A figure in hiding



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Sleuth, I'm sure," said Frank.

Joe, however, felt that they had better wait for a while in case their chum might have been caught, in which event the Hardy boys would face the pioblem of making a second rescue.

His brother agreed, so the three young

158 A Figure in Hiding

people hid themselves in the woods. The boys went back to reconnoitre. They came in sight of the clearing again just in time to see Graf ton and his companions emerge from the shrubs.

"Well, he got away, whoever he was," they heard the doctor say.

The Hardys waited to hear no more, for they knew that the disturbance occasioned by the pursuit of Chet would be as nothing compared to the uproar that would follow the discovery of the Sinder girl's flight. They hastened to the place where they had left her.

Virginia was gone!

Frank's sharp eyes caught a fleeting glimpse of her, far away among the trees. He dared not call out lest he be heard by Grafton and his companions. Virginia glanced back and saw the boys but did not st

"What's wrong with that girl, anyway?" demanded Joe wrathfully. "We saved her from drowning in the river and she ran away; we fished her car out of the water and she stole it and ran away; now we rescue her from that house and she leaves us the first chance she gets."

"Let her go," said Frank, who was also angered by Virginia's apparent ingratitude. "If she doesn't appreciate what we've done for her,

A Disappearance 159

we're foolish to bother. She ought to know by this time that we have only been trying to help her."

The Hardy boys were indeed indignant. Virginia Sinder had put them to a great deal of trouble ever since the night of the theatre hold-up and it provoked them to feel that their efforts had been appreciated so little.

The boys found a trail which appeared to lead in the general direction of the river. They followed the winding path until they caught sight of the blue gleam of water beyond the trees, then hurried down the river bank and on past the farm. Finally they headed directly toward the cove where they had left the Sleuth. To their relief they found the boat safe and sound, exactly as they had left it.

"Now," said Frank, "if Chet will only show up we can get back to Bayport."

A tarpaulin in the bottom of the craft moved suddenly and a head appeared from underneath the covering. Frank and Joe burst into laughter when they saw the familiar round ruddy face of Chet Morton.

"I don't see anything to laugh at," grumbled their fat chum, crawling out from beneath the tarpaulin.

"You're not standing where we are," Joe chuckled.

"You'd have hidden, too," said Chet warmly.

160 A Figure in Hiding

"if you'd been chased by three cut-throats and a crazy man. I'm lucky to be alive. I never before ran so fast in my life. As far as this detective business of yours is concerned, I'm through-washed up-finished. It's the silliest kind of work I ever heard of.''

"But it's exciting," grinned Frank.

"You're welcome to all the excitement," Chet returned warmly. " I Ve had as much of it as I can stand. Any more of it would be downright unhealthy. Let's get this boat started before that gang comes along."

The boy had been scared within an inch of his life. The Hardys were shaking with laughter as their fat friend described his flight through the woods; yet Chet could see no humor at all in the situation.

"This detective nonsense has brought me nothing but trouble," he declared. "I try to help you out on that theatre hold-up case and I get thrown in jail. Then I find myself stranded in Boston. Now, when I try to lend a hand in this affair, I'm chased through a forest until I'm half dead. No more of it for me."

Frank and Joe told him how they had taken advantage of the opportunity of rescuing Virginia Sinder from the house. Chet snorted when he heard about it.

'' Using me for a decoy, eh ? I see it all now.''

A Disappearance 161

When the boys told him how Virginia had fled into the woods Chet said it served them right. " I '11 bet she's laughing herself sick right now. She's made fools of you a second tune. I'd lay off trying to help that girl if I were you."

Frank and Joe were disposed to feel the same way about it. Their efforts to aid Virginia Sinder had been rewarded with nothing but trouble. They sped back to Bayport in the Sleuth, and then headed for home.

"It is bad enough," said Mrs. Hardy when the boys entered the house, "to have your father away from home all the time, but you boys seem to be just as busy as he is. Where have you been all morning?"

"We've been up the river, Mother, working on a case.''

"And out all night, too. I do wish you would stay at home for a change. There's a message here for you telling you to go down to Police Headquarters as soon as you come in."

The boys looked at each other in surprise.

"What can that mean?" asked Joe.

"We'll have to find out," replied his brother.

