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Authors: Franklin W. Dixon

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BOOK: Three-Ring Terror
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“And the oil was probably thrown in to make the fire more smoky,” Joe finished.

“We've got to tell Dean Turner about this,” Chet said, a worried expression on his face.

“Let's wait until he's recovered,” Frank suggested. The crowd that had gathered around the dean was starting to thin out. Bo Costello was telling the audience that refreshments were being served in the foyer.

As the crowd left, Frank noticed that the tall, brown-haired woman was sitting next to Turner and speaking to him in a loud voice. He inched closer to hear what she was saying.

“Now are you going to listen to me?” she was asking in a high voice. “What more is it going to take before you do something?”

“Georgianne,” Turner said, wiping his grimy face with a large, white handkerchief, “please don't start in on me again. It was an accident.”

“Like the one last week in Atlanta, when the
tiger got out of his cage? Or two days ago when the prop room caught on fire? It's a miracle nobody's been hurt. When are you going to realize that these aren't just accidents?” she demanded.

Frank motioned to Joe and Chet and whispered to them what he had just overheard. “It looks like Circus U. has had more than its share of accidents lately,” he said.

Chet's eyes widened. “Whew,” he said, letting out a long breath. “You think it's sabotage?”

“Hard to say,” Joe said with a shrug. “But we should definitely tell Dean Turner about the gasoline. Especially if this isn't the first time something's gone wrong at Circus U.”

The three of them walked up to Dean Turner. “Feeling better?” Frank asked, taking in the man's sooty face and dirty clothes.

“I'm fine now,” Dean Turner said, smiling. “Thanks to you.”

Frank paused for a moment. “There's something you should know,” he said finally. He told the dean about finding traces of oil and gasoline in the barrel. “It looks like someone wanted you to go up in smoke,” Frank finished.

The brown-haired woman stared at Frank, then turned and faced Dean Turner. “See. I told you so. If this so-called accident doesn't make you take action, then I will!” With that, she got up from her seat and stormed off.

“You'll have to excuse my assistant,” Turner said as he watched her leave. “She can be temperamental.”

“What did she mean by ‘so-called accident'?” Joe asked.

Turner sighed. “Georgianne Unger—that's my assistant's name—thinks that some recent mishaps during the circus's tour are more than just accidents.”

“Like what just happened in the cannon?” Chet offered.

“Exactly.” Turner reached for his jacket, took his glasses out of the pocket, and put them on. “That's better. Now at least I can see you boys. Paul Turner,” he said, reaching out his hand.

“Frank Hardy,” Frank said, shaking Turner's hand. “This is my brother, Joe, and our friend Chet Morton. Chet's taking classes at Circus U.”

A big smile appeared on Turner's face. “That's great,” he said to Chet. “I just hope this little event hasn't spoiled your love for the circus.”

Chet shook his head vigorously. “Not a chance.”

“Good,” Turner said. “I'm glad to hear it.”

At that moment, Bo Costello came over with a younger man and a woman in tow. The man had short brown hair and was dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt. The woman was blond and short, and she wore a red, white, and blue Circus U. warm-up suit. Both looked to be in their early
twenties. “Turner, we've got to talk,” Costello said. “These students are very concerned about this latest incident, as you might guess. Some of the circus performers have spoken to me, too.”

“You've got to do something before someone gets seriously hurt,” the woman urged.

“We're all getting nervous,” the man added. The man's smooth drawl sounded familiar to Frank. Then he realized who the man was: Carl Nash. Without his clown makeup, Frank hadn't recognized Nash at first. The Circus U. student gave the Hardys and Chet a nod of recognition.

“Carl Nash and Justine Leone speak for all the students, I think,” Costello went on, “when they express their worries about what has been happening. As dean of Circus U. and the manager of this tour of the Montero Brothers Circus, it is up to you to take action.”

Turner sighed and ran his hands through his hair. “Okay, Bo. I get the message.”

Costello stood with his hands on his hips, his small, wiry frame obviously tense. “We can't keep having these accidents,” he insisted.

