Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
Frank remembered the conversation they'd overheard the day before between Costello and one of his former students. The director of admissions had told the person on the other end of the line to “be careful.” He reminded Joe about what they had heard. “Maybe he was talking to Rosen.”
Joe wandered over to the bulletin board on Costello's wall. “That's a good guess. Hey,” Joe added, “check this out.” He stood by the bulletin board and pointed at one of the sheets Costello had tacked onto it.
Frank went over to the bulletin board and
looked at the photographs. He was hoping there would be one of Costello together with Rosen, something that showed they were partners in crime. It was stretching it, he knew, but there had to be some kind of proof to his theory somewhere in Costello's office.
“Look at these marks. Right here, next to these dates,” Joe said. “I mean, why these dates in particular? What's so important about them?”
Frank saw a small smile on Joe's face as he leaned over to look where his brother was pointing. “December twentieth. January third. February fourteenth. This is the Montero schedule,” Joe said. “Bo Costello's made little marks next to all three of these dates. He's even got initials next to themâhis own little code, I guess.”
Frank copied the dates down once again, along with the list of towns where the Montero was going to be on those dates. “Bayport we know,” he said. “On January third, the Montero's going to be in Indianapolis, Indiana.”
“And on the fourteenth of February, it'll stop in Fort Worth, Texas,” Joe read from the list. “But the initials next to the dates aren't the same ones we've got on our list,” he added, frustrated.
Frank sat down at Costello's desk and started playing with the numbers and the towns. He abbreviated the cities and came up with BP,
IN and FW. “Look,” he said, showing the list to Joe. “What if we make this into a code all its own.”
Joe scratched his head and looked over Frank's shoulder. “You mean, put the dates with the abbreviations you've got there?”
“Exactly,” Frank said. “And next to that, we'll put the initials from Rosen's original list.”
“Okay,” Joe said. “For twelve-twenty, we've got BPâthat's short for Bayportâand CN from Rosen's list.”
“And for one-oh-three, there's INâIndianapolisâand JL,” Frank went on. “That leaves two-fourteen, FW and GU.”
“Hey,” Joe said slowly. “I think I see something.”
“You do?” Frank asked.
Joe pointed at the letters. “Look. If you go down the alphabet one letter from
, you get C. And then if you go back up through the alphabet two letters from
, you get
Frank looked at the rest of the list and realized Joe was right. “Check it out!” he cried. “Take IN. Add a letter to the
and you get
Subtract two letters from the
and you get L. JL becomes IN.”
“And we thought Justine was the next victim of sabotage, or the next person to get passed one of Rosen's balls,” Joe said. “What the list really
means is that the next drop is going to take place in Indianapolis. The people's initials were just used to make the code.”
“And GUâwhich we thought meant Georgianne Unger,” Frank concluded, “really means Fort Worth.”
“Rosen really was passing information to Costello,” Joe said, shaking his head in wonder. “And the list doesn't seem to have a thing to do with the sabotage.”
“Or does it?” Frank wondered aloud. He tapped the desk firmly with his fist. “Bo Costello's got a lot of explaining to do. Come on.”
“Where are we going?” Joe asked.
“We're going to find him and ask him point-blank if he's working a smuggling ring with Ralph Rosen,” Frank said with determination.
Joe glanced at the door and saw the chair he'd braced against it start to move. The doorknob was turning. “Uh, Frank,” he said, “I don't think that's going to be necessary.”
“What?” Frank shot Joe a quizzical look. “Why not?”
“Because my guess is he's on his way in here,” Joe said in a harsh whisper.
Frank looked at the door and saw the knob turn. His eyes moved around the room for an escape, but there was no window and nowhere to hide.
“What are we going to do?” he asked Joe, his eyes fixed on the door.
“There's nothing we can do,” Joe shot back.
With that, the door burst open. Standing there, with Carl Nash by his side, was Bo Costello. And he did not look at all happy to see the Hardys.
