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Authors: Franklin W. Dixon

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BOOK: The Secret Warning
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“Whose ghost we saw at the window!” Joe added. “And don't forget, Dad wanted to know about the legend of Whalebone Island. This may tie in with the case he's working on!”
“It's postmarked Seaview,” Frank noted. “That's the town on the mainland right across from the island. Come on, Joe. Let's try to raise Dad on the radio!”
The two hurried to their father's study. By luck, they were able to make short-wave contact almost at once. Fenton Hardy listened to their account of the previous night's events and exclaimed when he heard of the letter.
“Go ahead and open it, boys! This should be interesting!”
Joe slit the envelope and pulled out a rumpled, stained piece of paper. Both boys gasped when they saw what was on it.
“It's a map of Whalebone Island, Dad!” Joe reported. “No writing, except for the label—and a red X mark at one spot!”
“Any indication of what the mark stands for?”
“Not a hint. But if you want a guess, how about pirate treasure?”
“Take it easy, Joe,” Frank said. “For all we know, this map may be a fake—or somebody's idea of a practical joke.”
“Could be,” Mr. Hardy agreed, “but I think it should be investigated—promptly. Tell me, were you two planning to go back with Captain Early to check his house for clues?”
“Yes, Dad,” Joe said. “He's downstairs telephoning the garage to see when his car'll be ready.”
“All right, here's a suggestion. You fellows cruise along the coast in the
Sleuth,
and then proceed on to Whalebone Island. I'll meet you there this evening.”
“Swell! You've got a date, Dad!”
After signing off, the boys hurried downstairs to inform their mother. Captain Early was just hanging up the telephone.
“They have the distributor and the car will be ready in half an hour,” he said.
“That's great,” Frank remarked. “Joe and I will drive you to the garage and then take our motorboat to your place. We're going to meet Dad later on Whalebone Island.”
The boys hastily packed some supplies and camping gear in the trunk of their convertible, amid a stream of advice and dire warnings of pirate peril from Aunt Gertrude. A short time later they drove off with Captain Early to the repair garage on the outskirts of Bayport.
“Ah, there's my car! Must be all set,” said the captain, pointing to a blue sedan parked on the adjoining cinder lot.
After dropping their guest, the boys drove to the Bayport harbor. They parked and locked the convertible. Then, shouldering their camping equipment, they headed for the boathouse where the
Sleuth
was berthed.
As they neared the waterfront, a sleek, bright red motorboat came put-putting up to the pier.
“Hey, that's the
Napoli!”
Joe exclaimed. “Hi, Chet! Hi, Tony!”
Dumping their gear on the boardwalk for the moment, the Hardys hurried out to greet their two friends. Tony Prito, at the wheel of his craft, was an agile, dark-haired youth. His passenger, stowing away some tackle, was Chet Morton, chubby-faced and solidly built.
“How was the fishing?” Frank called.
Tony turned thumbs down. “Terrible!”
“We didn't catch a thing,” Chet added, climbing out on the dock. “And I had my mouth all set for some nice broiled bass for lunch, too!”
“Pretty sad, pal.” Joe grinned and patted the stout boy's midriff. “But think of the pounds you've saved!”
Before Chet could protest, Joe said, “Look! How would you fellows like to come with us on a search for pirate treasure?”
Tony swung eagerly up onto the pier. “You kidding?”
“See for yourself,” said Joe, taking out the map.
Chet stared at it, round-eyed. “Whalebone Island! Is this really on the level?”
“The map came through the mail,” Frank explained. “We don't know anything about it, but we want to find out.”
Tony, whose father owned a construction business, hesitated, then shook his head. “I'd sure like to come, but my dad needs me to drive the truck.”
“Well, I'm game,” said Chet. “Let's hear the whole story.”
“We'll tell you on the way,” Joe promised.
Chet sped home to the Morton farmhouse in his jalopy to get some items of clothing and supplies. By the time he returned, the Hardys had fueled the
Sleuth
and were ready to shove off.
