Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
Joe took one look and shook his head. “No way are you getting me in that thing.”
“It's the only way,” Frank said, putting his leg into the costume. “Hurry up. We can't let Rosen get away.”
Joe took the costume from Frank and looked at it. “This is ridiculous,” he said.
Frank passed Joe a wig from the trunk. “Are you going to put the suit on or not?” he asked.
Joe must have realized that Frank meant business, because he quickly stuck his legs in the costume and pulled it on. “I'm not wearing that wig, though.”
“It's no disguise if you don't put on the wig,” Frank told him. “Come on, already.”
Joe stuck the wig on his head. “Satisfied?” he asked.
Frank looked at Joe and burst out laughing. The polka-dotted costume made Joe look huge, and the red wig gave his face a boyish look. “You look like a real clown,” he said, stifling his laughter. He reached for the clown makeup on Rosen's table. “But we'll need whiteface, too.”
Joe shook his head vigorously. “No way,” he insisted.
Frank reached into a jar of white makeup and started smearing it on his face. “Without makeup, our costumes aren't very authentic.”
Joe sighed and started applying the makeup. “It's too bad we missed Chet's makeup class. If we'd gone, we'd know what we're doing right now.”
“Improvise,” Frank urged, reaching for a large tube of red lipstick and applying it to his mouth. He drew a circle above his lips and around his mouth and filled it in with lipstick. “And hurry. We don't have much time.”
In a few minutes, Frank and Joe were completely in costume, clown face, wigs, and shoes. “Let's go!” Frank urged when he saw Joe was done drawing thick eyebrows and smearing his eyelids with black makeup.
Frank eased the door to Rosen's dressing room open, peeked into the hallway, and saw that it
was empty. He stepped out of the room and motioned for Joe to follow him.
“Just act casual,” Frank urged his brother under his breath. “If we prowl around long enough, we're sure to spot Rosen.”
“It's kind of hard to act casual when you're dressed like a dork,” Joe told his brother.
Frank ignored the comment and strolled down the hallway, his huge shoes flapping in front of him. Around them, the Montero Brothers Circus was getting ready for that afternoon's performance. Clowns and other performers moved back and forth between dressing rooms and prop rooms, and prop people carried stilts and toy cars toward the freight elevator.
“He's got to be around here somewhere,” Frank told Joe.
“Unless he took off once and for all,” Joe told him.
“But it's the twentieth,” Frank reminded his brother. “According to his code, something's going to happen today.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Frank spotted Rosen's telltale baggy green striped pants coming out of clown alley.
“There he is,” Frank whispered, trying not to be heard. “Come on!”
Frank took off at a brisk walk, trying not to arouse Rosen's suspicion. Joe followed in step.
“Easy, now,” Frank warned his brother. “Don't catch up to him too quickly.”
“Don't worry,” Joe muttered, reaching up to straighten his wig. “At the rate I'm going, I won't be able to catch up with
As they got closer, Frank felt his heart beating triple-time. They were about to nab the mysterious juggler once and for all.
Rosen turned around and looked toward them. Frank held his breath. He hoped Rosen wouldn't recognize them.
The juggler did a double take, looking puzzled. Then he turned back to the woman he was talking to and handed her something. Frank was still too far away to see what it was.
“We've got to get him,” Joe hissed under his breath. “I'm not letting that guy get away again.”
“Keep cool,” Frank urged, watching Rosen talk to the woman. The Hardys moved a bit closer and heard Rosen say, “Get out of here.” Then he turned so that his back was to Frank and Joe.
Joe grabbed his brother's arm. “What's he doing?” he asked.
“I don't know,” Frank said under his breath. Then, before Frank could say another word, Rosen took off at a brisk pace down the hall.
“Get him!” Frank cried out.
Joe surged ahead, with Frank not far behind. Rosen was still a good twenty feet away. He
looked over his shoulder at the Hardys and broke into a run.
Frank and Joe came up quickly on the short, blond woman who had been talking to Rosen. What they saw shocked themâand stopped them both dead in their tracks.
The woman was Justine Leone. And in her hands was one of Rosen's gem-studded balls!