Mrs. Hardy sighed. "I suppose it means I won't see anything of you two the rest of the day. Well, run along.''

"Very likely the police want to arrest them for some mischief they've gotten into," sniffed

162 A Figure in Hiding

Aunt Gertrude, entering the room at that moment.

The boys escaped before the good lady could get into her best form in commenting on their prolonged absences from home. They backed the roadster out of the garage and drove to Police Headquarters, where they stated their errand. They were sent forthwith to Detective Smuff's office.

"Well, boys," said that officious individual, rubbing his fat hands together complacently, "I just thought you'd be interested to know that I have solved the Eialto Theatre hold-up affair."

Smuff seemed to be immensely pleased with himself-

"That's fine," said Frank. "Did you get the evidence on Nick Cordoza?"

Smufif shook his head. "You were wrong, lads. You were wrong. Nick Cordoza didn't get that money."

"Bufc we saw him," declared Joe.

"Maybe you did. Nick Cordoza was well enough to talk this morning, and he talked. He told us aU about it. After I have arrested a certain person the case will be all cleared up.''

"I kiope you're not going to arrest Chet Mortoru again,'' said Frank. '' That wasn 't such a clever move on your part.''

SnmS reddened. ''Never mind that. Nick

A Disappearance 163

Cordoza decided to talk. He tells me that it was a girl who really got the money."

"A girl!" they exclaimed.

"Yep, a girl named Virginia Sinder. She got the nine hundred dollars stolen from the theatre. Cordoza didn't get it after all."

The boys were astounded.

Had they been helping a criminal all this time?

CHAPTER XX

A FIGURE IN HIDING

"what did Cordoza say?" asked Frank.

"Well, it's a long story," Detective Smuff answered comfortably. "He admits he stole the cash, of course."

"Then he's the thief," Joe replied.

"Well, yes. He committed the actual hold-up, but he hasn't the money. The girl got away with that."

"She stole it from Cordoza?"

'' That's what he says. Accordin' to his story, he made a getaway and jumped into his car, which was parked on a side street. Then he drove out toward the Willow River bridge."

"That's where we found him," said Frank.

"He ran into a ditch trying to avoid a collision with a parked auto. It belonged to this girl-Virginia Sinder."

"Well?"

"She was stranded. Didn't have any gas. So Cordoza offered to go back to the nearest service station and get some. He did so.''

'' But how could the girl get the money ?''

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A Figure in Hiding 165

"I'm comin' to that. Don't hurry me," rebuffed Smuff. '' He got the gasoline and poured it in the tank, but still she could not start her car, so he got into her machine beside her to assist."

"What happened then?"

"Well, he started the motor, and then she offered him money for the new gas. But I guess he wanted to show off and flaunted his big roll of bills before her.''

"Yes," said Frank, intent on the story.

"Cordoza's a bit hazy about what happened in the next few minutes, but I believe the girl grabbed the money, pushed him out of her coupe, and drove off."

"I see," nodded Joe. "From his condition later he must have had a bad fall.''

"He did. He picked himself up from the road, barely conscious, and staggered to his own car. Then he fainted at the wheel. A while later you fellows came along and found Mm."

"Maybe Cordoza made all that up, hid the bills somewhere, and invented the story so he wouldn't have to hand over the money," concluded Frank thoughtfully.

"Say, what's the idea?" demanded Smuff indignantly. "Are you fellows trying to make out that I don't know what I'm talking about? Even the doctors at the hospital told me Cor-

166 A Figure in Hiding

doza kept raving about a girl who had stolen all his money. That's how I knew what questions to ask him."

"How did he learn her name?"

"He asked her when he offered to go back to get the gas.'' Detective Smuff glanced shrewdly at the Hardy boys. "Now," he said, "I wonder if either of you knows a girl by the name of Virginia Binder."

"What makes you think we might?" Joe asked innocently.

"Well, you've met lots of people. I'm going to arrest her for stealing the funds and I thought you'd be glad to help me."

"Sorry," replied Frank evasively, "I'm afraid we can't do that, Mr. Smuff."

"Well, if you should happen to hear of a girl by that name, come and let me know."

When the Hardy boys left the police station they scarcely knew what to think. They agreed, however, that they had been right in volunteering no information to Detective Smuff.

