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Authors: Franklin W. Dixon

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BOOK: Three-Ring Terror
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Joe stood up, stuffed the paper in the pocket of his jeans, and headed for the kitchen door. “I was busy trying to crack this code and I lost track of time,” he said, grabbing his jacket from the coatrack by the door.

After the Hardys had picked up Chet, Frank drove the brothers' black police van toward the Bayport Arena. On the way, the three of them talked about the mystery juggler.

“Do you think he was a spy, passing secret information?” Chet asked. “That would be too much, wouldn't it?”

Joe laughed and twisted around in the front seat to look at Chet. His friend wasn't wearing his clown costume but had his Circus U. tote bag with him. “We shouldn't jump to any conclusions,” Joe said. “At least not until we ask around and find out just who this guy is.”

Frank steered the van into the arena parking lot. “We still need to find out what the message means,” he said. “And why he dropped the ball in your bag.”

“The ball!” Joe exclaimed, slapping his forehead with his palm. “We left it at home.”

Frank shot his brother a look as he switched off the ignition. “You mean,
left it at home.”

“You were the one who rushed me out of the house,” Joe protested. “If you hadn't overslept, this wouldn't have happened.”

“Hey, guys,” Chet said, crawling over the seat to follow Joe out the passenger side of the van. “It's no big deal. You can go home and get it after Dean Turner's speech.”

“Who's Dean Turner?” Frank asked.

“He's the dean of Circus U.,” Chet answered.
“He's giving a speech this morning about Circus U. for students and guests. And then he's going to perform a trick he used to be famous for.”

“Oh, great,” Joe said absently. He was still mad at himself for leaving the juggler's ball in his room. He could see it now, sitting on top of his desk where he'd left it the night before.

“Dean Turner's going to be shot out of a cannon,” Chet said. “Isn't that neat?”

“Definitely,” Frank said. He looked at his brother, who was staring off into space, a glum expression on his face. “Forget about the ball, Joe. We don't really need it to find out who the mystery juggler is.”

“I guess you're right,” Joe agreed reluctantly. “All we really have to do is describe the ball and see if anyone with the Montero Brothers Circus or Circus U. knows a guy who wears green rhinestone-covered pants and a blue wig and juggles gem-studded balls.”

“Exactly,” Frank said. “It just means a little more legwork.”

“Let's move it,” Chet urged, looking at his watch. “We've only got fifteen minutes before Dean Turner's speech.”

The Hardys and Chet headed across the parking lot. Chet led them around to the back of the Bayport Arena. It was cold out, but the sun shone brightly, reflecting off the stark white walls of the huge, round, domed building.

“Where are we going?” Joe asked as Chet opened a door marked Private.

“This is the entrance to the arena's offices and multipurpose rooms,” Chet explained as they stepped into the building. “I want to give you a quick tour of our classrooms.”

Chet turned left and led the Hardys down a hallway that curved past a bank of elevators.

“This is where we learn makeup,” Chet said, pointing to a room on their left. He opened the door to the next room. “And here's the prop classroom.”

Joe saw the room was full of wood, paint, and worktables. There was even a huge table saw and drill. The room looked a lot like his shop class in school. “You have to make your own props?” he asked.

Chet nodded. “Every clown learns how to make his or her own props. That's part of building a clown character.”

Frank let out a whistle. “Boy, you're serious about this clowning thing, aren't you?”

Chet grinned. “As serious as any clown can be.”

They continued down the hall. When they reached the elevators, Chet said, “Down the rest of the hallway are the offices for arena employees and the offices Circus U. people are using. The circus animals are also kept down here. The elevators lead to the arena and locker rooms.”

“I searched around the locker rooms and down here when I was looking for the juggler last night,” Joe said.

The Hardys and Chet rode one of the passenger elevators up to the main floor. They walked down a short hallway toward double glass doors that said Entrance to Arena.

When they stepped through the doors, they found themselves at the top of the last aisle of seats. Way below them were the three circus rings. A cannon was placed in the middle of the center ring, and there was a podium next to it. The seats were beginning to fill up with families and students. Some of the students were dressed in leotards and sweatshirts and had Circus U. tote bags with them.