“Justine!” Joe and Frank cried in unison.
The girl stared at them, a look of confusion in her blue eyes. “Do I know you guys?” she asked.
To his left, Joe saw Rosen disappear into an elevator. “Go after him, Frank,” he urged his brother. “I'll stay here and find out what this is all about.”
“Right,” Frank shouted. “Good luck!”
Joe turned back to face Justine, realizing the girl didn't recognize him in his costume. “It's Joe Hardy. I'm Chet Morton's friend. And a part-time student at Circus U.,” he added hastily.
Justine leaned in to get a better look at Joe. “Oh, right,” she said with a shrug. “I've seen you
guys around. What are you doing dressed up like a clown?” she asked.
“I don't really have time to explain,” Joe said. “What's more important is how well you know that guy who was just here.”
Justine frowned. “Which guy?” she asked in a defensive tone.
“The one who gave you this,” Joe said, taking the green, gem-studded ball from her hands.
“I never met him before in my life,” Justine said, tossing back her long blond hair.
“So how did he know you well enough to hand this ball over to you?” Joe demanded, holding it up for her to see.
The trapeze student stood there, her arms crossed over her red, white, and blue Circus U. warm-up suit. She bit her lower lip as she thought about what to say. Finally she spoke up. “I don't know.”
“That's no answer,” Joe said. “He talked to you. He told you to get out of here. He must have known you pretty well to say that.”
“I don't know what the fuss is all about,” Justine insisted. “I was just doing a friend a favor, that's all.”
Joe was about to ask Justine who her friend was when Frank came running back. “He got away,” Frank said breathlessly. He wiped the sweat off his face with the sleeve of his clown costume and
smudged the makeup. “I got to the parking lot and saw someone tearing out of here in one of the Montero vans. I didn't get a good look at the driver, but I'll bet you anything it was Rosen.”
Joe nodded grimly. Rosen had gotten away yet again. “Justine says she was doing a friend a favor by taking the ball from Rosen.”
Frank shot the trapeze student a suspicious look. “Oh, really?” he asked. “And who's your friend?”
Justine swallowed a few times and reached for the ball in Joe's hands. “I don't have time to stand around here gabbing.”
Joe held the ball out of her reach. “Not so fast,” he said. “You have a few questions to answer first.”
“Look,” Justine said, her voice rising in anger, “I don't have to answer any of your questions. I told you I was doing a favor for a friend. I really don't know what your problem is.”
“I think you're the one with the problem,” Joe began in an angry voice.
Frank put a hand on Joe's arm. “Go easy, Joe,” he said.
“Why should I?” Joe asked, turning to his brother. “Her initials are on Rosen's list, too. She's in on it, Frank. She's got to be.”
“In on what?” Justine asked. “What do you mean about my initials being on some list?”
Frank leaned toward Joe and whispered in his ear, “We still don't know what that list means, brother,” he warned. “Don't blow it. If she's involved somehow, you're not going to get anywhere by threatening her.”
Justine watched them with a wide-eyed look. “Would you mind telling me what's going on here?”
Joe took a deep breath and smiled at Justine. “Um, actually,” he said, “we don't really know what's going on here, to tell you the truth. So why don't you tell us who your friend is?”
Justine rolled her eyes. “You guys are too much. Okay. Carl asked me to meet this guy here. He said the guy had something for him, but Carl couldn't meet him. He had something to do for Bo Costello. I told him I'd do it.”
Frank raised an eyebrow at Joe.
“Carl Nash,” Joe said.
“Our acrobatic friend strikes again,” Frank said.
“What are you talking about?” Justine asked, her eyes moving back and forth between Frank and Joe.
Joe ignored her question and asked, “Did the guy who gave you this know who you were?”
Justine shrugged. “He seemed to. I mean, he didn't ask me my name or anything. I guess Carl told him I'd be here.”
“Something's not right here,” Frank said,
shaking his head. “If this ball is so important, why didn't Nash come for it himself?”
“You'll have to ask him,” Justine retorted, stamping the ground with her foot. “But you'd better give the ball back to me,” she insisted, holding her hand out. “I'm supposed to meet Carl in ten minutes in the animal room.”
