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Authors: Franklin W. Dixon

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BOOK: The Dead Season
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"You mean the murder."

"And the boat explosion."

Heather stopped and looked Joe in the eye. "Ask me anything you want and I'll try to answer."

Joe took a deep breath and said, "Okay. First, where were you all evening?"

"After I ran into your brother and called the police I came here to clean up. I took a bath and fell asleep. You woke me up."

"You've been here the whole time?"

"Yes, Joe. Why?"

He told her what he had seen, or thought he'd seen, at the pavilion.

Heather said, "I know you don't want to hear this, but I've told you before. You saw my grandmother's ghost."

"There are no such things as ghosts, Heather."

"Have it your way. Any other questions?"

Joe thought for a minute. "Yeah, one," he said. "Your father is Wiley Reed's son, right?"

"That's right."

"Then why don't you and your family own Runner's Harbor anymore?"

Heather seemed upset by the question.

"What's wrong?" asked Joe.

"That - that's a touchy subject."

"Why?"

"Well, this all happened when I was a little girl. Obviously we did own Runner's Harbor, but my dad ran into some difficulty managing the place and had to take on a partner."

"Who?"

"Does it matter?"

"It might."

"Well, it was John Jamison."

"Is he any relation to Brady Jamison?"

"He's Brady's father. Why? Is that important?"

"Heather, there's no way of knowing what's important right now." Joe paused a moment, thinking. He asked her, "What happened?"

"You mean how did my folks lose Runner's Harbor?"

Joe nodded.

"Well," said Heather, "it's kind of a long story.

***

Frank was still asleep when Joe got back to the hotel.

Joe gave the mattress a couple of thumps and said, "Wake up, Frank. It's a beautiful morning and we've got work to do."

It took a few seconds for Frank to clear his head. He stared at his brother as if Joe were insane.

"What's with you?" asked Frank.

"Nothing. Why? I feel great."

Frank forced himself out of bed and began to dress. "Well, it's only eight o'clock, and you're acting kind of strange."

"I've been with Heather."

"This early?" said Frank, startled.

"I couldn't sleep, so I went to her cottage and woke her up, and we walked along the beach and talked. She told me everything, Frank. I mean, I asked her questions and she answered them all. I believe her. I believe she's telling the truth when she says she doesn't know anything about what's been going on."

Frank wasn't convinced, but he sensed that the worst thing he could do just then would be to suggest that to Joe. Instead he said, "That's great, Joe." Frank rubbed his eyes and stifled a yawn. "What did she tell you?"

"Heather says her father had problems keeping Runner's Harbor open, so he got a partner," Joe began.

"Who?"

"John Jamison. Brady's father. Anyway," Joe continued, "Jamison handled the books and didn't pay any taxes. The government closed the place. Heather's parents were innocent of any crime, but they lost Runner's Harbor."

Frank said, "What happened to Jamison?"

"He died in prison."

"I wonder why Tyler didn't buy the hotel then," wondered Frank. "It must have been available at a tax sale."

"Maybe he didn't have the money," offered Joe.

"Could be," said Frank, lost in thought.

When Frank finished dressing, he and Joe knocked on Callie's door, and then the three of them headed to the dining room for nine o'clock breakfast. On their way they encountered Gary and Janet in the lobby, in a heated discussion with Theresa Farr, who was saying, "This is the last straw."

"But you're not being fair," argued Janet.

"How is it our fault?" demanded Gary.

"Fault, I'm afraid, isn't the issue," said Farr. "Appearances are. A murder was committed here. I have no alternative but to revoke your license."

"We'll fight you in court," said Gary.

"That is your right."

"When will you take our license?" asked Janet in a defeated voice.

"I'll give you two days." With that, Theresa Farr was gone.

"What will you do?" asked Callie.

"We'll fight. We have no choice," said Janet. "Not that it matters much. We're down to our last customer."

"What do you mean?" asked Frank.

"Allistair Games checked out this morning," said Gary.

"Where did he go?" asked Joe.

Janet said, "He told me he was checking into the Tyler Inn."

***

After breakfast Frank and Joe returned to the shed to search for clues. They weren't very deep into the tunnel when Joe spotted a shiny object on the ground.

It was a gold cufflink in the shape of the letter G.

"Games," said the Hardys in unison.

"We can search in here later," said Frank. "Right now I think you should speak with Mr. Gaines while I check out some more details at the library."