“Okay, okay.” Turner sighed in exasperation. “Relax, Bo. I'm sorry, Carl, Justine,” he added, turning to the students with a concerned look. “We'll get to the bottom of this. I promise.”

Frank saw Nash's eyes brighten a little and a smile appear on his face. But Justine gave Bo an insistent look.

Bo responded to the look by saying to Turner, “If anything else goes wrong, I'm going to be the first one to call the trustees of Circus U. and the board of directors of the circus. I'll even beat Georgianne to the punch. You can count on it.”

With that, Costello walked off, followed closely by Justine and Nash.

“What did he mean by ‘beat Georgianne to the punch'?” Frank asked Turner.

The dean smiled nervously. “Georgianne has been threatening to call the trustees and board members to tell them about the mishaps we've been having.”

“And you don't want them to know,” Joe concluded.

“I'd rather they didn't, until I know for certain that it's something serious,” Turner admitted, gazing ahead at the three rings and the circus apparatus in them. He faced the Hardys and Chet with a look of concern and embarrassment. “I might get kicked off the board, and the trustees may decide I'm not competent enough to run Circus U.”

“You think they might fire you as dean?” Frank asked.

Turner sighed. “They could.” He paused, then went on. “You have to realize that the circus is my life. I've loved performing in it, and I love teaching young people who want to be performers.”
He shook his head. “I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't be part of the circus anymore.”

“Maybe what you need are detectives to help you figure out why you've been having trouble here lately,” Chet said. He smiled and pointed to Frank and Joe. “And I've got the perfect detectives for you.”

“You two are detectives?” Turner asked, raising an eyebrow.

Frank nodded. “We've solved a few cases around town,” he said.

“Frank's just being modest,” Chet said. “He and Joe have solved mysteries that even the police couldn't figure out.”

Turner rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Well, I'm not sure there's anything to investigate, really,” he said. “But maybe if you keep your eyes open you might notice something.”

“You want us to look around?” Joe asked.

Turner paused for a moment, then he said slowly, “Not officially. But if we gave you special admittance here, you could attend classes and be around just in case there is another accident.”

“Special admittance?” Frank asked. “You mean we'd be students here?”

“That's right,” Turner said with a nod.

“That's a great idea,” Chet said with excitement. “You can come to my clowning class.” He glanced at his watch. “It's in five minutes.”

“Well, okay,” Joe said. “But no way will I put on a clown costume.”

Turner shook Frank's hand. “Good. I'm happy to have you boys admitted as special students of Circus U. Look around and tell me if you see anything suspicious.”

“We will,” Joe assured him.

“Now, if you'll excuse me,” Turner said, “I have to change these clothes and get back to work.” With that, Dean Turner gave the three boys a nod and headed across the arena.

“All right!” Chet cried, slapping Frank on the back. “Welcome aboard. Let's go. We don't want to be late for clowning class.”

“Not so fast,” Frank said. “We still need to find out about our mystery juggler.”

“Sorry, Chet,” Joe added. “We'll have to skip our first class.”

“That's not very responsible of you,” Chet said with a smile. “But okay. Come by later and pick me up. We can grab lunch.”

“Sounds good,” Frank said as Chet went off.

“Be careful,” Joe called out after him. “Clowning's serious business.”

Chet laughed and broke into a run. When he was gone, Frank faced his brother and said, “Ready to find our mystery juggler?”

Joe nodded. “Where should we start?”

Frank looked over at the rings. “Let's talk to
some people with the Montero Brothers Circus. Chances are, the mystery juggler is a full-time performer with the circus.”

“He could have been a Circus U. student,” Joe pointed out.

“True,” Frank agreed. “But we have to start somewhere.”

Several minutes later, Frank and Joe had sneaked past a guard and taken the elevator down to the bottom floor. Even though it was still early, the floor was alive with activity. The double doors to the animal room were open, and the Hardys could see groomers feeding seals and washing a baby elephant. Performers were bustling in and out of the dressing rooms. Frank asked a circus performer wearing a leotard and sweatpants where he might find the clowns. The woman directed him to a rehearsal room down the hall. She called it “clown alley.”

