A figure in hiding



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"We didn't send you up there!" Frank declared. "I don't know what you're talking about. We've been hunting high and low for you, and didn't know where you were until your telegram arrived this morning. We can't make head nor tail of it, either."

"What's this?" shouted Chet, puzzled. "Do you mean to tell me you didn't send me some money and a note instructing me to go to the Pioneer Hotel in Boston and wait here until you arrived?"

Frank was flabbergasted. "You must be dreaming!" was all he could say.

"I'm not dreaming," returned Chet, who was not in a very good humor. "I have the note right here in my pocket. A messenger gave it to me on the street just after I left the police station in Bayport the other morning. It was signed with your names. What's more, it said I wasn't to tell anyone I was going

94 A Figure in Hiding

and that I was to get out of town as quietly as I could."

"You certainly did that!"

"Of course I did. The messenger gave me fifty dollars with the note, which said that I wasn't even to say good-bye to my folks at home-that you would tell Dad and Mother where I had gone. I've put in a couple of the lonesomest days of my life up here," concluded Chet plaintively. "The message said you would meet me at this place as soon as you could."

"We've done everything but drag the river for your body," Frank explained, "We had nothing to do with the note."

"Don't tell me all this has been a joke!" exploded Chet wrathfully.

"Not much of a joke. Somebody must have wanted you out of the way pretty badly. Your father and mother have been nearly crazy with worry.''

"Goodnight!" exclaimed Chet. You'll tell them, won't you? But how am I going to get out of here? I haven't enough money left to take me two blocks on a street car."

"We'll see that you get some. Stay right at the hotel until you hear from us."

"Don't worry. I can't move far," was Chet's sad rejoinder. "The hotel clerk has a nasty look in his eye as it is. He thinks I'm

A Strange Message 95

going to try to skip out without paying for the breakfast I had this morning."

The Hardy boys hurriedly left the house and got into their roadster, greatly relieved to know that Chet was safe and well, but angered and puzzled by his revelation that their names had been used on the fake note which had sent Chet all the way to Boston. They hurriedly drove out to the Morton place, where they explained the circumstances to their chum's parents.

"Well, of all the crazy things!" Mr. Morton ejaculated. "He went to Boston and hung around a hotel for three days just because he thought he got a message from you asking him to do it."

"He believed we were giving him a chance to help us with some detective work," Joe explained. "Yet we can't understand why the trick should have been played on him. It's plain enough that someone wanted him to get out of town-and wanted it badly enough to spend fifty dollars."

"Well, I want him back, and I want him back enough to spend some money too," declared Mr. Morton.

He went to the phone, called the telegraph office, and gave instructions for wiring Chet sufficient money to pay his fare back to Bayport and clear up the balance of his hotel bill.

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"There," said Mr. Morton, returning from , the phone, "Chet ought to be in Bayport on tonight's train."

"We'll be down at the station to meet him," Frank promised.

The Hardy boys met with a surprise when they reached the station platform that evening. Hardly had they stepped from their roadster when they saw two familiar figures emerging from the waiting room.

"Rip Binder and Spotty Lemuel!" exclaimed Joe. "Whatever brings them here?"

CHAPTER XII

THE FAKER

the Hardy boys had very little time in which to speculate on the errand which had brought Binder and Spotty Lemuel to the station, for the train roared in just a few minutes later. One of the first passengers to leap down onto the platform was Chet Morton, a broad grin on his face that left no doubt whatsoever as to his relief at being back in Bayport.

"Chet!" shouted Frank and Joe, each pumping one of their fat chum's hands. "It's great to see you again."

"And it's great to be back!" Chet declared. "What a time I've had hanging around that hotel, wondering why in the world you sent me to Boston and when you'd show up!"

"Well, get into the car and we'll drive you home," said Joe. "We can hear all about your adventures on the way."

"Just a minute," said Frank, who was watching Sinder and Lemuel.

