Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
The cameras quickly turned on Andy Slack and Hal Preston when they arrived, but the boys met the reporters' questions with silly grins.
As soon as Zack had everyone together, he led the group away from the gate to where Melody stood. She had what looked like a new set of clue packets.
“Good news, people.” The filmmaker's face showed that he was pleased with himself. “I talked to the folks who'll be going over Buckmaster's assets. They said we can keep using the docks for a few more days. Sprock is already hiding the McGuffin. Melody has the clues. We're going to go for another round of
this time for two days. Whoever brings the McGuffin to the secret destination wins.”
Zack cleared his throat. “If we have a tie, like what happened around Mr. Buckmaster's yacht, we'll give the win to the team that holds on to the McGuffin the longest.”
Willow nodded. “That sounds fair.”
Right now your team has the best record.
Naturally Andy Slack, who had never even got a
hand on the McGuffin, disagreed. “Why not do another round?” he said. “A tiebreaker?”
“We really can't afford it,” Zack said.
“Your budget should look a lot better after selling that tape to AmericaNews,” Andy snarled. “You might think about springing for a prizeâor paying us.”
“I can see you have no idea about how filmmaking works,” Zack said stiffly. “The postproduction costsâ”
Luckily a rather sandy Sprock Kerwin arrived, breaking the tension. The three filmmakers went into a huddle. Andy and Hal stood off to one side, scowling. Frank had to smile when he saw the girls gravitate toward the cameras. He laughed when he saw Joe follow the girls.
“Typical,” Frank said, turning to Chet.
“I didn't think Joe would be giving any interviews,” Chet said with a smirk.
Frank turned to see what Chet was talking about, then laughed louder. One of the newspeople had managed to catch Joe.
“Toby Gregson,” she said, holding out a microcassette recorder. That stuck out in this high-tech crowd. So did the way she was dressed: jeans and a checked shirt. Her graying hair was long and frizzy, unlike the carefully coiffed reporters in front of the cameras.
Must be a newspaper reporter,
moving closer to eavesdrop. Unlike the TV folks, Gregson asked some intelligent questionsâespecially when she learned Joe had been watching from the clifftop.
“Did you actually see Buckmaster board the
“Well, no,” Joe said. “We weren't looking. But he had to be on the yacht, didn't he?”
Toby Gregson leaned forward for her next question. Her hair shifted, revealing her ear.
Frank couldn't believe what he saw. He swung around and walked past Chet, straight for the filmmakers.
Zack was annoyed at the interruption. “Can't you seeâ”
“No,” Frank cut him off. “There's something I need to see.”
He turned to Sprock. “Do you have the film you shot the first day handy? I've got to see it now.”
Sprock Kerwin looked a little surprised at Frank's insistence.
“It's important,” Frank told him.
Sprock turned to Melody Litovsky. “Mel?”
She cleared the papers off the large silvery box they'd been using
as a desk. It looked more like a metal-wall oversize suitcase.
Sprock set the case on its side and opened it. Most of the space within
was taken up by sponge padding, which held the three cameras and the laptop computer
Sprock had used. The rest of the box held cassettes of digital film.
Kerwin ran through these cassettes, checking labels. “Here's
my first one,” he said, putting a cassette in one of the cameras.
He handed the computer to Melody and took a cable out
of the case. Then he shut the top again and retrieved the computer from his friend.
Sprock rested the laptop on the silvery surface, connected it with the cable to the
camera, and booted up. “Was there any scene in particular that you wanted to
see?” he asked.
“Right at the beginning, when you were shooting Chet on the
Sprock fiddled with the camera, typed in a couple of commands on the
keyboard, and soon Chet's picture swam into view on the computer screen.
Chet's voice sounded a little tinny coming out of the small laptop speakers, but
that wasn't important.
“Okay, that woman Chet's talking to. Do you have a close-up of
“Yeah, I tried, hoping for a reaction shot. Problem was, she
wasn't giving me very much of a reaction.”
