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Authors: Franklin W. Dixon

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BOOK: The Crisscross Crime
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Joe jimmied the door that led to the garage. He let out a whistle. “Hey, Frank. Take a look at this.”

Frank hurried over.

Joe pointed to the body of a car sitting up on jack stands. “A nineteen thirty-two Ford,” Joe said. “This baby's going to be quite a hot rod some day.” He went over and ran his hand across the gleaming red paint. A small-block V-8 engine hung from a lift next to the car.

“It's great, Joe, but it isn't what we're looking for,” Frank said with annoyance in his voice.

Frank turned and went back into the office while Joe stayed to admire the hot rod a little longer. He inspected the engine. Everything was chromed—the valve covers, the air cleaner, the braided brake lines. It was beautiful!

Joe jumped when he heard the rumble of an engine coming to life. At first he thought it was right inside the garage with him it was so loud. Then he realized the noise came from outside.

He sprinted from the garage to the office. “Frank!” he yelled.

The office door stood open. Through the door
way, Joe could see Frank standing out front in the gravel drive.

It was the crane. That was the engine he'd heard start up. “Frank!” he called out in warning.

He looked up and saw the boom start to move. The huge disk magnet, carrying a compacted car, swung directly over Frank's head.

12 Blueprint for Disaster

Joe knew that as soon as he stopped hearing the hum of the electromagnet, the compacted car would plummet to earth.

He rushed toward his brother. In one tiny instant, he saw Frank's expression change from confusion to fear, and he heard the hum of the magnet cut off. Joe knew the car was now falling, but he also knew he didn't have time to look up. He had to trust that he would get to Frank before the two-ton hunk of steel crushed them both like bugs.

He hit Frank low as he lifted him with his legs and shoulders. His brother went flying.

Joe crashed to the ground on his belly and slid as if he were going in to home plate. Even before
he stopped skidding, he heard the compacted car slam into the ground behind him.

They were safe!

Joe heard the electromagnet crackle back to life. He'd spoken too soon—they weren't safe yet.

“Joe, get up!” It was Frank.

Joe got up in time to see the boom of the crane swing back over the stack of cars. The disk magnet dropped down and pulled one of the autos up to it as easily as a vacuum cleaner sucks up a speck of dirt.

The boom swung back out over the Hardys.

“Split up!” Joe shouted. He sprinted to hide behind a row of junked cars.

The humming stopped again, and Joe felt the ground shake as a solid square of metal fell to the earth only inches behind him. He dove to the ground, hunkering down behind a flattened minivan.

Then, suddenly, the crane engine shut down.

Joe peeked out from his hiding place. He saw his brother do the same from across the way.

They both crept out into the open. Whoever had been in the cab of the crane was now gone.

“Where in the world . . .” Joe muttered.

Going up to the crane, Frank came across the storm drain Joe had tripped over during their first run-in with Bart Meredith. Lying next to it
in the dust was a long crowbar like the one the redheaded man had used to crack him in the shin.

“Joe,” he said. “I think I know how our suspects have been dropping out of sight so quickly.”

Joe came over. “How?”

Frank picked up the crowbar. Its flattened tip fit perfectly into a notch in the rim of the drain's lid. With hardly any effort at all, Frank was able to pry the lid up and shove it aside.

Joe stared down into the darkness. “They've been escaping into the sewers? That's nasty!”

Frank sat down and swung his feet into the opening. “Not the sewers, Joe. These are the storm drains.” Reaching in with his left hand, Frank found the top rung of a ladder. He climbed down into the darkness.

Joe reluctantly followed.

Once they got to the bottom of the ladder, Frank and Joe found themselves in a cement pipe wide enough to drive a car through. They waded through water about eighteen inches deep. Soon the light from the opening above was too faint to illuminate the tunnel. Frank dug his penlight out of his jeans pocket. It barely made enough light for them to see each other's faces.

“Storm drains?” Joe asked. His voice echoed in the cavern.

“Yeah,” Frank said. “They have nothing to do
with the pipes that take dirty water back to the sewage treatment plant. They catch storm water and carry it to the bay so the streets don't flood.”