"Don't tell me it's more detective work,"

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98 A Figure in Hiding

Chet said. "I don't want to get mixed up in any more of that sort of thing as long as I live."

A pompous, dignified-looking man was greeting the two suspicious individuals. He wore a cutaway coat, a stiff-bosomed shirt and wing collar. A black ribbon dangled from his eyeglasses. He carried a gold-headed cane.

"I wonder if he is Doctor Graf ton," said Frank.

"He looks like an actor in the role of a physician," Joe remarked.

The man shook hands with Sinder and Spotty Lemuel. Then they escorted him to a taxi and the three got in.

"Come on," said Chet, "I want to get home. After eating nothing but hotel food I can hardly wait to dig into one of Ma's good old-fashioned meals. I'm starving."

"You'll live," retorted Frank unsympatheti-cally. "I'll bet that hotel in Boston didn't make much profit out of your visit."

"Well, there wasn't anything else to do but eat," his chum confessed.

The boys climbed into the roadster, with Frank at the wheel. He swung the car around; as he did so, the taxi which had just been engaged by Sinder backed up sharply.

There was a loud crash followed by the tinkle of broken glass as the rear of the cab

The Faker 99

jammed hard against the humper of the roadster. Frank brought his car to a stop. Joe flung open the door and jumped out. The cab driver and his three passengers began piling hastily from the other auto.

A window in the taxi had been broken, but other than that there had been no damage. Rip Sinder and his companions were frightened and excited, however.

"Doctor Graf ton, are you hurt?" asked Spotty Lemuel anxiously.

"I might have been killed!" came the reply. '' Stupidity! Clumsiness!''

He turned on the Hardy boys. "You rascals!" he shrieked. "I might have injured my hands. I'm a famous surgeon, and my hands are worth thousands and thousands of dollars. I should have you arrested."

"It was your driver's fault," said Frank. "He should have looked around before backing Up his car."

"Eowdies!" snarled the man.

"Come on," said the taxi driver, who knew he was to blame and had no intention of making trouble over the shattered glass. "Nobody is hurt. Let's get going."

Doctor Grafton darted a malicious glare at the Hardy boys and got into the cab again, followed by Rip Sinder and Lemuel. The car jolted away.

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"So that," said Joe, "is the great eye specialist. I don't like him."

"Neither do I. Famous surgeon!" Frank scoffed. "Famous bluff!"

"What's it all about?" asked Chet.

Frank and Joe, in deference to their father, put off Chet with an evasive answer and managed to change the subject. They drove him home, where his parents were so relieved at seeing him safe and sound that they forgot to scold him for all the worry he had caused them.

The Mortons gave a party that evening in celebration of Chet's return. At the height of the fun, however, the gaiety was spoiled by the arrival of a constable from Bayport police headquarters.

"Chet Morton?" he queried.

"Bosh!" groaned the fat boy. "Don't tell me I'm in trouble again."

"I'm afraid you'll have to come with me. One of the detectives wants to see you at headquarters," said the officer.

'' We '11 go along with you, Chet,'' volunteered Frank. "This time, when they let you go we'll see that you don't end up in Boston."

At the police station the stout lad was taken into a private room where a sharp-eyed detective was waiting for him. The man glanced at a photograph and a typewritten letter he

The Faker 101

had in his hand, then scrutinized the Morton boy carefully.

"What's the trouble this time?" asked Chet meekly.

The detective shook his head and put the photograph back in a drawer.

"No trouble," he said. "You don't fit this description. You may go now."

"To think that I had to leave a perfectly good party just so you could have a look at me!" said Chet indignantly.

"Lucky for you that you can go back there," was the indifferent reply.

As it was late, the Hardy boys went home as soon as they had driven their friend to his house. The party had been broken up by Chet's abrupt and mystifying summons to police headquarters. It was not until next morning at the breakfast table that Frank and Joe were able to tell their father about the incident. Mr. Hardy, although puzzled, had no suggestion to offer by way of explanation.

