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Authors: Franklin W. Dixon

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“Another visiting circus that was passing through Atlanta lent us a tiger—a trained tiger, mind you,” Turner said. “The keeper failed to secure its cage, and it got loose. It was quite a scene, as you can imagine, but we quickly captured the animal.”

“And the prop room?” Joe asked.

“The fire department investigated, and they concluded that someone had left oily rags and sawdust too close to some gasoline,” Turner replied. “A cigarette butt may have been the cause of the fire. I dismissed the prop manager, and we haven't had another problem.”

“Until today with Chet's stilts,” Frank pointed out.

Turner was silent for a moment. “As you yourself suggested, anyone could have gone into the classroom and sawn through that stilt. I'm very sorry for what happened to your friend, though,” he added softly.

“But you think Georgianne might be behind these accidents, as you call them,” Frank said.

“It's possible,” Turner said finally. He leaned forward in his chair and looked at the Hardys intently. “You want my honest opinion? I suspect that she wants my job and my seat on the board of directors of the Montero Brothers Circus. A seat on the board is an honor that comes with the deanship. Georgianne hopes these accidents will cause the trustees and the board to fire me and replace me with her. But what she doesn't realize is that it will never happen.”

“Why not?” Joe asked.

“Because she's too young and too inexperienced. If anyone is going to replace me, it will be an experienced circus performer getting ready to
retire, or a longtime member of the Circus U. faculty, like Bo Costello. He's been with Circus U. almost as long as I have.”

“Does Ms. Unger know this?” Frank asked.

“Not as far as I can tell.” Turner rubbed his forehead. “I'd hate to believe it was Georgianne, anyway. I know she appears to be ambitious and all, but I've worked with her long enough to know that she's also got a heart of gold.” He stood up from his chair. “Is there anything else I can help you with?” he asked. “I hate to cut this short, but I do have a lot of work.”

“Just one more question,” Frank said.

“Yes?” Dean Turner asked.

“Why hasn't Georgianne called the trustees yet to tell them about all these accidents?” Frank asked.

Turner shook his head and shrugged. “I don't know. She keeps threatening, but so far she hasn't followed through on her threats.”

“That seems a little strange, doesn't it?” Joe asked. “Since, as you say, she wants your job.”

Frank nodded in agreement. “But who knows. Maybe she's waiting for someone to get hurt, so it looks really bad.”

“I hope not,” Turner said sadly. “That's a terrible thought.”

The Hardys had just gotten up from their chairs when the phone on Turner's desk rang.
Turner answered it. Frank motioned to Joe that they should leave.

Turner held his hand over the mouthpiece and said, “Please, boys, stay a moment, if you don't mind.”

Frank exchanged a look with Joe and sat back down in the chair across from Turner's desk. The dean didn't say more than two or three words to the person on the other end of the line. After a moment he hung up the phone and sat down slowly, a dazed expression on his face.

“What is it?” Joe asked.

“What's wrong?” Frank said.

“That was the head trustee for Circus U.,” Turner said dully.

“And?” Frank asked.

Turner swallowed before going on. “He said that Georgianne Unger just called him to tell him about the accidents. He said that unless I find out who is behind the incidents within one week, I'll be removed as dean of Circus U.”

7 A Coded Connection

“What?” Joe asked Turner. “You mean they'll fire you?”

“That's exactly what I mean,” Turner said. He rounded his desk and started pacing back and forth. “Oh, this is terrible, just terrible.”

Joe watched as Frank stepped over to Turner and put his hand on the dean's arm. “Calm down,” the older Hardy urged. “We'll get to the bottom of this.”

“Frank's right, Dean Turner,” Joe put in. “We've got a week. That's plenty of time.”

Turner sighed deeply. “Oh, I hope so,” he said. “Oh, no,” he added, looking at his watch. “I have an appointment with an important donor in fifteen minutes. Would you mind—”

“No problem,” Joe said. “There's just one more question. What do you know about a guy with the Montero Brothers Circus by the name of Ralph Rosen?”

Dean Turner looked puzzled. “Ralph Rosen? I personally kicked him out of this school about a year ago.”

