes tightened, they ripped the cleats off the dock. Finally free, the
began to pick up speed.