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Authors: Franklin W. Dixon

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BOOK: The Crisscross Crime
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The thug grinned. He reached into the lining of his suit coat and withdrew a steel crowbar. “Now it's your turn to bring it on,” he said.

Unfazed, Joe took a swing. The man held out the crowbar. There was a loud
thock!
as wood and steel collided. Joe's hands rung with pain.

Frank took a chance. While the man's back was turned, he stepped in, planning to bring the guy down with a side kick to the back of his knee.

The thug was too quick.

As Frank's leg shot out, the man spun and nailed him right in the shin with the crowbar.

Frank yowled and crumpled to the ground.

The thug turned and ran toward the alley. Joe rushed to his brother's side.

“I'm okay,” Frank said through gritted teeth. “Go after him, Joe!”

Joe sprinted to the mouth of the alley. It was completely empty. He ran to where it opened up on State Street, across from the sub shop. He looked right and left. No sign of the redheaded man.

A white-haired woman stood waiting at the bus stop a few yards away.

“Did you see a guy running out here a few seconds ago?” Joe asked.

The woman looked at Joe, then at his baseball bat. “No,” she said. Then she began scolding Joe. “You shouldn't be playing baseball back in that parking lot,” she said. “There are parks for that kind of thing, you know.”

Joe sighed. “I know,” he said. “Thanks.”

He headed back through the alley. Stopping in the middle, he looked up. No fire escapes, no way to climb up to the roof, he thought. The guy had just vanished, inside an alley.

He tapped the barrel of the bat along the pavement as he headed back to Frank. He noticed that the sound had changed pitch. Looking down, he saw that he'd struck a manhole cover a lot like the one he'd tripped over in the junkyard. Well, he thought, at least I didn't take a tumble over this one. Then he had an idea. Reaching down, he tried to get his fingers under the rim of the lid to lift it up.

“No way,” he muttered, almost tearing off his fingernails. “This thing must weigh close to two hundred pounds. No way to get it up without some kind of help.”

Back in the parking lot, he found Biff helping Frank up.

“How's the leg?”

Frank pulled up the leg of his jeans, revealing
an egg-size welt. He tested the leg, walking slowly in circles. “I'll live.”

“Where'd the guy go?” Biff asked.

Joe rested his bat on his shoulder. “No idea. Went into the alley and then”—Joe snapped his fingers—“vanished. He didn't look nearly big enough to be Meredith, though.”

Frank stamped his pants leg back into place. “This time it must've been Racine or Galatin wearing a wig, like Biff figured.” He walked gingerly to the bank door. “I want to get back inside the bank and ask some questions,” he said.

The Hardys and Biff found most of the customers gathered in a clump next to the teller line. They were hugging one another and talking loudly about the adventure they'd just shared.

The crook's gun still lay in the middle of the floor, and Frank asked Biff to make sure no one touched it.

Behind the counter, the bank manager and several other employees tried to comfort the teller who'd been crying before.

Frank and Joe asked a few questions, but the customers had either been too scared to take a close look at the robber or were now too upset to talk about it.

Joe was about to go over to talk to the employees when a deep voice called his name from across the lobby.

“Joe Hardy! What are you doing here!”

It was Chief Collig, leading a troop of five or six officers. While one officer swooped down on the gun, Collig came straight up to Frank and Joe. “I've had enough of your interference in this investigation,” he said, poking an index finger into Joe's chest. He turned to Frank next. “You're supposed to be the older, more responsible one. What were you thinking coming in here like cowboys? You could've gotten hurt. These innocent people could've been killed!”

The bank manager strode around from behind the counter. “Please!” she said. “I have something to say.”

Collig stared at her, his face red with anger.

“Thanks to these young men, we're all safe,” the manager said firmly. “The thief didn't even get any money. What I'd like to know is why it took you so long to get here after I pushed the alarm.”

Joe didn't think Chief Collig's face could get any redder, but it did. “Humph” was all Collig said before turning abruptly to give orders to his officers. When he finally had himself composed, he apologized to the manager—but not before he told the Hardys and Biff to get out of his sight.

Joe was happy to follow the chief's orders.