“You mean Rosen went to Circus U.?” Joe asked.

“He did,” Turner said. “Until he got expelled. In fact, I'm stunned to hear that he's working for the Montero Brothers Circus. Jim Jacobs didn't tell me he'd hired him. I'll have to speak to him about that. With his record, Rosen shouldn't even be clowning for a third-rate outfit, let alone a world-class circus like the Montero.” Turner shook his head a few times, as if trying to clear his thoughts. “How did you find out that Rosen was working for the circus?”

“It's a long story,” Joe said. He took a deep breath and quickly explained to Dean Turner that Rosen had dropped one of his juggler's balls in Chet's tote bag and then disappeared. “So we went looking for him,” he went on. “But the guy's taken off.”

“I'm not surprised,” Turner said. “About Rosen taking off, that is. He used to miss classes all the time. When he did come he would disrupt the entire class. He was a terrific juggler, but he had a terrible attitude. He thought he was better
than everyone, and he wouldn't take direction. Costello wanted me to give him a break. He said Rosen had a lot of talent and just needed the proper guidance, but in the end he was forced to agree with my decision to dismiss him. Circus U. was not the place for someone like Ralph Rosen.”

“That guy we talked to—what was his name?” Frank asked his brother.

“Jim Jacobs,” Joe replied, “the head clown.”

“Right,” Frank said. “Jim Jacobs admitted Rosen had a bad reputation, but he said he felt sorry for him. Rosen was juggling on the street for money, apparently.”

Turner shrugged. “I'm not surprised. With his attitude, it's unlikely any circus would hire him. Although you don't need a degree from Circus U. to be qualified to work in circuses,” he added.

“Is there any way we can find out more about Ralph Rosen?” Frank asked.

“You should ask Bo,” Turner replied. “He would have a record of his application. And Jacobs will know where he's staying in Bayport. I'm still not sure why you want to find him, though. What was so important about that ball he dropped in your friend's bag?”

Joe pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and showed Turner the coded message. “This was inside the ball,” he explained, handing over the slip of paper.

After Turner scanned the paper, he glanced up
at Joe with a questioning look in his eyes. “Do you have any idea what this means?” he asked.

Before Joe could answer, Frank spoke up. “Actually, we don't.”

From the dean's expression, Joe could tell Turner had an idea. “Why, do you?” Joe asked.

“These letters popped out at me right away,” Turner explained. “Of course they mean more to me than to you, since I know these people.”

“What do you mean?” Joe asked, frustrated at Turner for taking so long to get to the point. “What people?”

Turner pointed to the paper. “CN, JL, and GU are all initials of people at the circus.”

“They are?” Joe grabbed the paper from Turner and looked at it again.

“Carl Nash, Justine Leone—” Turner said.

“And Georgianne Unger,” Frank finished. “Boy, are we dense.”

“Not really. We only just met these people,” Joe reminded his brother. “But I have to admit, I do feel pretty stupid for not noticing the connection before.” He stared at the numbers that went along with the letters. “The question is, what do these numbers mean?”

“And why are these initials on this list?” Frank added, looking over his brother's shoulder.

“Well, you boys are the detectives,” Turner said, shrugging.

Joe pocketed the slip of paper and headed for
the door. “We'll take it from here,” he told Turner. “If you think of anything else that might be helpful—”

“I'll let you know,” Turner said. He crossed the room and held the door open for them. “Good luck to you two, and thanks again for what you're doing. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.”

“No problem,” Frank said.

“We'll keep you posted,” Joe added, closing the door behind them. He followed Frank into the hallway.

“So now we know that Ralph Rosen once attended Circus U.,” Frank said.

“And he was kicked out,” Joe added. “Think he has a grudge against Turner? Enough of a grudge to have caused the problems at Circus U. and the circus here?”

“It's a possibility,” Frank admitted. “But how does that tie in to the coded message he passed to Chet?” He bit his lip in frustration. “We need to find out more about Ralph Rosen.”