"I have something more important on my mind than the troubles of your friend Chet," he said. "I've been in touch with old Mr. Zatta."

"Oh-we forgot to tell you," said Frank, "that Doctor Graf ton is in town. We saw him with Eip Sinder and Spotty Lemuel yesterday."

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"That's why I want to speak to you," explained Mr. Hardy. "He is here in response to Mr. Zatta's letter. Graf ton thinks Zatta is going to be foolish enough to pay him five hundred dollars for his fake eye cure."

"How are you going to prove that the doctor is a crook, Dad?" asked Frank.

"That's where you and Joe come in. I need your help."

"Goodl" exclaimed Joe.

The boys listened eagerly as Fenton Hardy outlined the plan in which they were to be a part.

"I want you both to go out to Mr. Zatta's house this morning so that you'll have time in which to get acquainted with the surroundings. Frank, wear your shabbiest clothes- a pair of overalls, too. You're to play the part of a chore boy in the household. As for Joe, I want him to hide somewhere in Mr. Zatta's room so he can be a witness to anything that happens during Graf ton's visit."

Mr. Hardy went into his office and opened a desk drawer. He unlocked a cash box and took out a thick roll of paper money.

"This is marked. I have taken the numbers of the bills and have also marked them with indelible ink. This is the five hundred dollars Mr. Zatta is to pay over to Grafton. When we can prove that the faker promised a cure

The Faker 103

and actually took money for a treatment, which is not one at all, I'll have enough evidence to break up that gang and put the so-called physician and his crowd where they belong."

"Behind the bars," said Frank.

"Exactly."

The boys lost no time getting ready. By ten o'clock that morning they reported to old Mr. Zatta.

"Yes," chuckled the man, peering at them, "this is the day Doctor Graf ton is supposed to give my eyesight back to me. The swindler! At least, your father says he's a criminal. I wish he wasn't, though. It would be worth five hundred dollars to me to get my sight back, the way it used to be."

"I'm afraid Graf ton can't do that for you, despite all his promises," said Joe. "If he should be prosecuted and sent to jail a lot of poor people will be saved from being robbed of their money."

"That's true," agreed Zatta. "I can't understand how anyone can be as heartless and crooked as he is." The old man's face became sad. "Dishonesty never pays in the long run. Once I had a son. I gave him the best education I could afford; yet in spite of everything I told him he got the idea that it was smart to be crooked. He always said

104 A Figure in Hiding

that no one could make money by being honest. Well-he has found out different."

"Did he get into trouble?" asked Joe sympathetically.

''Of course. He wasn't as smart as he thought he was, and failed to realize that it's only the stupid people who are crooked. He was arrested and sent to prison and after a few years escaped. I don't know where he is now and I don't suppose I'll ever see him again.''

"A figure in hiding," murmured Frank.

"I was so ashamed," confided Mr. Zatta in a tremulous voice, "that I moved away from the town where I had always lived. I even changed my name. The disgrace of having a son who was an escaped convict was more than I could bear."

The Hardy boys felt sorry for the old gentleman, facing alone the tragedy of failing eyesight, and smiting under the disgrace brought on him by his worthless son. They did their best to cheer him up, and Frank explained how they planned to trap Doctor Grafton. Mr. Zatta was given the marked bills and a hiding place was prepared for Joe in a clothes closet in the afflicted man's bedroom.

"Now, Mr. Zatta," said Frank, "if you'll go to bed we'll pull down the window shade and darken the room. We want to give the

The Faker 105

doctor the impression that you are a pretty sick man."

These preparations had just been concluded when a taxi drew up in front of the house. The door opened and the fake eye specialist, looking very impressive in his frock coat and white waistcoat, stepped out onto the pavement.

"The trap is set and baited, Doctor Graf-ton," said Joe, peering out of the window, before he scurried back to his hiding place.

CHAPTER XIII

A CHANGE OF HEABT

frank, a pair of overalls covering his shabby clothes, answered Graf ton's knock at the front door.