“That's got to be why the first bank robber disappeared on that videotape,” Joe said. “While the camera was focused on the other side of the parking lot, he dropped down into a storm drain.”

“You got it,” Frank said. “And Herve DuBois did the same thing in the middle of the alley.”

“Then where do they go? I'd get lost in here.”

Frank held up his fist. “That's it, Joe! You figured it out.”

“Huh?”

Frank slapped his brother on the shoulder. “The yellow lines on the blueprints—they represent these storm drains. They're using the blueprints to get around under here.”

Joe grinned. “I knew I'd get the answer sooner or later.” He waded back toward the entrance. Frank's penlight threw an orange glow off the rippling water.

They climbed out and pushed the lid back in place. “It would take hours to walk downtown through those drains,” Joe said. “Even if you did have a map.”

Frank rose up on his toes, making water squish out of his sneakers. “Yeah,” he said. “Walking wouldn't make sense.” He rubbed the back of his neck in thought. “I don't know,” he said finally.

“I also want to know where they got those blueprints,” Joe said.

Frank smiled. “Joe, you genius, you're two for two now.”

Joe had come to the answer at the same time as his brother. “The courthouse!”

“And who do we know who sometimes works in the courthouse?”

“Bart Meredith,” Joe said.

Frank checked his watch. “Let's pay a visit to our favorite janitor.”

Back in the van Joe took out the cell phone as Frank sped toward the center of town. “I'm giving Biff a call,” he said. “After the tip he gave us yesterday, he deserves to see Meredith go down.”

“Tell him to be outside his house,” Frank said. “I'll swing by and pick him up.”

Biff was ready and waiting. Joe popped the latch on the sliding door, and Biff hopped in before the van had even stopped. He sat down in back.

“We're going after the moron who ran me off the road?” he asked with excitement.

Joe nodded. “It could get rough.”

“I didn't think you were inviting me to a tea party,” Biff replied.

A minute or so later Frank slowed down. He found a parking spot about half a block down
from the courthouse. He eased past it, then put the van in reverse to parallel park.

“Wait,” Joe said, putting his hand on the steering wheel. “Is that him?”

Frank squinted out the windshield. A big guy in dark green coveralls had come out of the courthouse and was going down the steps two at a time. He was carrying a long cardboard tube under his arm. Frank watched as he turned his head, flipping his long ponytail over his shoulder. “It's him,” he said.

“Hurry, Frank,” Joe said. “Pull up. We'll jump out and give him a little surprise.”

Frank did nothing.

Meredith climbed into the same car they'd seen him in that first night—a rusted-out blue two-door coupe.

Joe pounded the dashboard with his fist. “Come on, Frank! He'll get away.”

Meredith drove off, leaving a cloud of exhaust.

Frank pulled out. “Patience, Joe. Let's tail him and see where he's going in such a hurry.”

They wove through traffic, staying five or six car lengths back to keep from tipping the ex-con off.

“He's headed north,” Biff said.

Frank nodded. “I think he's going to the reservoir.”

Sure enough, five minutes later, they watched
as Meredith came to the bridge spanning Bayport's manmade lake.

Instead of going over the bridge, Meredith slowed almost to a stop and turned onto a narrow blacktop road.

“That road loops all the way around the reservoir,” Biff said.

After waiting a minute or so to give Meredith a head start, Frank swung the van onto the blacktop. To the left, he could see a thick forest of tall trees. Their branches hung out over the road, shading it from the sun. To the right was a steep slope running down about fifty feet to the water.

Frank drove slowly, letting Meredith disappear around each corner in front of them before following. He watched the odometer. When they'd traveled a little over half a mile, he saw the reservoir dam rise up on the horizon. It was a sheer face of white concrete.

Frank knew from the picnics he and his family had had out here that on the far side of the dam the water rose almost to the top. On this side, the city kept the water level much lower, exposing at least sixty feet of the face of the dam.

“Watch it, Frank. He's pulling over.” Joe turned to Biff. “See my binoculars back there, buddy?”

When Frank had pulled over into the weeds, Biff handed up a pair of powerful field glasses.