“Well, well,” Costello said, smiling broadly at the Hardys. “Looks like we got our hands on a couple of clowns. Without the costumes, but still in full makeup.”
Nash gave the two of them a wicked smile. “Maybe they were just looking for an application,” he said. “Or someone to help them with that makeup.”
“Actually, we were looking for a. couple of crooks,” Joe shot back. “And it looks like we found them.”
Frank grabbed onto his brother's arm. “Keep your head,” he warned under his breath.
Costello raised his eyebrows. “Crooks?” he said in a surprised tone. “We're not crooks. Just
good businessmen.” Nash began to laugh, but Costello cut him off. “That's enough,” he said. “The circus isn't all fun and games, you know. But I guess you two have already discovered that,” he added, nodding at Frank and Joe.
“We know about your diamond theft,” Joe fired. “You're not going to get away with it.”
“But I already have,” Costello said softly. “And, once the two of you are out of the way, I will continue to.”
“Continue to?” Joe said. “So you
Costello smiled. “Clever of you to have figured that out.”
Frank stood his ground, waiting for the moment to make his move. If they planned it right, between them, he and Joe could take on Nash and Costello. It was just a matter of timing.
Costello stepped into his office and closed the door behind him. “Now, what are we going to do with these two?” he asked Nash.
Nash showed his teeth in a gruesome smile. “I say we throw them to the lions.”
“Oh, please,” Costello said in a calm voice. “Be serious.”
“Once the word gets out about what you've been up to, your scheme is dead,” Frank told the director of admissions.
Costello shook his head sadly. “You're not telling me anything I don't already know. That's
why we have to do something with you two, before you manage to tell anyone else.” He stepped over to his desk and pulled a box of fireworks out from underneath it. He took a stick of fireworks out of the box and unwound the fuse.
“What are you going to do?” Joe asked.
“There's going to be a little accident here,” Costello explained, holding up the stick. “I suppose I shouldn't keep something as dangerous as this here, but fireworks are my specialty.”
“Then it was you who caused that uncontrolled explosion,” Frank said, remembering what Paul Turner had told them about the fireworks accident at Circus U.
Costello tapped his head with the fireworks stick. “You boys are so smart. Nash, there's a lighter in my bag next to the two boys. Get it.” he ordered.
Nash came over to Frank and Joe, his head down, looking for the bag. Frank got ready to make his move, keeping his eyes on Nash. Nash just had to step a little closer, and thenâ
But before he could make his move, Joe lunged at Nash.
In a flash, Bo Costello reached across the desk and grabbed Joe's arms. Joe felt himself fall backward onto the desk. He struggled to free himself from Costello's grip.
Frank started for Costello. Then he felt a sharp pain in his left side, and he collapsed onto the floor.
“Good work, Carl,” Costello bellowed.
Then Frank heard Costello let out a grunt. Frank raised his head to see that Joe had broken free and had punched Costello in the stomach.
Frank got to his feet in time to see Nash coming toward him. Frank did a double take and turned to face Nash. The trapeze artist came flying at him, his feet outstretched in a karate move.
Frank braced himself for the blow. Nash came at him feetfirst. Frank began to duck, but Nash reacted swiftly. Frank felt Nash's feet make contact with his stomach. The blow sent him flying backward onto Costello's desk to land on his back. Getting to his feet, Frank saw out of the corner of his eye that Joe was still wrestling with Costello.
Nash came in on Frank to finish the job. Frank shot his right hand out to ward Nash off, but Nash sneered, drew his arm up to protect himself, and socked Frank in the chin.
Frank fell off the desk in a heap. He heard Joe grunt several times, then saw his brother fall to the floor next to him.
“They've got us,” Joe said with a groan. “We're goners.”
“No way,” Frank mumbled back. He felt
himself getting dizzy from the force of Nash's blow. He had to stay awake. He just had to.
Frank closed his eyes for a second and felt someone tying his hands together. “Not too tight,” Costello warned. “We want them to be able to get free, so there's no sign that we tied them. Too bad it won't be in time for them to escape.”