“Let's get a good seat,” Chet urged. “I want to be up close.”

“Not too close,” Frank said with a grin. “We don't want Dean Turner to come flying right at us.”

The three friends took seats in the third row of the center section. Joe noticed that there was a safety net strung up in front of the seats on his right, and that the cannon was pointed at the net. He nudged Frank and pointed to the net. “Just in case you were really worried that we'd be hit by the human cannonball,” he said, smiling.

Soon the bleachers around them were full of students and parents with young children.

“How many students are there at Circus U.?” Joe asked Chet.

Chet scanned the crowd. “There are ten from Bayport High. I'm not sure how many full-timers are interning with the Montero Brothers Circus.”

Just then a short, thin man with dark hair and glasses stepped up to the podium. He was wearing a tweed coat and brown slacks. Joe thought he looked almost like a college professor. “That's Dean Turner?” Joe asked Chet in a whisper.

Chet shrugged. “I guess so. I've never met him. I've only seen his picture in the Circus U. catalog.”

“He's not exactly the kind of guy you'd expect to be shot from a cannon, is he?” Frank asked Joe.

The crowd grew quiet as the dean began to speak. “I'd like to welcome you all here today. I'm Paul Turner, dean of Circus University and a member of the board of directors of the Montero Brothers Circus. We're very proud to have you here for this annual open house. Bayport has always welcomed the circus and Circus U., and we're glad to have this chance to thank you.”

For the next few minutes, Turner explained the purpose of Circus U. for the crowd of students and Bayport residents. At the end of his speech, he told them, “Please feel free to stay and watch the circus performers rehearse, and to ask the students and performers whatever questions you
have. There will be circus performances all week, and I hope you will want to attend at least one.” Dean Turner smiled. “The performance Friday night should be particularly exciting, because the Bayport High students will be performing along with the circus performers.”

A buzz of excitement ran through the audience. Frank and Joe turned and looked at Chet. “Did you know that was going to happen?” Joe whispered.

Chet nodded and smiled happily. “And you guys had better be there.”

“And now, without further ado,” Dean Turner continued, “I'd like to show you all a trick I used to perform back in my professional circus days, before I became the dean at Circus U.”

“I can't believe he's going to get in that cannon with his tweed jacket on,” Joe said.

But Turner had stepped back from the podium and removed his jacket. He rolled up the sleeves of his shirt and straightened his bow tie. Nearby, a man in a tuxedo sitting at a drum set began to play a snare drum. Turner bowed to the audience and walked slowly toward the cannon.

“That's one of the things I love about the circus,” Joe whispered. “The suspense.”

“Shh,” Chet said. “I can't concentrate.”

When Turner reached the ladder that led up to the cannon's mouth, he turned to the crowd.
“Don't try this at home,” he joked. “This stunt requires special training. The kind of training a place like Circus U. offers, in fact.”

He turned and began to climb the ladder. When he got to the top, he grabbed the rim of the cannon and hoisted himself feetfirst into the barrel. Two men in circus blazers removed the ladder. Then a tall woman with long brown hair stepped across the ring to the end of the cannon. A long fuse reached out of the cannon and trailed to the ground. The woman lit the fuse with a flourish, and it began to burn, sending out sparks.

Next to him, Joe heard Chet draw in his breath. He glanced over at his friend. Chet was sitting on the edge of the bleacher, watching every move. As the fuse came closer to the cannon, Chet's eyes widened.

Then, in a flash, the fuse went off, lighting the gunpowder inside the cannon. A huge boom exploded from the barrel, and smoke came pouring out.

The crowd let out a gasp. Joe waited to see Turner shoot from the cannon's barrel, but nothing happened. More and more smoke appeared, but there was still no sign of the dean.

Then he heard the sound of coughing coming from the cannon and Dean Turner's voice cry out, “Help! Someone help me!”

4 The Disappearing Juggler

Frank jumped up from his seat and raced down the aisle ahead of Joe and Chet. As he hurried across the ring to the cannon, he heard Dean Turner's cries for help grow weaker and weaker.

“Help him!” a man in the audience shouted. “He'll suffocate in there!”

Frank saw that the man was right. Smoke was pouring out of the cannon's mouth now, filling the area with a smelly, bluish haze.

