THE HOLD-UP Three boys clattered down the front steps of a handsome stone residence in the city of Bayport.
"Get a move on, Chet!" said Frank Hardy, a tall, dark boy who was in his senior year at the local High School. "We'll be late."
"If there's anything I dislike," said his brother Joe, "it's coming into a movie and finding I've missed about two reels of the picture."
"All right, all right," drawled the other member of the trio, a fat, slow-moving youth with a good-natured face. "If there's anything I hate it's arriving anywhere and having to spend the first ten minutes getting my breath."
"You'll be late for your own hanging, Chet Morton," said Frank.
"Then they'll just have to wait. I'd like to
2 A Figure in Hiding
see them hold it without me!" grinned the stout lad.
"Hello, Dad!" Frank said. "We're in a hurry. We're going down to the Eialtc to see a mystery film. The fellows say it's a wow."
"It's called 'A Figure in Hiding'-a real thriller," contributed Joe.
Fenton Hardy, father of the boys and one of the most famous detectives in the country, laughed derisively.
"That stuff! I wonder that you fellows haven't more sense."
"It's a great picture, Mr. Hardy," said Chet.
"I saw the stage play," returned the detective. "It's a preposterous piece of rot. Well, run along, but I can't see where you can get any kick out of that kind of a mystery. I'm working on a case right now that has your 'Figure in Hiding' looking like a primary grade lesson."
"Wish you'd tell us about it," Chet remarked, knowing perfectly well that the great detective seldom discussed any problem on which he was working.
stranger to the Hardy boys, rushed out of the shadows and ran up to their father.
'' Say, Mr. Hardy!" he gasped, grabbing the detective by the sleeve. "The scoundrels are in town. I saw them. I hurried to tell you."
His face was pale and his eyes shone with excitement.
"That so?" asked Fenton Hardy, suddenly alert. "Where are they?"
"Staying at the Bayport Hotel," panted the boy.
"That's fine, Fred. Let's get going. I'm glad you found me. Come on!"
Fenton Hardy wheeled away, waving to his sons. "So long, boys. Don't let that movie give you heart failure," he called. Then he vanished into the darkness with the strange boy.
Chet, Frank and Joe stared after the pair.
"I wonder what's up?" queried the younger Hardy boy.
"Let's follow them and find out," suggested his brother.
"Aw, shucks," said Chet, "the minute you fellows smell a mystery you forget all about everything else. Just a while ago you were hopping all over me because you were afraid we 'd be late for the movies. Now you want to miss the show altogether. Come on. I want to see that picture."
4 A Figure in Hiding
Eeluctantly the Hardy boys gave up the idea of following their father, although they were overwhelmed with curiosity.
"All very well to follow in your dad's footsteps." Chet grinned as they resumed their walk toward the theatre, "but you don't have to do it all the time."
This was a dig at the Hardy boys' talent for detective work, a gift they had inherited from Fenton Hardy. They were indeed following in their father's footsteps, as a host of solved mysteries testified.
The motion picture, "A Figure in Hiding," had drawn a big crowd to the neighborhood movie house that evening, but the boys reached the theatre just before the feature film was to be presented. They were fortunate in finding good seats-doubly fortunate, in Frank's opinion at least, since they found themselves next to Callie Shaw and lola Morton, the latter Chet's sister.
"Gosh," growled the fat boy in disgust, "can't a fellow go anywhere without finding you parked beside him?"
His sister wrinkled her nose at him. The girls shifted seats so that Callie, a brown-eyed, brown-haired girl who was especially admired by Frank, was sitting between the Hardy boys, with Iola beside Joe, and Chet on the outside. Joe was no ladies' man, but he always admitted
The Hold-up 5
that Iola was all right "as a girl," which was no small tribute, coming from him.
'' The Rialto is doing a big business tonight,'' Frank remarked to Callie. "This picture has been running for three days and still draws a full house."