"The girl may be a thief, as he says," Frank remarked, "but I doubt it. If we tell Smuff everything we know he '11 just go out and arrest Virginia. If she isn't guilty it will mean terrible trouble for her. If she is, Smuff will take every bit of credit for clearing up the Eialto Theatre mystery."

"After we have done all the hard work."

A Figure in Hiding 167

"Eight. I think we had better wait until Dad comes home. Then we can ask his advice.''

"Do you think the girl really stole that money, Frank?"

'' The evidence seems to be against her. She's a strange person. We've found that out. Maybe it's because of the money that she is in hiding."

"A figure in hiding-like Chet," said Joe.

"Just the same, I'm glad we didn't tell Smuff anything about her. I think he had a notion we would be able to lend him a hand.''

" If he only knew how much we do know about Virginia Sinder! Still, we can't say where she is now."

The boys drove home and put their roadster back in the garage. They were just going into the house when a taxi pulled up at the front door. Fenton Hardy, carrying a heavy suitcase, stepped out of the cab.

'' Why, it's Dad!" yelled Joe. The brothers rushed down the walk to meet their father.

"Well, you're still safe and sound, I see," remarked the detective as he went toward the house with his sons. "Have you rounded up the Graf ton gang in my absence!''

"Not yet, Dad, but we have plenty to tell you."

Joe grabbed his father's suitcase.

"I'll carry this," he said, leading the way.

168 A Figure in Hiding

"Where have you been, Dad?" inquired Frank.

"Oh, checking up on our friend Graf ton. I had a tip that he once served time in a penitentiary about a hundred miles from here so I went over there to have a look at the records. After I take a shower and change my clothes I'll tell you all about it."

"We've been busy, too. Joe fell off a ledge at the Bayport Hotel and nearly broke his neck. He crashed right through a glass canopy. You could hear the noise for blocks."

"Hurt?" asked Mr. Hardy quickly.

"Just a few cuts," said Joe.

'' How on earth did you come to fall through the canopy? What were you doing on the ledge?"

"We'll tell you all about that after you've told us about Graf ton," promised Joe.

He carried the suitcases into the house and started up the stairs.

"Be careful with that grip," warned Mr. Hardy. "My revolver is in it-still loaded."

At that moment Aunt Gertrude appeared on the upper landing and began to descend the stairs.

"What's that about a revolver?" she demanded sharply. "Where is the revolver?"

"In this suitcase, Aunty," said Joe.

He edged to one side to give the lady room

A Figure in Hiding 169

in which to pass. Unfortunately Aunt Gertrude stumbled, brushed against the suitcase, and knocked it out of Joe's hand.

The grip fell heavily on the stairs. Instantly there was a shot.

"Oh, help!" shrieked Aunt Gertrude.

She toppled, lost her balance, and tumbled down the stairs.

CHAPTER XXI

THE LOST GRANDCHILD

joe was almost paralyzed with horror.

"Oh, golly!" he cried. "I've shot Aunt Gertrude!"

The lady in question lay in a heap at the foot of the stairs.

"I'm shot!" she moaned. "I'm wounded. Get a doctor. I'm dying. Oh, you wicked boy!"

Mr. Hardy and Frank rushed to her aid. Mrs. Hardy came running from the kitchen, as Aunt Gertrude screamed that she had been shot through the heart. Next she insisted that the bullet was embedded in her shoulder. When a careful search failed to reveal any evidence of a wound she switched the locality to her right leg.

Mrs. Hardy could find no indication of any trouble, whereupon Aunt Gertrude looked disappointed and announced that her back had been broken by the fall downstairs. Greatly to the relief of everyone, however, this pos-

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The Lost Grandchild 17)

sibility was ruled out when the good lady wai>-able to get to her feet.

A few minutes later she gave Joe a tongue-lashing for being "a careless, clumsy, irresponsible boy." The family now felt sure that Aunt Gertrude would live, that the bullet had missed her, and that she was suffering mainly from shock. However, she resented the fact that she had escaped a revolver bullet and a fall downstairs without apparent injury, and decided to take to her bed for the rest of the day. She was assisted tenderly back to her room, from which she issued so many orders and instructions in her role of invalid that the house was thrown into a turmoil.