Sprock fast-forwarded the camera. The image of the woman on the boat grew.
Then the camera panned, moving from a full-face view to a profile.
“Hold it there.” Frank leaned in, looking carefully.
“So,” he said, “I wasn't crazy.”
say so.” Zack gave him a
“What did you see?” Melody asked.
“That woman has a torn left earlobe,” Frank
replied. “Exactly like the reporter who was just talking to my
Frank rushed back to the gate. Now Joe was standing with Trisha Eads,
trading jokes. Frank scanned the crowd. “Joe,” he said, grabbing him by the
arm, “where's the woman who just interviewed you?”
Most of the camera crews were clustered around the vans. There was no
trace of the boys' reporter.
Joe looked around and shrugged. “Dunno.” He looked in
puzzlement at his brother. Frank turned around and walked over to Chet.
“What's with him?” Trisha asked, her eyes hinting
I guess he'll tell us when he's good and ready,” Joe
replied. “One thing I know about Frank. When he gets that look, there's
usually a surprise revelation on the way.”
Joe went after Frank, to find him talking with Chet about jewelry, of all
“Hey, look,” Joe said. “Trisha brought her own car.
We're going to grab some lunch and hang out for a while. She's pretty
decent, despite her choice of snobby friends.”
Joe half expected a lecture about giving away secrets to the enemy.
Instead Frank just gave him a nod. “Sure. Okay. I've got some work to do
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Frank looked up from the computer monitor when Joe popped his head in the
“Just got in. Dinner's in five minutes.” The younger
Hardy gave his brother a curious look. “Mom said you wanted to eat
Frank didn't give any clues to why he wanted dinner early. Instead
he asked, “How was lunch?”
Joe grinned. “Fun. I like Trisha. She's feisty. She
doesn't put up with much, even from Princess Willow.”
He gave Frank a knowing look. “Hey, we didn't even talk about
if that's what you're worried
about. As far as movies go, we were more interested in choosing a flick to go see
“Cancel your date,” Frank told him. “I already talked to
Chet. We're spending the evening at Shipwreck Cove.”
“Ah, Frankâ” Joe began.
Frank shrugged. “I guess I could always get Tony Prito. We're
going to catch the intruder tonight.”
“Ooh,” Joe said, pretending to be wounded. “You really
do know how to fight dirty. I'm in.”
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The sun was low in the sky when Frank parked the van. They were well away
from the front gate
and close to the chain-link fence with the
secret entrance cut in it. They had a bit of a walk to get to their destination.
Chet started to complain, but Frank said, “We don't want to
make our guest suspicious by parking too close.”
Joe shook his head. “I don't know how you can be so sure
“There have been people in there all day,” Frank replied as
they walked along the grass alongside the fence. “See? A couple of the
construction trailers are already gone. Whatever's going on will have to be
finished tonight, before the whole place is disassembled.”
They slipped through the slit in the fence and began looking for hiding
places. The good news was that the afternoon sun had been hot, baking the clay soil dry
“The idea is to choose a place to hide that gives cover from someone
coming in,” Frank said, “and going out.”
By the time they were set up the sunset was at its peak. Frank had already
warned his friends not to talk. The intruder shouldn't know they were there until
it was too late.
Now came the hard part of the stakeout: the waiting. Frank found himself
looking at his watch
again and again. The third time he really got
annoyed with himself.
You're not supposed to be paying attention to
he told himself.
Frank scanned the area. Even though he knew where the others were hiding,
he couldn't spot them. Good.
Chet's head popped up, and he took a look around. At Frank's
hissed warning Chet ducked down again.
Taking care that his own head wouldn't be silhouetted, Frank went
back to surveying the area. Nothing at the main gate. No suspicious shadows flitting
around the remaining trailers at the site. Nobody heading their way across the roughly
leveled expanse of clay. No one coming along the fence.
