Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
“I give up!” Costello cried. “You've got me. I give up.”
Joe came down the small ladder onto the platform. “Easy does it,” he warned. “Or we're both going to fall.”
“Don't worry,” Costello said, “I'm ready to come down.”
Joe felt a wave of relief as he started down the ladder. He looked up, expecting to see Costello following him. But instead he saw Costello smiling down at him. “That was a great escape,” he said. “You kids are tougher than I thought.”
Joe kept his eyes on Costello. He wasn't going to let himself be tricked again. “You're coming down with me,” Joe warned. “Let's go. And no funny business.”
Costello laughed. “Of course not.”
Joe waited for the director of admissions to start down the ladder. Without warning, though, Costello turned and grabbed a trapeze swing and unhooked it from the platform. Before Joe could react, the man had stepped off the platform and was swept away on the trapeze.
Joe climbed back up to the platform and surveyed the situation. Costello was swinging back and forth between the trapeze platforms. Across the way on the other ladder, Joe could see Frank struggling with Carl Nash, trying to prevent the man from escaping onto the catwalk on that side. His brother couldn't help Joe out now. There was only one choiceâtake the other trapeze swing and go!
Joe grabbed the swing from where it was hooked up next to him, took a deep breath, tried not to look down, and swung off the platform.
Before Joe knew it, he was flying through the
air in a long, breathtaking arch. The ground swelled away from him, up and back, up and back. He kept his grip firm on the trapeze swing and timed the motion. Next to him, Costello was still swinging back and forth, timing his swings so that they would miss Joe.
Joe lashed out with his legs, trying to catch Costello as he swung by, but the move failed. Instead of stopping Costello, Joe just made his trapeze swing wildly. He almost lost control of the trapeze, but he straightened out his legs at the last minute and regained his balance.
But Costello used that time to let himself land back on the same platform from which he'd jumped. There wasn't any time to waste. Joe had to get back there, too. There was just one problem: Joe still had his back to the platform. He was going to have to turn around!
Trying to remember a move he'd seen the night before, Joe held his breath and said to himself, “Here goes nothing.” With that, he let go of the swing with one hand.
Joe heard the unmistakable sound of the crowd below drawing in a long breath. For a split-second he was airborne, then he swiftly twisted himself around and caught the trapeze swing with the other hand. He did it!
Without wasting another second, Joe landed squarely on the trapeze platform. Bo Costello was waiting for him. As soon as Joe felt the platform
under his feet, he also felt Costello's fist meet his jaw.
The blow made Joe lose his balance, but at the last second, he caught the ladder with his right hand. In the same movement, Joe lashed out with his left leg, catching Costello right in the stomach.
The director of admissions let out a low groan. Joe looked on in disbelief as Costello stumbled on the platform, lost his balance, and finally fell thirty feet down into the safety net.
“One down, one to go,” Joe muttered under his breath.
Across the way, on the other platform, Frank was fighting Carl Nash. The two were trading punches, and Frank seemed to be subduing the trapeze student. But then Joe saw Nash give Frank a punch in the stomach that made him fall to his knees.
“Here we go again,” Joe said, grabbing onto the trapeze swing. He took off and felt himself flying through the air yet again. “I'm getting pretty good at this,” Joe said to himself. He heard the roar of the crowd in the bleachers below him as he went sailing through the air.
A second later, Joe had landed square on the platform across the way. Over his head, he saw Frank climbing up the small ladder after Nash. “Keep cool,” Joe shouted to his brother. “I'm coming up.”
But soon Joe realized Frank didn't need his help. Just as he reached the ladder, Joe saw Carl Nash come flying down in front of his eyesâand right into the safety net next to his partner in crime, Bo Costello. The two men were caught at last.
â¢Â â¢Â â¢
It was early evening, and Frank and Joe were in Dean Turner's office. They had just finished filling in the dean, Georgianne, and Justine on what Costello had been up to.
“I simply cannot believe that a man like Bo Costello, someone with his history of devotion and commitment to the circus, would stoop so low,” Dean Turner said, shaking his head sadly. “After such a brilliant career.”
“Believe it, Paul,” Georgianne Unger said, “and be glad these guys figured it out.”