Although Fenton Hardy had termed the movie "preposterous," his sons and their friends found it absorbing and thrilling. The acting was good, and there was plenty of suspense throughout. The plot concerned the dastardly deeds of a mysterious "figure," and the audience was left in doubt as to the identity of the criminal, who eventually was certain to be one of the leading characters of the film. Callie Shaw, Tola and the boys made many guesses as to the solution, but when the "figure in hiding" was finally brought to justice and his identity revealed, they found their deductions all wrong. Even the Hardy boys had guessed far wide of the mark.
"Some detectives!" jeered Chet, conveniently forgetting that he had made the most ridiculous conjecture of the lot. "You wouldn't have been so hot if you had been turned loose on that case."
"I suppose not," Frank agreed. "Are you going now?" he asked Callie.
"Not just yet. lola and I want to see the newsreel and comedy.''
6 A Figure in Hiding
As the boys had seen the mystery film which had been their only reason for attending, they prepared to leave. The other patrons of the Eialto, however, were evidently determined to get their money's worth, so the three boys were the only ones who emerged into the lobby at the conclusion of the feature.
"Even if Dad didn't get much kick out of it, I thought it was a good picture," declared Joe.
"Me, too," said Frank. "I couldn't guess the solution."
"I'm beginning to think that half the mysteries you two have solved have been just sheer dumb luck," observed Chet Morton.
"As long as we figure 'em out, who cares?" Joe chuckled. "Results count, mister."
"What say we drift around to the Bayport Hotel ?'' inquired Frank innocently.
"Still got that on your mind, eh?" Chet said. "Want to poke your nose into your Dad's latest case, I see."
"I'd certainly like to know what's going on. He said it would make 'A Figure in Hiding' look like a primary grade lesson, so it must be a humdinger."
"No harm in going around by the hotel," Joe said. "If we run into Dad he may ask us to help him.''
ton. "However, it's still early, so if there's any excitement in sight I don't mind seeing what it is."
The boys were just passing the box office of the theatre. Joe cast a casual glance over his shoulder at the window. Suddenly he halted and grabbed Frank by the arm.
'' Fellows-look!" he gasped.
"What's the matter?"
"There! In the little back room," replied Joe, trembling with excitement.
The box office itself was in darkness, with the window closed for the night. Beyond this room a dim light was shining in the private office of the theatre manager. In there the boys could see the Rialto cashier standing with his back to the wall, his arms raised above his head.
Motionless, the boys stood in the lobby, staring. No one was around. Even the doormaii had departed from his customary place by the ticket chopper.
"It's a hold-up!" said Frank tensely.
As the boys watched, fascinated, they saw a dark figure emerge into the light. The face was hidden from them, but they knew it was that of a man. His coat collar was turned up and his hat was pulled low over his forehead In one hand he gripped a revolver which was pointed directly at the frightened cashier. Under the other arm he carried a black tin box.
8 A Figure in Hiding
"We must do something!" snapped Frank, lunging forward.
As he did so, the hold-up man dashed out of sight.
The cashier remained motionless, his arms still in the air.
"After him!" yelped Joe.
The Hardy boys and Chet Morton darted back up the lobby, through the swing doors, and into the theatre again. Frank, leading the way, headed for the entrance to the manager's office.
A startled usher saw him and called out, '' Hey! You can't go in there.''
"Can't I?" Frank rushed inside, with Joe and Chet at his heels.
There was a loud slam just as they entered the office. The cashier, white-faced, was lowering his arms. He pointed a trembling finger at a closed door.
"He went out-that way!" stammered the man.
Frank flung himself against the door, but it would not budge. It had locked automatically as it closed.
In the meantime the usher was hurrying indignantly into the office.
"What's going on here?" he demanded. "This room is private. You're not allowed-----"
"A hold-up man has just stuck up your cashier and stolen all the money," Chet shouted at him. "You'd better get busy and call the police."
10 A Figure in Hiding
The usher's mouth flew open. The cashier grabbed the telephone feverishly. "He got every cent," he gasped. "Two days' takings. Operator! Quick! Get me police headquarters!"
"Where does that door lead!" Frank demanded of the excited fellow.
"Out to a side alley. Good gosh, this is awful ! Where did the thief go!”
Chet and Joe were already tumbling out of the office, with Frank close behind. Chet would have left by way of the lobby and thence around to the side of the building, but Joe was more quick-witted. He raced toward one of the side exits.