"Is this where Mr. Zatta lives?" asked the man in a brusque voice as he eyed the boy sharply.

"Yes. You're the doc, ain't you?" returned Frank. "Mr. Zatta's expecting you. He's pretty sick."

Grafton entered the house. He looked keenly at Frank again, and scowled.

"I've seen you before," he said. "Ah- now I remember. You're one of the young rowdies who ran his car into my taxi at the station yesterday. Don't deny it. I recognize you.''

Frank shrugged. "I was ridin' in a car that your taxi ran into, if that's what you mean," he replied.

"What are you doing here?" demanded Grafton roughly. "Are you a relative of Mr. Zatta?"

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A Change of Heart 107

"Nope. Just helpin' 'round the house. Well, do you want me to show you to his room? He's waitin' for you." Frank wasted no courtesy on the visitor.

"All in good time. All in good time," said Graf ton. "There's no hurry, boy. And I hope Mr. Zatta understands that I won't operate unless I'm paid in advance."

"Gosh! How much?"

"The entire amount. Five hundred dollars. He is prepared, I hope."

"Well, I know he's got some money. But what if the operation don't cure him? Will you give him his money back?"

"Of course not!" snapped Graf ton. "I never return anybody his fee for the simple reason that my operations are always successful."

"Why don't you take half now and get the rest later?"

"If I were to do that, the moment I'd cured a patient I would be left to whistle for the rest of my fee! You don't know much about human nature, boy. Well, show me to the patient and don't have so much to say."

Frank led the way to Mr. Zatta's room. The window shades were drawn and the place was in such deep shadow that the old man could scarcely be seen.

"Here's the doctor, Mr. Zatta," said Frank.

108 A Figure in Hiding

"He says he won't operate on your eyes unless he gets the money first."

"Every cent of it," declared Graf ton firmly. "Five hundred dollars in cash."

"I have the money," replied the old man in a quavering voice. He reached beneath his pillow and withdrew the packet of marked bills. "I think you'll find the count correct, doctor. Give him the money, Frank."

The lad took the bills from Mr. Zatta and handed them to Grafton. In his excitement, however, he let them drop on the floor just as the man reached for them.

"Clumsy!" snapped the quack.

He and Frank bent to pick up the money simultaneously, with the result that the latter jostled against Grafton and knocked him down. The irate fellow sprang to his feet, stuttering with anger.

"You-you fool!" he shouted at Frank. "Why can't you be more careful?"

In his rage he drew back his hand and gave the boy a violent slap on the side of his head.

"I'm sorry," muttered Frank humbly, suppressing an impulse to return the blow.

When he tried to pick up the bills again he scattered some of them on the floor. This made Grafton more angry than before. With a muttered imprecation he shoved the lad aside and snatched up the money himself. Then he

A Change of Heart 109

took the greenbacks over to the window and counted them carefully, bill by bill.

"Five hundred dollars!" he exclaimed at last in a tone of satisfaction. "That's correct. It's all here."

He swung around toward Frank.

"Get me a kettle of hot water and some towels, boy!" he ordered sharply. "Be quick about it."

He put his instrument case on the table and opened it. Frank hastily left the room and went to the kitchen for hot water and towels. When he returned, however, he stumbled as he was pouring the boiling liquid into a jug on the wash-stand and Doctor Grafton impatiently snatched the kettle away from him.

"I never saw such a stupid, clumsy young rowdy before in all my life!" he snarled. "Get out of here. Get out of this room."

"But don't you want me to help you while you're operatin'?" asked Frank.

"A lot of help you would be!" declared Grafton sarcastically. "No, I don't want you. Besides, I never allow anyone to watch me work. Go away!" He stamped his foot. "Get out of here and don't come back until I call you."

Reluctantly Frank left the room. "If that fellow is a great surgeon, I'm the Emperor of Timbuctoo," he muttered to himself.

110 A Figure in Hiding

Frank was very curious about the "operation" which the man was to perform in return for the five hundred dollars, but the fake physician had closed the door of the bedroom.