“What's really sad is that Costello was using Nash, a really promising circus performer, to further his scheme,” Joe said.
Justine sighed deeply and shook her head. “I can't believe I trusted him,” was all she could say.
“I just hope the police manage to find Ralph Rosen,” Chet offered. “I'd hate to see that guy get away.”
Frank rubbed his eyes. “They'll find him,” he said with assurance. “He can't get too far in a Montero Brothers Circus van. And they'll find
the other circus performers who were helping Costello out with his scheme, too. All the evidence is right there in Costello's office.”
“How'd he manage to do it?” Turner said, confused.
“Costello made contacts with jewel thieves all across the country. It wasn't hard to convince them that the circus would make a great cover for smugglingâall those places to hide gems, easy contact, plus his connection to former students in circuses all over the country.”
“And the students went along with it?” Georgianne asked.
“Costello convinced them that the money involved was a lot better than what they'd make just working for the circus,” Frank said. “And don't forget, he picked his people very carefully.”
“People like Carl Nash,” Chet said sadly.
“But why did he need to use his former students?” Turner asked.
“It gave him a larger circle of smugglers to work with,” Joe explained. “Rosen was only one of his operatives”
“Why didn't Costello make contact with Rosen himself this time?” Justine asked. “Why did he have to use Carl?”
“My guess is that Costello was using this time to train Nash, who was graduating this year,” Frank said. “He wanted to make sure Nash could do it.”
“And Nash helped Costello with the sabotage, too,” Joe said. “The gunpowder in the cannon was his doing. And sawing through the stilts, too.”
“And Nash was the guy who broke into my brother's room to steal Rosen's ball,” Frank said. “It looks as if he also helped Costello sabotage the clown makeup and let the tiger loose from his cage.”
“What about that accident on the trapeze?” Justine asked.
“That was a smoke screen so Joe and I wouldn't suspect Carl,” Frank said. “Costello planned it. He knew Nash wouldn't really get hurt.”
“I can't believe Bo did all this just so he could make me look incompetent,” Turner said, his voice rising in anger.
“He wanted you out of the way,” Joe added. “He was sure that the so-called accidents would make the trustees fire you and put him in your place as dean.”
“Then he'd have even more freedom to travel and train his people,” Frank went on. “He had it all worked out.”
“What about the message?” Turner wanted to know. “Was that really instructions to Costello about the next drops that were going to take place?”
Joe ran his hands through his hair. “It looks like it. Rosen was the middleman between
Costello and his contacts. Rosen would get the information from a thief about when and where a jewel would be ready to be smuggled. Then Rosen would pass that information to Costello, who would set up one of his former students to pick up the gem. Then the student turned the gem over to Costello, who would fence it.”
“The process ensured that no one had the gems for too long,” Frank said. “So that no one person could be pinpointed as the smuggler.”
“When Rosen disappeared two nights ago,” Joe added, “he'd gone to get the diamond that he was planning to smuggle to Nash.”
“Costello admitted that he handled everything out of Circus U.,” Frank said. “But he never had to have contact with the thieves himself. That way, he was protected in case something went wrong. He thought that all those messages would prevent him from being connected too closely to the smuggling ring.”
“Pretty clever,” Chet said softly.
“Well, I'm just glad the whole thing is over.” Dean Turner took his glasses off and wiped them gently with his handkerchief. “Now we can all look forward to the rest of the Montero Brothers Circus tour. And Circus U. can return to its normal businessâtraining top-notch circus performers, not crooks and thieves.”
Georgianne gave Turner a slow smile. “With me as director of admissions, you can be sure I'll
accept only the most honest, dedicated students.”
“Not like Bo Costello,” Chet countered.
“Right,” Georgianne said.
“People like Chet Morton, for example?” Joe asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Possibly,” she said with a small smile. “We'll have to wait and see how the rest of his classes go
his performance Friday night.”
Justine laughed out loud. “I'm sure it will go just fine, now that he can really get down to business.”
“Now that Frank and Joe Hardy have solved the crime,” Turner said, putting his glasses back on, “I can't thank you boys enough.”
Joe smiled, and Frank reached out to shake the dean's hand. “You're welcome,” he said.
“I have to thank you guys, too,” Chet said with a grin. “Now I can finally get down to some serious clowning!”
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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