"Come on! Maybe we'll catch him yet!"
The three boys dashed outside, to the wonder and astonishment of some of the theatre patrons in the side seats. Joe was in the lead, and emerged into the alley in time to see a dark figure fleeing toward a lane at the rear of the building.
"I see him!" whooped the lad. He plunged forward but tripped over a box that lay hidden in the darkness of the narrow alley. He went sprawling, and Frank pitched over the top of him. They picked themselves up and resumed the chase, with Chet Morton puffing along behind.
The dark figure had vanished!
Nine Hundred Dollars 11
The boys rushed out into the lane that ran behind the theatre, in time to see a man dart through a patch of light that fell from the kitchen windows of a restaurant next to the Ri-alto. As the fellow cast a glance back over his shoulder, they had a brief glimpse of him. He was tall and dark. In one hand he clutched a thick roll of currency.
The man disappeared into the darkness of the lane. The Hardy boys and Chet rushed in pursuit of him, but beyond the light from the restaurant windows they found themselves at a standstill. The thief had vanished as completely as if the earth had opened up and swallowed him. They stopped and listened, but could hear no sound of retreating footsteps. When they struck matches and explored the lane, they found a dozen places where the fugitive might have escaped.
In the distance a police siren set up a wailing scream as a headquarters car sped toward the theatre in response to the cashier's report of the hold-up. A few moments later a uniformed officer appeared at the end of the lane and came pounding toward the boys, his nightstick in his hand.
"What's going on here?" he demanded gruffly.
'' Hold-up!'' Frank told him briefly. '' A fellow held up the Bialto cashier. We chased him
12 A Figure in Hiding
down this way and lost him. He may have gone in between some of the buildings."
The policeman removed a flashlight from his hip pocket and took np the search. A few minutes later two more constables came down the alley. Together the group combed the neighborhood, but without success. At the end of half an hour they were forced to admit that the thief had made a clean getaway.
The Hardy boys and Chet returned to the theatre office. A big crowd had gathered, and there was considerable excitement, for a daring crime of this nature was an uncommon thing in the quiet city of Bayport. Chief of Police Col-lig himself had arrived to take charge of the investigation with his trusted right-hand man, Detective Smuff. They were taking numerous notes.
"Nine hundred dollars the villain got away with," Chief Collig told the boys. He did not seem any too well pleased to find that the Hardy lads had been on the scene of the affair before he could learn of it. ''We'll get him, never fear. Too bad you didn't act a little more smartly when the hold-up was right under your noses, so to speak."
'' Lots of people would have been scared even to have gone into the office," declared Chet Morton.
"No doubt," agreed Collig. "However, the
Nine Hundred Dollars 13
fellow got clear away so now we'll have to get busy."
His tone implied that the Bayport police force would have no trouble at all in succeeding where the Hardy boys had failed.
"Away you go now, lads," ordered Detective Smuff ponderously. "We've work to do."
Thus the boys were ignominiously shooed out of the theatre. Detective Smuff had no great regard for the Hardys. As true sons of a famous detective who had made a reputation for himself with the New York police force and had later gone into private practice, Frank and Joe had inherited a talent for solving mysteries. Their first success, as recounted in "The Tower Treasure," had occurred when they located some valuable loot which a dying criminal confessed to them had been hidden "in the tower."
The successful outcome of this case encouraged the Hardy boys to tackle additional problems, including the one about a sinister sign post, when Frank and Joe undertook to solve the mystery surrounding the disappearance of a valuable race horse.
In the course of time the boys had earned enviable reputations for themselves as amateur detectives. They had encountered many thrilling adventures, and had incidentally earned substantial sums of money in the form of rewards for their good work.
14 A Figure in Hiding
Mrs. Hardy often became alarmed by her boys' passion for tackling every mystery that presented itself in Bayport. Their father was not inclined to discourage them, providing they did not let these outside interests interfere with their school work.