As soon as things had settled down somewhat Fenton Hardy and the boys adjourned to the study. There Frank and Joe gave their father an account of the adventures they had experienced during his absence.

"So Graf ton is in hiding now?" said Mr. Hardy slowly after he had heard their story. "Something must have frightened him. Perhaps one of his victims complained to the police. I've learned a good deal about that fellow in the past twenty-four hours."

"What did you find out, Dad?"

"He has spent a number of years in one of the Western states. According to his record he flunked in medical school-that is, he has

172 A Figure in Hiding

no right to call himself a doctor, although he did start out to become one. However, the fact that he failed to pass his examinations and get his diploma did not bother the fellow. He started a sanitarium for the treatment of nervous ailments. This was just a fake institution.

'' Several of his wealthy patients died under mysterious circumstances, until finally the police got sufficient evidence to send Grafton to prison for a long term. He served about two years and then managed to escape by impersonating one of the institution's physicians."

"Are you sure he is that Graf ton I" asked Frank, surprised by this formidable record.

"I strongly suspect that he is the man. He is badly wanted by the police and there is a big reward out for his arrest."

'' Oh, boy!'' exclaimed Joe. '' Maybe we can cash in on this."

"Don't forget," Fenton Hardy reminded the boys with a smile, "that this is my case. We may be on the wrong track after all. Still, it's mighty interesting to know about the hideout in the woods. I think we'll all go out there tomorrow and do a little investigating."

"Why not today?" asked Frank.

"I have another job for you," remarked his father, glancing at his watch. "I'd like to

The Lost Grandchild 173

have you go to Doeville again and look up old Mrs. Lunberry."

"Fine. What shall we ask her?"

"I want to know if Graf ton has been back to see her. Then, of course, I'd like to find out if this cure of his has worked or not. Mrs. Lunberry may be a valuable witness if she has been swindled out of two hundred dollars by this gang of rascals."

"We'll go right away," said Frank. "She will probably snap our heads off when we ask her about Grafton, though. She was firmly convinced that he is a miracle man.''

"Perhaps she's not so sure about it now," Fenton Hardy remarked.

The boys left the house, ran the roadster out of the garage, filled it up with gas at the corner service-station, and then set out for Doeville.

"Not quite as fast as traveling by plane," remarked Joe as the car skimmed over the highway.

"And not as expensive, either," Frank pointed out.

Their fears that Mrs. Lunberry's confidence in Grafton might cause her to resent their visit were groundless. They found the old lady in a pitiful state of anxiety and bewilderment. Her eyesight was as bad as ever; there had been no improvement as the result of Graf ton's "operation." By this time she realized that

174 A Figure in Hiding

she had been the victim of a callous swindle. "Oh, if only I had listened to you boys!" she wept. "But that man and his proposition sounded so plausible, and I want so much to have my eyesight back again, just as good as ever. I know now that he was only after my money. The operation didn't do me a bit of good."

"You're not the first person Graf ton has swindled," Frank told her. "We thought that if we could warn you in time you wouldn't lose your savings.''

"I suppose I deserve to lose them for being so stupid and stubborn. A man like he is should be sent to prison."

"That's exactly where we hope to send him. Can we count on you, Mrs. Lunberry, to give evidence against Grafton if he should be arrested?"

"You certainly can!" that lady assured them warmly. "If it will prevent other people from being robbed by that scoundrel I'll give you all the help in my power. I can't see how a man can be so heartless. He knew that I have less than a thousand dollars left in the world. I've spent practically all my money searching for my granddaughter. I lost her when she was just a little girl and I've put out hundreds of dollars trying to locate her." The boys were interested in the old lady's

The Lost Grandchild 175

story. She had been left a comfortable little income upon the death of her husband years before. She had undertaken the care of her orphaned granddaughter, who had mysteriously disappeared. Now, in the later years of her life she missed the company of the girl who might have been a help to her in her old age. With failing eyesight and her little store of money dwindling rapidly, she was an object of compassion.

Her story aroused the sympathy of the Hardy boys, whose resentment against the rascally Grafton grew fiercer. It seemed almost unbelievable that he should have victimized one deserving of sympathy rather than ill-treatment.