Joe agreed and started down the beach toward the Tyler Inn.

Frank walked slowly to the car he had borrowed from Gary and Janet. Many pieces of the puzzle were beginning to come together for him, but he still had a lot of unanswered questions.

And only two days left to break this case if we're going to save Runner's Harbor for Gary and Janet, he thought as he turned the ignition key.

The sound of the engine was drowned out by the deafening volley of gunfire.

Chapter 13

A bullet tore through the windshield, slid past Frank's right cheek, and slammed into the backseat of the car.

The glass from the windshield exploded into hundreds of tiny rocklike pieces that showered into his lap.

He ducked under the steering wheel, taking cover, waiting for another shot to be fired. As he crouched there he did a mental check and decided he was okay.

Several seconds passed, and still there was no more gunfire. The only sound Frank could hear was the engine idling quietly. Slowly he reached his hand up and turned the key, and there was silence.

Frank could hear Callie, Gary, and Janet rush onto the front porch of the hotel.

"Frank?" cried Callie.

"Stay inside!" he shouted.

"Are you okay, Frank?" asked Gary.

"Yes. Just stay there."

More time passed, and Frank took the chance to peer outside the jeep. No one was in sight in any direction. Slowly he eased himself out of the jeep and stood beside it.

He was staring at a nearby palm tree when Callie raced up behind him.

"Frank! Frank!"

She put her arms around him and hugged him tightly. There were tears in her eyes, and she was shaking.

"It's okay," he said quietly, comforting her. "Really. I'm fine."

"Oh, Frank, I thought they really got you this time."

Gary and Janet approached them slowly.

"Are you sure you're okay?" asked Janet.

"I'm fine, really," said Frank.

"What happened?" asked Gary.

"Someone took a shot at me but missed."

Callie said, "This place is really scaring me now."

"That's exactly how someone wants you to feel," said Frank. "And we've got to stop him."

"But how?" asked Janet.

"I think Joe and I are close to the solution," he said. Frank started walking toward the palm tree he'd been studying. "And just so everyone can stop worrying about ghosts, come over here."

He stopped next to the tree and pointed at a metal box taped to the trunk.

"It's just as I thought," he said, pointing at the box.

"What is it?" asked Callie.

"I'll let the police take it down, in case there are any fingerprints on it, but I'm pretty sure it's a small radio device triggered to fire a shot when I turned the key in the ignition of the jeep."

"You can do things like that?" asked Janet.

"Yes," answered Frank.

"What should we do?" asked Gary.

"Call Sergeant Wrenn and tell him what happened. Show him the box. I'm sorry about what happened to your jeep."

"We're just glad you're okay," said Janet.

"Janet's right," said Gary. He stared at his damaged jeep. "I guess you'll need the other car."

"We won't be long," said Frank.

Callie said, "We?"

"If you'd like."

"Definitely," said Callie, giving him another hug. "I think you need someone to watch over you, Frank Hardy.

***

Joe Hardy knocked softly on the door to cottage number seven at the Tyler Inn.

"I think he'll be in his room. He seemed to have a lot of unpacking to do," the desk clerk, a portly islander, had said. He also told Joe that Gaines had checked in just two hours earlier.

Number seven was off by itself and did not have an ocean view. Joe suspected it was cheaper than the other rooms and wondered how much money Games had.

There was no response to his knock, so Joe rapped harder on the door and said, "Mr. Gaines? It's Joe Hardy. Can I come in?"

From inside he heard feet shuffling, then the door finally flew open. "Welcome, my boy. Welcome," the old man said. "Come in, come in. You're my first visitor in my new home."

Joe entered the small cottage and tried to find a place to sit or even stand. Boxes were stacked in every conceivable place, and most of the stacks reached to the ceiling.

The only things that Gaines seemed to have unpacked were his art supplies. A blank canvas was already resting on an easel in the only vacant corner in the room.

Apparently Joe had arrived just as the old man was about to begin a new painting.

"Sit anywhere," said Gaines as he himself took the only seat, a small stool that was set up in front of the canvas.

"Thanks," said Joe, standing in place by the door. "I'm fine right here."

"Suit yourself," said Gaines. The old man picked up a brush and began to dip it into the splotches of paint on a nearby palette. It seemed as if Gaines was going to ignore Joe's presence.