“Okay, now fill me in,” Chet demanded as they cruised out across the calm, blue waters of Barmet Bay.
Frank scratched his head and shot a glance at Joe. “Where should we begin?”
“Let's start with us seeing the Jolly Rogers' ghost last night,” Joe suggested mischievously. “You see, Chet, he
haunts
Whalebone Island.”
“H-h-haunts?” Chet paled a bit and he looked from Frank to Joe, hoping for signs of a joke. “I knew there was some catch to this. But go on.”
As the story unfolded, Chet gulped and grew more nervous. His enthusiasm for the expedition seemed to be fading fast.
“Oh boy, this is just great,” he complained. “Not only a ghost, but probably crooks too, if this is connected with some case your father's working on! Why is it that every time I get mixed up with you Hardys, I run smack into—”
At that moment a familiar voice crackled from the speaker of the
Sleuth's
short-wave marine radio. “Aunt Gertrude calling Frank and Joe! You must come home at once!”
CHAPTER IV
Danger Signal
F
RANK seized the microphone.
“Sleuth
to Elm Street! What's wrong, Aunt Gertrude?” He added with a sudden pang of fear, “Has anything happened to Mother?”
“To Laura? Certainly not!” Miss Hardy snapped. “Your mother's right here in the house with me. In fact, she was the one who found it.”
“Found what?”
“Captain Early's cane.”
“Captain Early's cane?” Frank repeated, mystified. “But he took his cane with him.”
“He took
a
cane with him,” Miss Hardy corrected. “Your father's walking stick, to be exact—the one Fenton had to use last month when he sprained his ankle.”
“You mean the captain got them switched somehow?”
“Of course. What else would I mean? Your father slept in that room when he couldn't get up and down stairs—don't you remember? His stick was hanging on the back of a chair in there. It's that rough, knobbly brown wood, so I suppose it was easy for the captain to confuse it with his own carved cane.”
“Especially with all the excitement in there last night,” Frank muttered, grinning.
“What was that?”
“Er, nothing, Aunty.”
Joe gave his brother an exasperated look. “Nuts! Do we have to go back, Frank? We'll lose at least an hour.”
Frank thought for a moment. “No, I guess not.” He spoke into the microphone. “Aunt Gertrude —the switch in canes isn't important if the captain himself didn't notice any difference. We can take the cane to him some time later or even send it.”
“Humph. Well, suit yourself. At least I've informed you of his mistake.”
The
Sleuth
cruised on out of Barmet Bay into the sweeping rollers of the Atlantic, then turned northward along the coast. It was nearing one o'clock when the boys finally sighted Captain Early's snug white villa perched on a bluff, amid a grove of gigantic, silvery-green poplar trees.
At the foot of the bluff was a wooden dock, to which the captain's motor cruiser was moored. As the boys brought the
Sleuth
alongside and tied up, the captain emerged from the villa and waved excitedly.
The trio scrambled onto the dock and hurried up the flight of stone steps which led from the beach to the villa.
Captain Early greeted the boys hastily and acknowledged the introduction to Chet with a quick handshake.
“By the way,” Frank added, “we had a radio call from Aunt Gertrude saying you left your cane at our house and took—”
“Yes, yes, I've already discovered my mistake,” Captain Early cut in. “But something more important has happened. Please come inside!”
The boys stepped into the comfortably furnished front room and saw at a glance the reason for their host's disturbance. Books had been yanked from shelves, drawers pulled out of an antique writing table, and a painting plucked down to expose a small wall safe—the door of which hung open.
“Wow!” Joe gasped.
“As you see, the place was ransacked,” said Captain Early. “The study and my bedroom upstairs seem to have gotten an extra-thorough going-over.”
He led the boys to the various other rooms to show them the havoc.
“Have you taken inventory yet to see what's missing?” Frank asked.
“Just a hasty one. But that's what's so strange—apparently the burglar took nothing.”
“What do you keep in the house that is of value?” Joe put in.