"We can't help you find your granddaughter, I'm afraid, Mrs. Lunberry," said Frank, "but we'll do the best we can to get your money back from Grafton. It will not be long before he is behind bars."

At that moment Joe, who was sitting by a window, saw an automobile pull up in front of the cottage.

"Someone to see you, Mrs. Lunberry," he announced cheerfully. Then, with a gasp, he pressed closer to the pane and peered out. "Frank!" he said. "It's Spotty Lemuel!"

Frank leaped to his feet. He too saw Rip Sinder's partner getting out of the car.

"He mustn't find us here," said Frank

176 A Figure in Hiding

quickly. "Mrs. Lunberry, if you don't mind, we'll leave by the back way. Come on, Joe."

Without further explanation to the astonished woman the boys hustled out of the room and rushed down the hall. They had just reached the kitchen when Lemuel rang the doorbell.

"Let's wait and hear what he has to say," suggested Frank quickly. "Maybe the crook is actually going to try to persuade the woman to pay for a second operation."

Hidden in the kitchen, the boys heard Lemuel introduce himself to Mrs. Lunberry. His first words amazed them.

"Mrs. Lunberry," he said, "I understand that you have spent a great deal of time and money searching for your lost granddaughter."

"Well-yes," admitted the old lady hesitantly. '' How did you know ? Who told you ?''

"Wasn't there a doctor here? A Doctor Graf ton who operated on your eyes? Didn't you tell him about your search?"

'' Indeed I did. Please come in and sit down. Why do you visit me?" asked Mrs. Lunberry in a voice that quavered with anxiety. "Do you know something about my granddaughter? Is that why you're here?"

"I can't be positive until I have a little more information,'' Lemuel said coolly. '' From what the doctor told me, I think that I may be able to help you find this girl. Now I have some photo-

The Lost Grandchild 177

graphs here. One of them is a picture of her when she was very young. The other shows her as she is now. Perhaps you may be able to identify the first one."

The Hardy boys, listening, heard a cry of amazement and joy from the old lady.

"Where did you get this photograph?" she cried. "It's a picture of my granddaughter. I remember it well. Oh, please-please tell me where she is now. Where can I find her? There's no doubt of it. This is her picture."

"I'm mighty glad to hear it," answered Lemuel. "I'm more than delighted to tell you that I know where the girl can be found. This is a picture of a girl known as Virginia Sinder 1''

Frank and Joe could hardly believe their ears. Was this a hoax? Or was Virginia really the missing granddaughter?

"But that isn't her real name!" cried Mrs. Lunberry. "I can identify her by that photograph, if you're sure it's one of the same person."

"This girl has been brought up by a family named Sinder," said Lemuel. "They knew nothing of her early history. I'm quite sure there has been no mistake."

'' Where is she ? When can I see her ?'' asked Mrs. Lunberry, her voice trembling with eagerness.

Lemuel coughed politely.

178 A Figure in Hiding

"I am afraid there is going to be a certain amount of expense attached to it," he said.

"Expense? What do you mean? Why should it cost me money to have my granddaughter returned to me?"

"The Sinder family is not wealthy. They have spent a good deal of money bringing up the girl, and will expect to be paid something before Virginia can be turned over to you."

"I'll pay it gladly!" cried Mrs. Lunberry. "How much do they want?"

"Five hundred dollars," replied Spotty Lemuel flatly.

Mrs. Lunberry seemed taken aback.

"Five hundred dollars!" she echoed faintly. "That's a lot of money."

"It's the amount they ask. Of course, if you're not interested-----"

"But I am interested. I want my granddaughter back. But five hundred dollars would take nearly every cent I have, and if it shouldn't be the right girl-----"

"Tell you what I'll do," said Lemuel briskly. "If you want the girl back, give me half the money now and the rest later. Give me a check for two hundred and fifty dollars now and I'll guarantee that you granddaughter will be here with you inside of twenty-four hours."

Between the kitchen and the living room of Mrs. Lunberry's home there was a small room

The Lost Grandchild 179

with bookcases and a writing desk. Frank, peering from the kitchen doorway, spied a checkbook on the desk.

"Very well," he heard Mrs. Lunberry say. "I'll write you half the amount."