Aunt Gertrude, on the other hand, was continually predicting death and destruction as the final outcome of these adventures. She was a sharp-tongued spinster who made lengthy visits at the Hardy home. The boys, however, had long since learned that her bark was a good deal worse than her bite, and they knew that she really had a great affection for her nephews, though it was hidden by a forbidding manner. Somehow or other her dire prophesies had never come to pass, and the boys were well aware that Aunt Gertrude was proud of them.
At one time Mr. and Mrs. Hardy had hoped that their sons would attend the university and become professional men, but their devotion to detective work and their pronounced talent for solving mysteries left little doubt that Frank and Joe would some day follow in the footsteps of their father and adopt detection as their life work. "With this plan Fenton Hardy was well content, for he regarded the solving of crimes as one of the most absorbing and fascinating of all pursuits and could thoroughly understand the spell it had cast over his sons.
Nine Hundred Dollars 15
The boys left the Rialto theatre a little crestfallen by the manner in which Chief Collig and Detective Smuff had shunted them out of the hold-up investigation; but they took their dismissal like good sports.
"I wonder," said Frank, "if there is any connection between that hold-up and the case Dad is working on just now? That strange boy told him 'the scoundrels are in town.' "
"Let's go on to the Bayport Hotel and see if we can locate Dad there," Joe suggested. "Maybe he'll be interested in hearing about the hold-up.''
'' Count me out,'' said Chet promptly. " I 've had enough of crime for one evening. I'm going home to bed.''
Chet lived on the outskirts of Bayport, and had a long walk ahead of him, so the Hardy boys said goodnight and parted from him at the next corner.
When they reached the Bayport Hotel and inquired for their parent at the desk, the clerk told them that Fenton Hardy had been there during the evening but had just departed.
"Went out not five minutes ago, boys," he said. "He can't be far away. Maybe if you hurry you '11 catch up with him down the street.''
Frank and Joe dashed out of the lobby. They had scarcely stepped from the doorway before Frank spied the familiar tall figure of
16 A Figure in Hiding
their father in the shadows of a store entrance about two doors away.
'' There's Dad now!" he exclaimed.
Then they saw that Fenton Hardy was not alone. "With him was the strange boy who had spoken to him earlier in the evening.
"hello, Dad!" said Frank.
Fenton Hardy turned around. As he did so, the strange boy hastily stuffed some money into his pocket, saying, "Thanks, Mr. Hardy. I'll see you again soon," and then moved on. He hurried down the street and disappeared around a corner.
"Where did you fellows come from?" the boys' father inquired genially.
"We've just been trying to catch a hold-up man," Joe said.
"A hold-up man!" exclaimed Fenton Hardy in surprise. "When did all this happen?"
"At the Rialto. We were just coming out after the show when we saw someone holding up the cashier in the manager's office. He got away with nine hundred dollars."
"We chased him," Frank explained, "but he was too quick for us. We lost him in the lane behind the theatre."
"Did you get a good look at him?"
'' Not very, but I think we 'd be able to identify
18 A Figure in Hiding
him if we were to see him again. Chief Collig and Smuff are working on the case now."
Fenton Hardy whistled softly.
"It isn't often we have a hold-up in Bayport, especially not one as daring as that. Nine hundred dollars, too! That's a real haul."
Just then a taxi slithered to a stop in front of the hotel. Fenton Hardy turned about slightly and watched the car with narrowed eyes.
The driver descended, opened the door, and two men got out. They were well-dressed but sleek and sinister in appearance. One of them, stout and thick-set, with heavy features, paid the cabman. As he did so the light from the hotel entrance fell upon his face.
"Bip Sinder!" exclaimed Mr. Hardy with suppressed excitement. '' And Spotty Lemuel!'' he added as the second man, thin, sharp-featured and with a curiously mottled face moved away from the taxi.
The two men had not seen the detective, who drew back a little into the shadows.
"Who are they, Dad?" asked Frank quietly. "What's up?"
"Not a word!" whispered Fenton Hardy. "I've been looking for that pair. I was hoping they would come here.''
Rip Sinder and Spotty Lemuel strode swiftly across the pavement and went into the hotel.
Boom 412 19
"What luck!" the detective exclaimed. "I was beginning to give up hope. And now I've found them." He turned quickly to his sons. " It