“Clown alley,” Joe said, laughing. “That's funny.”

“Chet told me that the circus clowns always stake out a room where they hang out together and rehearse,” Frank said. “The clowns' room came to be known as clown alley.” He led the way down the hall in the direction the woman had pointed. Soon they came to a large room that contained dressing tables and a rack hung with clown costumes. Several men and women, some in costumes and some in street clothes, were
standing around the room, drinking cups of coffee and talking to each other.

“Excuse me,” Frank said, stepping into the room. “Can I ask you a few questions?”

A red-haired man in jeans and a Montero Brothers Circus T-shirt looked Frank over. “About what?” he wanted to know.

Frank introduced himself and Joe to the man, who said his name was Jim Jacobs. Frank described the mystery juggler to Jacobs. “Does he sound familiar to you?” Frank asked. “Someone with the circus, maybe?”

Jacobs nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “I know exactly who you're talking about. There's only one guy around here who wears baggy green-striped pants.”

Frank felt his excitement growing. He exchanged a look with Joe. Now they were getting somewhere.

“Funny you should be searching for him, though,” Jacobs went on, looking at the brothers curiously.

“Why's that?” Frank asked.

“Because I am, too,” Jacobs explained. “I had an appointment with him after the performance last night, but he didn't show up. And nobody's seen him this morning. The guy you're looking for has totally disappeared!”

5 Chet Takes a Giant Step

“He's disappeared?” Joe asked in disbelief.

“That's right,” Jacobs said. “We've checked his motel room, and everyone's been looking for him for the past two hours. The guy's gone!”

Joe kicked the floor in frustration. “There goes our only lead.”

“Not necessarily,” Frank said. “The guy could turn up.”

“I wouldn't be so sure,” Jacobs said. “Ralph Rosen—that's the guy's name—pulls these disappearing acts a lot. And when he's gone, he's gone.” Jacobs let out a whistle and made a sweeping gesture with his hand. “Adios, amigos. We're not gonna be seeing him around here again. I never should have hired him.”

“If you knew about these disappearing acts, why did you hire him in the first place?” Frank asked.

Jacobs shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows? When you're head clown like I am, you take who's good, and he was good, that's for sure. I have to admit that before I hired him for this tour, I'd heard he was pretty unreliable about showing up for rehearsals and performances. But I needed a good juggling act, and Rosen needed the job.” He paused and looked intently at the Hardys. “Why are you looking for him, anyway? What did you mean just now when you said he was your only lead? And who let you back here? This area is for circus personnel only.”

Joe saw Frank's warning look and thought quickly. “We're part-time students at Circus U. He was doing a trick last night that my brother and I wanted to learn. That's all we wanted.”

Jacobs laughed. Joe was relieved to see he believed their story. “Which trick?” Jacobs asked. “I bet I could show you.”

“Umm . . . the one with the . . .” Joe was stumped. He tried to remember something special about what the juggler had been doing the night before.

Frank came to the rescue. “What my brother meant to say was that we know how to juggle a little,” he said, “but Rosen kept five balls in the
air. Joe and I thought he might give us a lead on how to handle more than three.”

“That's easy,” Jacobs said. Before Joe could say another word, Jacobs dashed over to a dressing table and came back with five tennis balls. “If you can do three, you can do as many as you want,” he explained, tossing the balls in the air one by one. “The principle's exactly the same.”

One after another, Jacobs tossed all five balls in the air. Grabbing a ball with his right hand, he tossed it back into the air as his left hand grabbed another. “You try it,” he said, passing a ball to Joe as it came down.

Joe jumped as Jacobs shot him the ball. He hadn't expected to have to juggle for the man. Before he could react, Jacobs had tossed him another, and another, and Joe was hurling them up into the air as fast as Jacobs threw them. With no time to think, Joe had all five balls going at once and was frantically shuffling them back into the air as fast as they landed.

BOOK: Three-Ring Terror
13.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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