"Mind if I ask you a few questions?" asked Joe.

"Of course not, my boy," answered Gaines cheerfully. "I enjoy our little chats." He made a stroke with blue paint on the empty canvas and paused to consider it.

"Why did you check out of Runner's Harbor?" asked Joe.

"That's a fair question. Fair question." Gaines stared at the blue paint.

"And?"

"And what, my boy?"

"What's the answer?"

"Oh, of course, of course. You want answers. I'm being rude." He put down his paintbrush and looked Joe in the eye. "You want to know why I left Runner's Harbor. It's very simple really. Millicent asked me to."

Joe was too stunned to say anything, but Gaines didn't appear to notice Joe's reaction.

"She was very nice about it," Gaines continued. "Said that they needed the rooms and couldn't afford to keep giving me the special rate I had always had. Actually, she found me this room here and was able to work out a special deal with the owners. I'm paying less now than before."

Unsure how to respond to this, Joe simply held out the gold cufflink for Gaines to see.

"My cufflink, thank you. Where did you find it?"

"In the tunnels beneath the hotel."

"How strange," said the old man, fitting the gold G into place on his cuff. "That was where I had the conversation with Millicent when she asked me to leave."

"When was that?" asked Joe.

"Oh, two or three weeks ago. She said I could finish out the month and I did."

"You saw Millicent in the tunnels?" asked Joe.

"Yes."

"Millicent. Not Heather," Joe continued.

Gaines paused a few seconds before responding. "May I confess something to you?"

"Of course," said Joe.

"You know that I am the one who painted the portrait of Millicent that hangs in the lobby at Runner's Harbor." Joe nodded his head yes. "Well, my boy, I have been in love with Millicent Reed for more than sixty years. Believe me. It was she."

***

Frank and Callie spent most of the day in the library. Frank's research added a few more pieces to the puzzle, but try as she might, Callie couldn't get him to tell her what he had discovered.

"I want to have proof before I tell you or anyone anything," said Frank.

"Even me?" asked Callie.

"Even you."

At the dinner table that evening Callie and the Hardys discovered that Gary and Janet had been busy during the day, too.

Despite the fact that they could lose Runner's Harbor, both of them seemed upbeat and cheerful.

"We decided," said Janet, "that if we had to leave here, we'd at least leave with a bang."

"So we're having a party tonight," said Gary.

"A party?" asked Callie.

"Yes," said Janet. "A big dance in the pavilion."

"And we invited everyone in town," Gary said.

***

By eight o'clock that night it seemed that everybody on the island had accepted the invitation.

The pavilion was cool as a mild breeze blew in off the ocean. The decorations that Janet and Callie had hung swayed gently in the wind. They had arranged several tables around the edges of the floor and placed trays of food and bowls of punch on each one. Gary and Janet were running around, making sure that everyone had a good time.

The guests, meanwhile, were milling about idly.

"Why isn't anyone dancing?" Callie asked Joe and Frank.

Frank looked at her with a curious grin on his face. "There's no music."

As if on cue, Earl Logan walked to the piano and sat down. He calmly took out a batch of sheet music, chose one, and began to play.

"Frank," said Callie, "it's the same song we heard our first night here. 'Someone to Watch Over Me.'"

"Is it?" asked Frank.

"You know it is, don't you?"

"I know many things," teased Frank.

"Did you ask Logan to play it?"

"You ask too many questions. Would you like to dance?"

"What's going on here, Frank Hardy?"

"I'm on vacation and I'm at a party and I'd like to dance with the prettiest girl here."

"Flattery will get you everywhere," said Callie as Frank led her to the dance floor.

Meanwhile, Joe saw Heather walk onto the dance floor. She seemed distracted, as if something was wrong. Joe approached her. She smiled when she saw him and immediately said yes when he asked her to dance.

"Everything okay?" asked Joe.

"It is now," Heather whispered.

After a few slow circles Joe stopped dancing and pulled away from Heather. "Do you hear it?" he asked.

"What?" she replied.

"Someone's screaming."

The warning cries seemed unreal at first. They seemed especially out of place at a friendly dance on a warm night in an outdoor pavilion overlooking the ocean.

But there they were. "Fire!" someone was shouting.

"Fire!" screamed another person, and then the whole crowd took up the cry.

One whole corner of Runner's Harbor was engulfed in flames.

BOOK: The Dead Season
6.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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