Joe rolled his window down and scoped the
scene. A big green blur filled the lenses. Joe rotated the focus knob and the dam became suddenly clear, filling his field of vision.

A narrow catwalk ran the length of the dam on the side facing them. A ladder extended down fifty or sixty feet to the water. Sluiceways at the base of the dam poured water into the reservoir like giant faucets. The force of the spray churned the lake there into white foam.

Joe tried to focus on the spot where the dam met the shore on the near side of the reservoir. “I can't see Meredith,” he said. “We need to get closer.”

The Hardys and Biff quietly exited the van. They crept along, hidden in the weeds and grass. “Careful not to step over the edge,” Frank whispered. “It's a long way down to the water.”

They stopped a few yards behind Meredith's car. From here they could see everything.

Meredith had walked out to the middle of the catwalk. A stocky guy stepped out of a service door at the top of the dam.

“Who's that?” Biff asked.

Joe looked through the binoculars. He immediately recognized the crook he'd picked out of the mug books. “Eddie Racine,” he said. “Meredith's cellmate in prison.”

They could hear voices, but couldn't make out the words. “I think they're arguing,” Frank said. He watched as Meredith opened up the card
board tube and removed some rolled-up papers. He grabbed the field glasses from Joe. “We were right!” Frank said. “He's got more blueprints.”

Biff pointed down to the foot of the dam. “Hey man, what kind of crazy thing is going on down there?”

A paved boat ramp curved steeply down from the blacktop road to the foot of the dam.

“That's the truck from Ron's Salvage!” Joe exclaimed.

Joe was right. A white pickup with a trailer attached had backed down all the way to the water. Bobbing next to the trailer was a red- and white-striped wave-runner—a waterjet-powered craft with motorcycle-style seat and controls.

“The wave-runner's basically floating free,” Joe said. “Looks like somebody's in the middle of unloading it from the trailer.”

“I was, until I got interrupted!” a voice boomed from behind them.

Biff and the Hardys spun around. A wiry guy with brown hair parted in the middle and tattoos covering his arms stood there grinning.

He pulled a wicked-looking hunting knife from a sheath on his belt.

“Get going,” he ordered, stabbing the air with the blade. “Out on the catwalk, now!”

Biff led the way out onto the walkway. Frank was next, followed by Joe and the thug.

As the Hardys and Biff got close to Meredith and Racine, it became even more obvious to Frank that the men were arguing about something. Now is our chance, Frank thought. It was three against three, and Meredith and Racine were too busy shouting to know what was going on.

Frank held three fingers behind his back for Joe to see. With each second, he folded one back into his fist, indicating the ticking off of seconds.

Joe knew the signal. When Frank got to zero, Joe spun, smashing his forearm onto the thug's wrist. The knife flew free, spinning down into the water below.

Frank pushed Biff forward. The two of them charged Meredith and his pal.

Joe threw a right hook into Tattoo's gut. The guy doubled over with a grunt. Bending his knees for leverage, Joe went for a left uppercut.

His fist caught nothing but air. The crook had bobbed to the side just enough. For a split second, Joe was almost off balance.

He stepped back and felt only wide open space. He grabbed for the rail. It was too late. He watched the catwalk recede as he fell. He plummeted backward—helpless—toward the boiling foam at the bottom of the dam.

13 The Third Strike

Meredith and Racine were running away—the cowards, Frank thought. Racine tried to jump up from the catwalk to the top of the dam, while Meredith sprinted for the far side of the reservoir.

Frank stopped and climbed up on the railing of the catwalk to reach the top of the dam. He'd go after Racine and let Biff have Meredith.

The thick-necked thug had scrambled up to the top of the dam and was trying to make his way like a tightrope walker back to the shore.

Frank was reaching up to grab at Racine's ankle when he heard a bloodcurdling scream.

He spun in time to see his brother plunge into the roiling foam below. “Joe!” he shouted.

He waited a few seconds. “Come up, Joe,” he
pleaded. “Come up for air.” Joe didn't surface. All Frank could see was the bubbling water.

BOOK: The Crisscross Crime
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