The captain gave a perplexed shrug. “Can't think of anything, really, except the silver—and that wasn't touched. Of course there are notes and manuscripts of books that I'm working on. But they'd hardly be of value to anyone except me.”
Frank said, “What about the safe?”
“Just personal papers, diaries, documents—such as my will—and two insurance policies. I had the combination jotted down in a notebook in my desk.”
Joe, who had brought along the Hardys' detective kit, looked at his brother. “Let's try for some prints.”
The two young sleuths dusted a number of spots in several rooms, but the only fresh prints were found to belong either to Captain Early or to Mrs. Calhoun, his part-time maid who came in on Tuesdays and Fridays.
“I'd say it's pretty obvious that the intruder wore gloves,” Frank concluded.
“Well, thanks anyhow for your efforts,” said the captain. “At least the fellow didn't leave me any poorer.”
“This may be locking the barn after the horse is stolen, sir,” said Frank, “but it might be a good idea to install a burglar alarm, or at least get a watchdog—just in case the intruder comes again.”
“Hmm. Good suggestion.” Captain Early nodded. “Meantime, how about some lunch?”
Chet brightened immediately. “Sure thing, sir, if you insist!”
The boys enjoyed plump lamb chops served by Mrs. Calhoun, and listened with keen interest to the captain's exciting sea yarns.
“By the way,” said Captain Early as he sat back and filled his pipe, “a rather odd thing happened this morning.”
“After we left you?”
“Yes. On the way home, my car ran out of gas.”
Chet paused in polishing off the last morsels of lemon meringue pie. “That's happened to my jalopy three times. I found out my gas gauge was stuck.”
“Well, there's nothing wrong with my gauge,” said the captain. “The needle showed empty. But it happens that I filled up yesterday, so there should have been quite a bit of gasoline still left in the tank.”
“Sure your tank wasn't leaking?” Joe inquired.
“Positive. I checked that later.”
The Hardys exchanged puzzled glances. Their father had taught them to disregard no possible clue, however slight, when working on a mystery.
“What happened, sir?” said Frank. “I mean after you ran out of gas.”
“Oh, no trouble, luckily. I was picked up almost immediately by a motorist who gave me a lift to the next gas station. Then one of the station hands drove me back in a tow truck with a can of gas.”
Frank's forehead creased thoughtfully. “If the garage mechanic parked your car on the outside lot overnight, someone could have drained most of the gas.”
“Why should anyone do that?”
“I don't know. But it might have been done to give someone a chance to get at your car after you stalled and left it parked along the highway.”
Joe objected. “That doesn't add up. If someone was able to drain the tank during the night, he could have got at the car right then and there.”
“Maybe he did, but couldn't find what he was after,” Frank argued. “Captain, when you went for gas, did you leave anything in the car that wasn't in it last night?”
Captain Early shook his head. “No, nor can I think of anything valuable that I'd be likely to leave in the car at any time.”
Another mystery—and again the Hardy boys had to confess they were baffled. However, Frank and Joe promised to continue work on the case after they returned from Whalebone Island.
Captain Early stumped down the stone stairs to the dock with the three Bayporters and waved good-by as the
Sleuth
headed on up the coast.
It was late in the afternoon when they finally reached the town of Seaview. The boys put in to a commercial dock to replenish their fuel, then turned seaward toward Whalebone Island, which lay about twenty miles offshore.
Dusk settled over the ocean and a few stars came out.
Presently the vague mass of Whalebone Island loomed ahead through the darkness. The tower of its old stone lighthouse stood out against the velvety purple sky.
“Where do we land?” Chet inquired.
“Dad said there's a little natural cove or harbor around on the southern side,” Joe replied. “He's going to meet us there on the beach.”
Suddenly a red glow flashed from the lighthouse tower. It disappeared—to be followed by two shorter blinks, then others. The boys were startled.
“That's no ordinary light!” said Chet. “Red means danger!”
“It's a code signal,” Frank murmured. He spelled out the letters of the message as they were flashed in Morse blinker:
BOOK: The Secret Warning
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