“I've got to get home,” Biff said.

Frank and Joe said goodbye to their friend,
then walked over to find Con Riley using the manager's key ring to get into a back storage room.

“False alarm out on Ridge?” Frank asked.

“That's right,” Con said in a whisper. “A little bit different from yesterday, though.” He tried another key. “The manager out there said that two men walked into the bank wearing black ski masks. One watched the customers while the other went into the manager's office and demanded that he push the alarm button.”

“No way!” Joe said.

“Yup. The guys were cool as cucumbers, the manager said. They stood around for two or three minutes—just long enough for us to get close—then took off.”

Con finally found the right key and got the room open. Frank and Joe followed him into what appeared to be a file room. Cardboard file boxes were stacked up to the ceiling against three of the four walls. The fourth wall housed the electrical box and a shelf with three small TV monitors.

“So you didn't catch them?” Joe asked.

Con laughed bitterly. “Not even close. We had the helicopter up in the sky, we had K-9 units out with dogs. They disappeared without a trace.”

Joe told Con about the redheaded man and how he'd vanished as well.

“Do you think any one of the guys could've been Meredith?” Frank asked.

“That's another strange thing,” Con said, going over to the monitors. “We checked on Meredith on our way back into town. He was cleaning the courthouse, as he was supposed to be.”

“Who told you that?” Joe asked.

“Judge Hopkins,” Con replied. “He was watching Meredith vacuum his office carpet. You don't get a much better alibi than that.”

“No, I guess not,” Joe said. “Maybe he sat this one out, you know? He let his partners run this job because we were getting too close to him.”

“Maybe,” Frank said. “There's still too much we don't know.”

Con pushed some buttons under the monitors. “Here's one more chance for some answers,” he said. “These are the surveillance tapes. I'm winding them back twenty minutes.”

Con pushed a few more buttons, and soon Frank and Joe were watching themselves on TV. They saw the redheaded man come in waving his gun. They saw the customers fall to the floor. They saw Frank enter first, then Joe and Biff. They saw the gunshot shatter Biff's bat. They saw the fight in the parking lot. Then it was over.

“Not much we can use,” Con said, clearly disappointed.

“Wait a second,” Joe said. “Rewind it to the beginning, will you?”

Con punched a button, waited, then hit Play.

The film ran for less than fifteen seconds before Joe shouted to freeze it.

Con hit Pause.

Joe was so excited he could barely talk. “Look right here,” he said. He pointed to a customer at the front of the line.

Frank recognized a tall woman with light hair. “It's Sylvia,” he said. “I can't believe we didn't see her.”

“There was too much going on,” Joe said. “Now watch what happens.”

They ran through the entire film again. When the redheaded man came in, Sylvia dropped to the floor with all the others. She remained down with the others during the fight. When the Hardys chased the robber out of the bank, all the customers except one stayed down on the floor.

Only Sylvia calmly stood up, brushed herself off, and walked out the front door.

10 The Change-up

“Talk about cool as a cucumber!” Joe exclaimed. “She was never worried at all.”

“I think we need to have another talk with Miss van Loveren,” Con said. “She might be the inside contact after all.”

Frank hated to admit it, but it seemed Con and his brother were right. He'd been wrong about Sylvia. She was guilty.

Con's walkie-talkie crackled to life. Through the static, a voice said, “Unit twelve calling unit seven. Unit twelve calling unit seven.”

Con held the radio to his mouth. “This is unit seven. Go ahead.”

“This is a follow-up on one Earl Galatin,” the voice said. “The suspect put down the Bay View
Motel as his address on the rental car application. Checked it out. It's a dead end. Over.”

“Got it,” Con said. “Unit seven out.”

Joe shook his head. “These guys are pretty slippery.”

“They'll make a mistake,” Frank said. “Then we'll make them pay for it.”

Con put a hand on each of the Hardy's shoulders. “You know I like having your help,” he said. “But be careful, all right?”

“Always,” Joe said, grinning.

Con looked at Frank. “Make sure you keep this hardheaded brother of yours under control, okay?”

Frank smiled. “Always.”