The tall woman who had lit the fuse was standing by the cannon, a worried expression on her face. Frank quickly tried to think of a plan. The cannon was a good ten feet above the ground.

“Help,” Turner said faintly. “I can't last much . . .”

At that moment, Joe and Chet came up to Frank. “What's the matter?” Joe asked. “Why can't he get out by himself?”

“I think he's been overcome by smoke,” Frank said. He coughed and added, “We've got to think of a way to get him out of there—fast.”

He fanned the smoke away from his face, coughing several times as huge billows kept pouring out of the cannon. Joe was rubbing his eyes, and Chet had his hand over his mouth.

Frank motioned for Joe to hold back the crowd that had formed around them. A short, wiry older man stood by, scowling. “Do something, boys,” he snapped. “Or let someone else take over.”

“Why don't
do something,” Joe muttered angrily.

Chet grabbed Joe's arm. “That's Bo Costello, director of admissions at Circus U.,” he told Joe in a harsh whisper. “Keep cool.”

“Joe, Chet,” Frank called out suddenly. “Get the ladder Dean Turner used to get into the cannon. Hurry!”

Seconds later, Joe and Chet returned with the ladder. They propped it up against the mouth of the cannon and held it in place as Frank scrambled up the rungs.

The smoke had thinned out a little. When
Frank reached the cannon's mouth, he could see Turner lying on his stomach deep inside the cannon. Frank desperately hoped the dean was still conscious. He stretched his arm down into the dark barrel.

“Dean Turner, can you reach my hand?” he asked. There was no reply. Frank waited an anxious moment, then he felt Turner's fingers meet his. “Hold tight,” Frank said. “I'm going to pull you out.”

He glanced down and saw that his brother and Chet were holding the ladder securely. Frank leaned into the barrel and pulled Dean Turner's hand—hard.

Frank coughed at the trails of smoke that kept coming out of the barrel. “On three,” he said. “One. Two. Three.” Frank put all his strength into his grip and pulled. He felt Turner come sliding toward him. Frank stepped down two rungs and pulled the dean out of the cannon. Turner was shaking, but he slowly made his way down the ladder with Frank behind him.

When they reached the floor, Frank led Dean Turner over to a seat in the first row. A tall man hurried over to them, carrying a portable oxygen tank.

“I'm the circus doctor,” he told Frank. “I'll take over now. Do you need some oxygen?”

Frank shook his head and stepped away. He took a few deep breaths and began to feel better.

“Nice work,” Joe said, coming up to him. “Maybe the circus could feature you in one of their acts—‘Frank Hardy, the daredevil rescuer.' ” Then he looked at his brother and added in a serious tone, “You sure you're okay, Frank?”

“I'm fine,” Frank replied. “I just hope Dean Turner's okay.”

The Hardys walked over to where Dean Turner was sitting. He was holding an oxygen mask over his face. When the dean saw Frank, he removed the mask and smiled. “Thank you, young man,” he said. “You saved my life.”

“I'm just glad you're all right,” Frank said. The dean nodded, then sat back in his chair and closed his eyes. Frank turned to Joe. “Let's find out what happened to that cannon.”

As soon as Frank and Joe reached the cannon, Chet came up to them. He was carrying a fire extinguisher. “I found it backstage,” he told them, handing the extinguisher to Frank.

“Good work,” Frank said. “Hold the ladder again.” He took the extinguisher from Chet and climbed up the ladder. When he got to the top, Frank squirted the foam inside the cannon at what was left of the smoke. Frank leaned into the cannon's mouth and sniffed. He was sure he smelled oil. That would have caused the blue haze that had formed out of the smoke, he thought. He climbed down and told Joe what he had discovered.

“Oil, sure,” Joe said, after he had made the climb up to the cannon. “I feel it, too,” he added, showing Frank a greasy finger. “But there's more,” he added. “I smell gasoline, and unless I'm wrong, there are traces of gunpowder inside here, too.”

“Someone wanted this thing to blow,” Frank said as Joe climbed back down. “They must have known that with the fuse lit, the gasoline would ignite, blowing up the gunpowder.”

BOOK: Three-Ring Terror
2.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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