Figuring that he'd used up at least half an hour, Frank allowed
himself to check his watch.
He sighed, shaking his head.
At that moment a pebble came flying down to hit Frank in the ankle. To
judge from the direction, it seemed to have come from Joe's hiding place.
Cautiously Frank raised himself for another look. Although full darkness
hadn't yet fallen, it took him a moment to make out the figure picking its way
along the fence.
Frank picked up the pebble and flipped it toward
Chet. The warning worked. This time he barely peeked out of his hiding place.
All was ready. Just a little more waiting.
The shadowy figure slipped noiselessly through the cut in the wire fence.
Half crouched, the intruder looked back and forth. It was just dark enough outside that
the boys couldn't make out any of the stranger's features.
The trespasser rose slowly and took a couple of steps forward.
Come on, come on,
Frank silently urged.
One more stepÂ .Â .Â . twoÂ .Â .Â .
The dark figure finally obliged, setting off the trap. Joe rose from his
hiding place and ran to block the way out.
Chet jumped up, turning on his flashlight. “Hold it!” he
Frank had to give their adversary full marks on guts. Unable to retreat,
the intruder charged forward and broke past Chet.
That was Frank's cue. He got up and shone his flashlight directly
into the running figure's face.
“Nice to see you again, Mrs. Buckmaster,” he said.
“What? Who?” Joe couldn't believe Frank. His brother hadn't given any hint of this.
Joe and Chet quickly closed in on the intruder. Their flashlights helped them see whom they had cornered. The intruder took off her baseball cap and shook out her hair. It was shorter than Joe remembered, and much less gray.
“You!” Joe exclaimed. It was Toby Gregson, the reporter who'd interviewed him.
Chet's beam was aimed directly at the woman's face. “I talked with you at the marina. But you were wearing sunglasses.”
Frank nodded. “As I said, you've met Mrs. Buckmaster
before. In fact we all have; she was also Ms. Joan Athelney.”
The woman gave them a “so what?” shrug. “Sara Buckmaster,” she said, sticking her hand out at Chet. “I'm sorry about what happened on the boats. I stumbled, and your head got in the way of my knee.”
Chet shook hands with the woman. “It's okay. I lived.”
Then she turned to Frank. “You must be the older Hardy brother.”
“Guilty as charged,” Frank said. “But you had the advantage of research. I managed to put together the clues about who you were only this afternoon. In the husband and wife interview you did for
you mentioned the riding accident that left you with a torn earlobe. I'd already seen that on Toby Gregson and the woman on the sailboat. And I remember how Joan Athelney was loaded with jewelryâexcept for earrings.” He shook his head. “The names should have told me something.”
“Told you what?” Chet asked.
“Tobias Gregson and Athelney Jones were Scotland Yard detectives in the Sherlock Holmes stories,” Frank said.
Sara Buckmaster gave them another shrug. “I always liked those old mystery stories better than the movies Peter made such a fuss over.”
Frank nodded. “I guess your husband is the reason for all this fuss.”
“I've been trying to catch up with him ever since he drained our joint accounts and dumped me a year ago,” Mrs. Buckmaster said.
“He's been living on his yacht for the past year,” Joe said.
“Hiding out there,” Sara told him, “dodging me. I didn't have the money to hire detectives, so I had to track him down myself.”
“To do that, you had to become the Woman of a Thousand Faces.” Frank had to hand it to the woman for being clever.
“Yeah, you're also the Phantom of the Bayport Marina,” Chet added.
“Yes, I'd been looking around the marina at night,” Sara said. “Pete might have been docking there.”
“And your involvement with the film? Why?” Frank asked.
“It seemed like a good way of getting next to Pete. I was sure he'd go for a movie that combined boats and a sculpture. But funding the film was expensive. Those college kids were using up the
last of my money. I decided it would be worth it, though, for a chance at Pete.”