•  •  •

Outside, the Hardys ran into Bayport Savings' president, Alex Stendahl.

“Hold up. Hey, Jim Harper, just the person I wanted to talk to,” he said as he hurried over to Joe. He looked over at Frank. “Are you a reporter for the
Globe,
too?”

“Ah, not exactly,” Frank said. “Sometimes I help Jim with his . . . investigations.”

“Good,” Stendahl said. “Listen. The police won't tell me what happened. Was it the same guy as at Bayport Savings? Did they catch him?”

“No, he got away,” Joe said.

Stendahl self-consciously touched the bandage over his eye. “Hmm. That's bad,” he said.
“They're going to arrest Miss van Loveren, though, right? I mean, I saw her come out of the bank during the robbery. I know she was there.”

“You saw her?” Frank asked.

“Sure.” Stendahl pointed diagonally across the street. “I was sitting in my office. She came out the front door here. A few minutes later police were all over the place. That's how I knew there'd been another robbery.”

“Did you see which way she went?” Joe asked.

“I certainly did. She ran down the street in that direction.” Stendahl pointed up the street in the general direction of Sylvia's neighborhood. “Then she kind of disappeared.”

Frank and Joe looked at each other. “Thanks,” Joe said. “I'll get all this into the article I write, okay?”

“Great, great,” Stendahl said. Then he lowered his voice. “Can I ask a favor?”

Joe shrugged. “It depends.”

“I think I have a right to know what's happening,” he whispered. He touched the bandage on his forehead again. “After all, the thief could've killed me. If you could just let me know how the police are doing. You know, if they're close to arresting anyone. It would really ease my mind.”

“I'll think about it,” Joe replied.

“Fine,” Stendahl said. “That's all I ask.” He turned and strode briskly back toward Bayport Savings.

“I wonder if that busybody thinks he's being helpful?” Frank asked.

“Who knows.” Joe led the way down the street to where the van was parked.

“We've got two choices,” Joe said, getting into the driver's seat. “Pay Sylvia another visit, or follow up this Earl Galatin lead.”

Frank reached over his shoulder for his seat-belt strap. Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw something move in the back of the van. He tried to stay cool. He wanted to catch the stowaway by surprise.

As Joe pulled out into traffic, Frank signaled to his brother by tilting his head slightly toward the back.

Joe understood immediately. He kept driving. “I don't know what we should do,” he said in a normal voice. “Maybe go home and go over all the evidence in detail.”

“That sounds good,” Frank said. At that moment he signaled Joe again.

In perfect synchronization, Joe slammed on the brakes while Frank twisted and jumped from his seat, ready to deck whoever was hiding in back.

The sudden change in momentum caused the person to fly forward. Frank held out his forearm. The person slammed into it, then bounced backward onto the floor of the van with a loud
oomph!

Joe slammed the van into Park. “You get 'em, Frank?”

“Yeah,” Frank said. He watched the person roll around on the floor, gasping for breath. “It's Sylvia,” he said.

Frank helped her to get up and sit on a big soda cooler. “Sorry,” he said. “You all right?”

Sylvia spoke in a halting voice. “Got . . . the . . . wind . . . knocked . . . out,” she said.

“Now it's our turn to ask why you broke into
our
place,” Joe said when Sylvia had caught her breath.

“I had to talk to you,” Sylvia said. “I was in Empire Federal when the robbery went down.”

“We know,” Frank said. “We saw you on videotape.”

Joe crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Why'd you take off?”

“I knew the police would see the tape and decide that I had something to do with it,” Sylvia said. “I had to get out of there before they arrested me.”

“We could take you to the cops right now,” Joe said.

“But I know you'll at least listen to me,” Sylvia said. “Remember I said I was coming downtown this afternoon to resign from Bayport Savings?”

Frank nodded.

Sylvia still held one arm over her stomach.
“That's what I did,” she said. “I closed out my bank account, too. The only reason I was in Empire Federal was to deposit my money there.” With her free hand she reached into her pocket-book and handed Frank a cashier's check made out in her name. “I was waiting in line when the robbery happened, that's all.”

BOOK: The Crisscross Crime
7.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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