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Authors: Franklin W. Dixon

The Clue in the Embers

BOOK: The Clue in the Embers
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Table of Contents
 
 
THE CLUE IN THE EMBERS
 
 
Tony Prito enlists the help of his detective friends Frank and Joe Hardy when a sinister stranger demands that Tony sell him the bizarre curio collection he has just inherited.
While the boys are discussing this suspicious incident, the stranger, Valez, telephones and threatens Tony. That same afternoon the three boys collect the cases of curios at a freight station. On their way back to Tony's house an attempt is made on Joe's life. The next day a red-haired seaman claims that two medallions in the collection are his. But the medallions are missing! Did Valez steal them? And what was their significance?
Unraveling the clues in this exciting mystery takes the Hardys and their friends to a desolate region in Guatemala and straight into the hands of a gang of dangerous thugs.
“We're trapped!” cried Chet
Copyright © 1972, 1955, by Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
Published by Grosset & Dunlap, Inc., a member of The Putnam & Grosset
Group, New York. Published simultaneously in Canada. S.A.
THE HARDY BOYS
®
is a registered trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
GROSSET & DUNLAP is a trademark of Grosset & Dunlap, Inc.
eISBN : 978-1-101-07649-1
2008 Printing

http://us.penguingroup.com

CHAPTER I
A Strange Inheritance
 
 
 
 
THE shrill ringing of the Hardy telephone greeted Frank and Joe as they swung into the driveway after a preseason football practice at the Bayport High field.
“Hurry!” Mrs. Hardy called a moment later. “This is the third time Tony Prito has phoned!”
“Must be important,” said blond, seventeen-year-old Joe to his brother Frank, dark-haired and a year older. “Be right there, Mom!”
Clearing the porch steps in two strides, Joe hurried in to the phone. “Hello, Tony. What's up?”
“How would you and Frank like to see some shrunken heads?”
“See what?”
“Six shrunken human heads!”
“Where are they?”
“I've inherited a lot of mysterious curios from my uncle Roberto,” Tony replied excitedly. “He had a shop full of them in New York when he died. The shipment, including the shrunken heads, will arrive at the railroad station here at one-forty this afternoon.”
“And you need our muscle to help you load and unload?” Joe asked with a chuckle.
“Right. But what's more important, I've received a strange telegram in connection with this stuff. I'll show it to you when you get here.”
“Sounds like a new mystery. Wait till I tell Frank! Well, we'll be at your house around one.”
Joe hung up and told his brother about their appointment with Tony. He had not quite finished when Mrs. Hardy came in.
“What's this about a mystery?” the slender, attractive woman asked.
The boys related the story.
“You're both just like Dad,” their mother said with a smile.
Fenton Hardy, an internationally famous detective, had served many years with the New York City police force. Later he had settled in Bayport, a bustling seaport of fifty thousand inhabitants. From his big house at Elm and High streets he carried on a busy practice as a private investigator. His sons were following in his footsteps. The first case they had solved was
The Tower Treasure,
and their latest one was
The Hooded Hawk Mystery.
“I'll sure need some nourishment if I'm going to hassle with a lot of shrunken heads,” Frank declared. “Joe, let's finish that clam chowder Mother made yesterday.”
“It sure was good.” Joe laughed. “Chet ate three bowls of it while he was here.”
Chet Morton was the Hardys' chubby pal who often went along with them to follow up dues. He lived on a farm about a mile from Bayport.
“Shall we phone Chet and ask him to come to the station?” Joe asked.
“I'm sure Tony called him already,” Frank replied.
Within ten minutes the boys were on their way to Tony's house. They found their friend sitting on the front steps. One of the Prito Construction Company's large trucks was parked at the curb. Tony waved anxiously at the boys.
“Now what's this all about?” Frank asked.
“Somebody wants to buy the curio collection sight unseen.”
“That's strange,” Joe commented.
“Look,” Tony said, reaching into his pocket. “Here's the telegram I got.”
Signed with the single name Valez, the message was an offer to buy, for two hundred dollars, the entire collection of curios.
“This arrived yesterday,” Tony explained. “And notice that Valez, whoever he is, says he's going to phone this afternoon and make arrangements to pick up the stuff.”
Suspicious, the Hardys glanced at each other. Frank suggested that the collection might be worth much more than two hundred dollars.
“Sure,” said Joe. “I wouldn't take his offer.”
“Right,” Frank continued. “Valez is too eager to make a deal. Besides, I think he has a nerve to assume you're going to sell him the curios before you've had a chance to have them appraised.”
“Do you have a list of all the things, Tony?” Joe asked.
“No, not a complete one,” Tony replied, “but this letter from the estate's executor, a bank in New York City, mentions several of the items.”
The boys scanned the paragraph that told of the curios.
“Look!” Joe exclaimed. “You even have four Moorish scimitars!”
“What about them?” Tony asked.
Frank, who had done some research on swords in connection with a previous mystery, explained that a scimitar is a crescent-shaped saber used originally by Moorish horsemen, and still popular during the Wars of Napoleon. Made of fine Damascus steel, often with guards of gold set with precious stones, these antique weapons are rare and valuable.
“And see here,” Frank continued. “The shrunken heads are mentioned, too.”
These heads, or tsanstas, the letter explained, have a considerable value in the souvenir market, despite laws against their sale or barter.
“The Andean Indians used to take the heads of their enemies in local warfare,” Joe said. “I read up on this once. The skull was removed from the severed head and boiled until it was reduced to the size of a man's fist. Then the eyes were pinned and laced, and the inside treated with hot stones and sand. Through the use of a local herb, the hair remained long and kept its original luster.”
“Pretty savage,” Tony remarked.
“Well, we'd better head for the station,” Frank urged. “The train's about due.”
Just then the phone in the Prito hallway rang.
“Maybe it's Valez,” Tony said and ran inside. Frank and Joe followed.
Tony picked up the phone and listened. His jaw tightened. For several seconds the three boys stood still while the high-pitched voice on the other end chattered without a pause.
Tony indicated to the Hardys that it was Valez. Then he said, “No. I'm sorry, but I'm not interested in your offer. Thanks just the same.”
Valez's voice grew loud and angry.
“I'm not selling at this point,” Tony said firmly.
The Hardys heard Valez snap one more remark as Tony hung up.
“What did he say?” Frank asked.
“He threatened me,” Tony replied. “Said I'd be sorry. And he's right here in Bayport!”
“Wow!” Joe exploded. “We'd better get down to the station. He might try to pull a fast one.”
“I'm glad you fellows are coming along,” Tony said as they went out of the house. “I called Chet, but he couldn't make it.”
The train had not yet arrived when the boys reached the terminal.
“According to Valez's accent he's definitely Spanish,” Tony said. “I imagine him to be the small, excitable kind.”
They glanced around the platform, but no Spanish-looking man was in sight.
“Here comes the train,” Frank said.
They watched the freight agent run his cart to a boxcar. The door opened. Crates and cartons were quickly lifted out.
“They're all yours,” the agent told Tony.
Joe whistled. “Some haul,” he said as box after box, some with strange, foreign-looking markings, was piled high onto the cart. The trio watched alertly out of the corners of their eyes for the sudden appearance of any particularly interested person.
“Okay, Tony!” the agent said at last, and handed him the bill of lading to be signed.
Without losing a moment, the three boys helped pull the cart to the truck and started loading the cases onto it. Working feverishly to finish the job so they could get home and examine the curios, they were glad to have the help of two friends whom they had spotted on the platform.
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