“Let's ask Costello. Maybe he can help us out.” Joe waited while a student walked down the hall past them before going on. “So we're back to where we started. We know who Rosen is, but we don't know how to find him. We think the code may refer to people here at the circus, but we don't know why.” Joe tried to sort out all the
details in his mind. “Hey,” he said. “I just thought of something.”

“What?” Frank said. “I recognize that look. You're about to make a flying leap at deduction.”

“That's what makes me such a good detective,” Joe said, pointing his finger at Frank's chest. “Let's say the code is somehow related to the sabotage.”

“We don't know that for sure,” Frank warned.

“No, we don't,” Joe admitted. “But let's just say it is.”

“Okay,” Frank said slowly. “What then?”

Joe searched for a connection he just knew had to be there. “Say Rosen is connected to the sabotage,” he said. “He gets kicked out of Circus U. and decides to get even with Turner, out of revenge,” Joe explained in a rush. “Maybe the code was some kind of note he was passing to an accomplice, someone on the inside who was helping him for their own reasons. They could be working together.”

Joe waited for his brother to respond. “Well?” Joe asked finally, when Frank had kept quiet for too long.

“I see your point,” Frank said slowly. “But why would Rosen need to pass information to his accomplice? Why not just make phone calls? Remember, the sabotage started before Circus U. and the Montero Circus ever got to Bayport. Also,
why would his accomplice take instructions from Rosen?”

“I don't know,” Joe said in exasperation. “That's what we have to find out. You got a better idea?” Joe raised his eyebrows and waited for his brother's response.

“Hey, don't be so defensive,” Frank said.

“I'm not defensive,” Joe said. “It's just that when you don't have any ideas, you want to shoot down mine.”

“I'm not shooting them down,” Frank explained. “I'm just trying to see if they make sense. Let's go meet Chet and get some lunch. We can grab a burger and go over what we know.”

“Sure,” Joe said, still feeling that Frank wasn't taking his idea seriously. He decided to find some proof to back up his deduction.

“You know,” Joe said as he and Frank started walking down the hall toward the elevators, “Rosen could be working with Carl Nash. Remember last night when Carl showed up? He was wearing the same costume as Chet. What if Rosen meant to pass the message to Nash?”

Frank turned to his brother. “Now you're onto something. Why didn't we think of that before?”

“What if Nash is Rosen's accomplice?” Joe pressed.

“Why would his initials be on the list then?” Frank asked. “It doesn't make sense.”

“It could be a smoke screen,” Joe said, knowing he was searching for reasons again. “To divert suspicion from Nash.”

“That would only work if Rosen and Nash knew they'd be caught,” Frank pointed out, “Otherwise, there's no reason to throw us off the track.”

Joe had to admit that Frank had a point. “All this is starting to give me a headache,” he said finally. “Maybe the theories will come together after we eat.”

“A burger certainly wouldn't hurt,” Frank said. “And then we can talk to Bo Costello.”

“Right,” Joe said. They were at the end of the hallway now. Frank pressed the elevator button. “I hope Chet's class is over and he's waiting for us. Now that you've mentioned it, I'm starving.”

When they got to the arena, they saw Bo Costello teaching a trapeze class. Joe quickly spotted Chet standing by the seats with the other Bayport High students. Their friend had his neck craned and was watching two trapeze students perform acrobatics. Joe and Frank stood beside Chet.

“It's incredible!” Chet exclaimed, his mouth open. “I'd be scared to death, but they're just flying back and forth as though it were second nature or something. Good thing there's a safety net.”

Joe had to agree with his friend. The students
were really skilled. Joe recognized the man who had jumped from the trapeze swing to stand on a platform thirty feet above their heads. “Isn't that Nash up there?” he asked. Chet nodded. Nash's partner swung back and forth on the trapeze as Nash leaned forward on the platform, timing his move.

“Yep,” Chet said. “And that's Justine Leone on the trapeze. They're both really good.”

“I can tell,” Frank said, watching intently.

“You can do the move now, Carl,” Joe heard a voice yell up to Nash. He turned to his right to see Bo Costello, his hands around his mouth, hollering up to Nash. “Watch your timing,” Costello said. “And don't forget to keep your eyes on Justine.”

BOOK: Three-Ring Terror
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