However, Joe, safely hidden in a closet, was in a good position to view the subsequent proceedings. He was quaking with apprehension lest Grafton should search the room and discover his hiding place. But the supposed surgeon was evidently satisfied with the thought that in getting rid of Frank he had driven away the only possible eyewitness.

"Well, Mr. Zatta," he said, as he approached the man's bedside, "you'll never regret spending five hundred dollars on this operation, I assure you."

"If I get my eyesight back I don't care how much it costs," replied the victim.

Joe, who was watching from the shelter of the closet, saw Doctor Grafton straighten up suddenly. Then the bogus surgeon strode quickly to the window and raised the shade a trifle to admit more light into the room. Returning to the bedside, he stared down at Mr. Zatta's face. An exclamation of surprise broke from his lips.

"What did you say, doctor?" asked the patient.

"Nothing. Nothing," returned Grafton hastily. He swung around and went back to

A Change of Heart 111

the window, drawing the shade down again. Then Joe heard him mutter:

"Yes. It is he. No mistake about it."

Grafton snatched up a towel and quickly placed it over the old man's eyes. He looked down uncertainly at his array of surgical instruments. Suddenly he shook his head and began to pack the paraphernalia back in the case.

Joe was puzzled. Evidently Grafton was not going to operate after all. This suspicion became a certainty when he saw the man lock the instrument case and reach for his hat and coat.

"What is the matter, doctor?" asked Mr. Zatta presently. "Aren't you going to begin the operation?"

"Not today. Not today. You're in no shape for it," muttered Grafton. Joe noticed that the man purposely altered his voice. "I don't care to risk it. Some other time."

He hurriedly flung open the door and rushed out of the room.

Frank, who was standing in the hall, was astonished when Grafton blundered hastily out of the bedroom.

"You ain't finished already, are you?" he demanded.

"Out of my way, boy!" ordered the man in a harsh voice. He tried to push the lad aside

112 A Figure in Hiding

but Frank stood his ground and barred the path.

"Not so fast, doctor," he snapped. "You been paid for an operation. Ain't you going to go through with it?"

"The patient is too sick. I can't work on him today. I'll have to come back later."

"Well, how about returning the five hundred dollars? How does Mr. Zatta know you'll ever come back?"

Graf ton's only reply was an ugly laugh. His arm swung out and he knocked Frank back against the wall.

"I told you to get out of my way!" he stormed, then hurried down the hall toward the front door.

The boy was after him at a bound. He tried to hold Grafton back but the man was strong and powerful. The moment Frank grabbed him he turned and smashed the lad over the head with his instrument case. The boy clung grimly to the man's arm but he knew that the fellow was too strong for him to handle alone.

Then help came. There was a rush of footsteps in the hall as Joe, hearing the sounds of struggle, ran out of the bedroom and raced to his brother's aid. Doctor Grafton was just wrenching open the front door as the younger Hardy hurtled through the air in a flying tackle that brought the impostor to the floor.

A Change of Heart 113

"That's the stuff, Joe!" whooped Frank. "Hang onto him."

"Get that money!" shouted Joe.

Kicking and struggling, Grafton began fighting his way toward the open door. He lashed out with the instrument case, bringing it down on Frank's head. A clenched fist smacked Joe on the chin.

CHAPTER XIV

A JOURNEY BY AIR

the battle was short and fierce. Grafton was a big, well-built man, but the Hardys were young and strong. The bogus doctor fought his way across the threshold and onto the walk; but Frank grabbed him by the waist and flung him to the ground. The two boys would have overwhelmed the man, had not Grafton suddenly wrenched a shiny object from his pocket.

"Look out, Frank!" yelled Joe. "He's pulling a gun!"

Joe lunged at the weapon, but missed. At the same instant Grafton snapped the trigger.

But there was no spurt of flame, no loud report! Instead, a thin stream of pungent liquid shot from the nozzle of the weapon. The next moment Joe was gasping and choking for breath. His nostrils tingled and tears filled his smarting eyes. A strong odor of ammonia filled the air.