“Let's go find Nash,” Frank said to his brother. “We can ask him ourselves what's going on.”
“I know one thing,” Joe said. “He's in this up to his neck.”
While Joe's attention was on his brother, Justine grabbed the ball from his hands. “That's mine,” she said, pulling her hands away when Joe reached to get it back. With that, she headed off at a brisk walk in the direction of the animal room.
Joe followed a distance behind with Frank beside him. “We can't let Nash get that ball,” Joe said. “There's probably another message inside.”
Frank reached up to scratch under his wig. “We're going to have to nab Nash before he can get his hands on it.”
Joe kept his eyes on Justine in front of them. They were walking toward the animal room. He wanted to make sure Justine didn't pass the ball to Nash before he and Frank could stop her.
“I think Justine knows we're following her,” Frank whispered to Joe. “Maybe I'm wrong and she's not involved in whatever's going on
between Nash and Rosen. Maybe she's not worried we're following her because she has nothing to hide.”
“But then why did Rosen pick her to pass the ball to Nash?” Joe whispered back.
“I don't know,” Frank admitted, as he steered clear of an animal trainer leading a seal on a leash. The smell of animals was overpowering now. The Hardys saw Justine enter the huge room.
“Nash trusts her,” Frank said. “Maybe that's enough explanation. Nash must have told Rosen to expect Justine. Why else would the guy have passed the ball to her?”
They looked into the room and saw Carl Nash. The trapeze student was standing by a lion's cage, and he had a big smile on his face.
“Justine,” he drawled, opening his arms. “I've been waiting for you.”
Justine ran up to him, handed him the ball, and the two embraced. Nash lifted his head to say something to Justine. Then he spotted Frank and Joe, and his smile faded. Even in their clown disguises, Nash must have known who they were.
“Hey, you guys,” Nash said nervously. “Great getup.” He forced a smile and pushed Justine away. Joe noticed that Nash glanced hastily off to the side. Unless he was wrong, the trapeze student was looking for an escape route.
“Nice to see you, too, Carl,” Frank said. “We
found Justine waiting in the hall by clown alley. She said you two were meeting up.”
“Oh?” Nash gave Justine a questioning look.
“These guys asked me all kinds of questions about the man who gave me that ball,” Justine told Nash. “I said if they wanted answers, they should ask you. I told them I was just doing you a favor.”
The glare that Nash gave Justine was unmistakable. Joe could tell that he was trying to control his anger. Then his face relaxed and he gave Justine a smile.
“Thanks, hon,” Nash said. “I know I can always count on you.” He leaned against the lion's cage and continued to smile at Justine. The lion inside the cage stood up and let out a small roar. Nash glanced at the lion and casually backed away from the cage.
Then, with a lightning movement, Nash dashed past Frank and Joe, in the direction of the doorway. Frank reacted swiftly, sticking out his leg to trip Nash. The trapeze student went flying to the ground in front of the lion's cage. This time, the lion let out an even louder roar. As Nash fell, the ball flew out of his hands into the air.
Joe watched in horror as the juggler's ball flew through the bars and landed right in the lion's cage.
While Joe's eyes were still on the ball that was lying inside the lion's cage, Nash jumped up and delivered a sharp blow to his jaw.
Joe sank to his knees, dizzy from the punch. The polka dots on his costume swam in front of his eyes. He held his head for a moment, and heard Frank call out his name.
“Get up, Joe!” Frank cried. “Help me out.”
Joe opened his eyes to see Frank wrestling with Nash on the sawdust-covered floor. Nash was on top and had Frank pinned. The circus performance had started, and there was no one else in the area to stop the fight.
Joe raced over to Frank and pulled Nash off his
brother. Then he drew back his fist and hit Nash hard in the stomach. Nash bent over, holding his middle, then slowly sank to the floor beside the lion's cage.
Justine rushed over and fell on her knees in front of him. Nash used her support to stand up. The trapeze student stood rubbing his chin. “You guys are good,” he said, nodding thoughtfully at Frank and Joe. “Too good, in fact.”