Nash grunted and continued to tie Frank's hands together. Frank was just about to lash out with his legs when he felt Nash grasp them hard and tie them together, too. One look at Joe out of the corner of his eye told Frank his brother was in the same mess.
At their heads, Frank saw Costello drop a pile of fireworks onto the desk, along with the fireworks stick he had been holding. The fuse was long, but not long enough to give the Hardys much time. With one last, wicked grin, Costello reached out with a flourish and held a lighter to the fuse.
“Goodbye, kids,” Costello called out as he flicked off the lights. “It's been nice knowing you.”
With that, Costello shut the door. Frank heard it lock behind him. In the silence that followed, he heard the sound of the fuse burning.
“Quick, Joe!” he cried out, wriggling his hands until he could feel the knot Nash had used to tie them together. He worked at the knot and managed to untie it. He quickly untied his legs.
“We've got to get out of here. This place is going to blow!”
Joe pulled himself to a sitting position and waited impatiently for Frank to untie his hands. While he freed his legs, Frank raced over to the fireworks.
Costello had lashed together more than twenty fireworks. The one that was burning now would set off a reaction that would cause a huge explosionâone that might not only kill them, but was sure to cause serious damage. There was no time to waste!
Frank raced to the door. He tried the knob and found it was locked from the outside. Joe came rushing over to him and tried it, too, but it was no use. They were locked in.
“Get back!” Joe cried. He darted to the back of the room and came rushing toward the door, his shoulder lowered.
Frank watched as his brother propelled himself into the door, landing square against it. The force bashed the door off its hinges.
“Good work!” Frank cried. He kicked the door off its hinges and raced outside. “Come on, quick. We've got to get out of here.”
Joe dashed into the hallway. At that moment, the fireworks blew, and Costello's office exploded in a riot of red, white, and blue lights.
“Wow!” Joe said, staring at the display. “That was too close.”
“You said it,” Frank said. At that moment, Paul
Turner came running down the hall. Chet was at his side.
“What happened?” the dean asked. He took one look at Costello's office and turned to Frank and Joe.
“There's no time to explain!” Frank yelled. “We've got to catch Costello and Nash.”
“Costello?” Chet asked, shaking his head in confusion. “Nash? Why?”
“Forget it,” Joe said. “Look!”
Joe was pointing down the long hallway. Costello's back was just visible as the director of admissions turned the corner toward the stairwell. “There they are!” Joe yelled.
With that, Joe took off at a run after them. Frank followed closely behind. Their chase led them up the stairs, past the performers in the backstage area, and into the arena. The seats were beginning to fill up with people. The audience stared at the Hardys as they chased Costello and Nash across the ring.
“What are they doing?” Frank asked, watching as Costello and Nash separated and climbed the ladders that led to the trapeze swings.
“I don't know, but I'm going after them,” Joe cried. He raced to the ladder on one side of the ring. “Take the other one,” he cried to Frank.
Frank didn't take time to think about what he was about to do. He rushed to the ladder and
started climbing it, trying not to think about the fact that he was climbing thirty feet off the ground. When he remembered the safety net, he felt better.
Nash was a few feet ahead of him on the ladder. Frank reached out to grab the man's ankle, but Nash yanked his leg free and kept climbing.
Frank took a moment to look for Joe. His brother was following Costello up the other ladder, but Costello had a good lead. The director of admissions was nearly to the top. Frank saw another, smaller ladder extending up from the platform onto a catwalk that held the lights and ran around the ceiling of the arena.
“Stop him!” Frank cried to Joe. “He's going to get away!”
Joe heard his brother's warning and craned his neck up the ladder. He saw Costello move along the platform toward the smaller ladder that led to the catwalk.
Joe gripped the ladder and took the rungs three at a time. In a flash, he was up at the top and had grabbed onto Costello's leg. The man tried to pull it free, but Joe kept his hold tight.