Frank got a whiff of the vapor, and he, too, began to cough and gag. The boys, struggling

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A Journey by Air 115

for breath, fell back, almost blinded by the irritating gas.

Grafton scrambled to his feet. Frank made a grab for the man's leg but could scarcely see what he was doing. The next moment the doctor was running down the street.

Some time elapsed before Frank and Joe recovered from the effects of the ammonia. When they did so, Grafton was out of sight. Moreover, neither of the boys had noticed a slim lad dart out from between two houses and fall into step behind the man as he rounded the corner.

"A fine pair of detectives we are!" grumbled Frank, dabbing at his reddened eyes with a handkerchief. "We let that scoundrel get clear away."

"I was prepared for almost anything but a gas attack," coughed Joe. "I couldn't see at all when that ammonia got in my eyes."

"And Grafton has escaped with the five hundred dollars!"

"He won't get far," Joe said confidently. "Dad will make sure that he is picked up."

The boys returned to the house and hurried to Mr. Zatta's room. The old man was getting dressed. He seemed disappointed that Fenton Hardy had been right in branding Grafton a crook.

"I was hoping that your father might have

116 A Figure in Hiding

been wrong, and that the man could do something for my eyes after all," he quavered, "but he didn't even try to operate. He's a crook, all right."

"Just as well he didn't touch you," said Frank. "He might have destroyed what little eyesight you have."

The Hardy boys told Mr. Zatta about their struggle with Grafton in the doorway and of the fake doctor's escape after he had used the ammonia gun. While they were talking they heard a sharp knock at the door. Joe hastened to answer it.

Fenton Hardy stepped into the house. "What happened?" he asked quickly of his sons.

"He got away," Joe confessed regretfully. "He didn't try to operate at all, though he insisted on being paid before he saw Mr. Zatta. We had a fight with him but he pulled out an ammonia gun-----"

"Did he get away with the money?"

"Yes."

Fenton Hardy did not seem greatly disturbed by the news of Graf ton's escape.

"Good!" he said. "If he is caught with those marked bills he'll go to jail."

"We don't know where he went."

Mr. Hardy smiled. "I took care of that," he replied. "I was afraid Grafton might be

A Journey by Air 117

too sly for you so I arranged to have Fred Ware wait down the street. He is shadowing the man now."

The Hardy boys were relieved to hear this piece of news; yet they felt that they had not distinguished themselves in the affair.

"Grafton will probably meet Sinder and Lemuel at the hotel," continued Mr. Hardy. "I'm going down there now, and as soon as I get a report from Fred Ware I'll take action." He hurried away.

The boys, a little crestfallen by the knowledge that Grafton would have made a clear getaway had it not been for their father's foresight, prepared to leave. Frank discarded his overalls and the brothers said good-bye to the old man.

"I could not see the doctor very well," said Zatta, "but there was something familiar about his speech-very familiar."

He shook his head sadly, wrinkling his brow as if trying to recall where he had once heard a voice similar to that of the crook. The moment the boys were outside the door Joe said:

"I think I know why Graf ton's voice sounded familiar to him.''

"Why?"

"I may be wrong, but the thought struck me as I was watching Grafton in the bedroom. He seemed surprised when he saw Mr. Zatta's

118 A Figure in Hiding

face and appeared anxious to get out of there as quickly as he could. Do you know, Frank, I've a hunch that Graf ton is Mr. Zatta's son!"

Frank stared at his brother.

'' You 're not serious!" he cried. '' You don't mean the escaped convict!''

"I'm only going by the way Graf ton acted the moment he saw the old man's face. He went over to the window and I heard him mutter, ' Yes, it is he. No mistake about it.' Then he packed up his instruments and left. He recognized Mr. Zatta, I'm sure of that."

'' You may be right, Joe. I thought there was something mighty queer about it when he didn't even make an attempt to operate-
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