Frank acted quickly. He dodged out of the kitchen and into the other room. With one rapid motion he snatched the check-book from the desk and thrust it into his pocket. Then he slid into the kitchen again.

The situation was saved for the moment. Mrs. Lunberry came out and looked for her check-book, searching the desk thoroughly. Puzzled, she went over to Lemuel.

"You'll have to come back tonight," the lady told him. "I've lost my check-book."

The man was plainly disappointed, but said that he would return later that evening for the money. Frank was delighted his ruse had saved Mrs. Lunberry from parting with the sum the rascal had demanded. As soon as the front door banged behind the departing Lemuel he and Joe started out of the kitchen to tell the woman all they knew about her unscrupulous visitor.

Suddenly the back door opened. The boys whirled around, to find a stout, bewhiskered man in overalls standing on the threshold.

"You steal-a da book!" he thundered, pointing an accusing finger at Frank.

180 A Figure in Hiding

At that moment the woman herself appeared in the hall.

"What's this? What has happened?" she demanded.

"Dis-a boy, he steal-a from your desk! I looka through da window!" shouted the man.

CHAPTER XXII

THE SEAEOH ENDED

'' look here!'' cried Frank angrily. '' You '•» a made a mistake. I was only trying to help Mrs. Lunberry."

"You steal-a da book!" cried the man. "I work-a here on da garden for dis-a lady. Nobody can-a steal from her. Geev-a him back."

He advanced on Frank and seized him. The boy wrenched himself free, whereupon the gardener knocked him down with a heavy blow.

"Let him alone!" shouted Joe, and jumped into the fight.

As he pulled the fellow away, Mrs. Lunberry screamed, for through the open door dashed a huge, snarling police dog. The animal hurled itself on Joe. The kitchen was in a turmoil as the boy tried to fight off the brute while the man at the same time pounced on Frank and snatched the check-book from the lad's pocket.

"See!" he shouted triumphantly. "He steal-a it. I see him."

He held up the article. Suddenly the dog leaped at it, turning from Joe as he did so, and

181

182 A Figure in Hiding

snapped the book from the gardener's hand. Then the animal bolted from the room.

Mrs. Lunberry was greatly upset. The excitable man honestly believed he had captured a couple of dangerous thieves and was creating an uproar that could be heard a block away. Frank and Joe, at the same time, were vainly trying to explain things.

"Pietro!" cried Mrs. Lunberry to the gardener. '' Be quiet! Give these boys a chance to tell their story."

"We took your check-book, Mrs. Lunberry," panted Frank, getting up from the floor. "That's true enough. But we did it so you wouldn't be able to write out for Lemuel the amount he wanted."

"And why not?" demanded Mrs. Lunberry stiffly. '' Surely it's my own business if I wish to give the man a check."

"But he's a crook, as big a one as Doctor Graf ton. He's a member of the same gang. He doesn't know where to find Virginia. If you give him the money you'll never see him again."

"We can find her for you and it won't cost you a cent," declared Joe.

Mrs. Lunberry was incredulous. "Do you know my granddaughter?" she questioned.

"We know Virginia Sinder but we didn't know she was your granddaughter."

The Search Ended 183

"Where is she? When can you bring her here?"

The Hardy boys looked crestfallen.

"Well," admitted Frank, "we don't know where she is right now-----"

"Ha!" snorted the gardener. "These boys bluff-a you, Mrs. Lunberry. They steal-a da book. They not know where to find-a da girl.''

Mrs. Lunberry looked suspicious. It was obvious that she was wondering if Frank had invented the story so he could explain his action in taking the check-book.

"Mrs. Lunberry," pleaded Frank desperately, "don't give Lemuel any money until we have a chance to find Virginia ourselves. We don't know where she is just at the moment but we do know where she was. We have talked with her. We'll get busy right away and try to find her for you."

"I'll give you until tomorrow," said Mrs. Lunberry reluctantly. "If you haven't found her by that time I '11 accept Mr. Lemuel's proposition. After all, I have only your word that he is dishonest. I'm not to pay him the other half of the money until my granddaughter is returned."

'' You won't have to pay us anything,'' Frank told her. "We'll find her for you."

The boys were glad to escape from Doeville, realizing that if Pietro the gardener should be

184 A Figure in Hiding

allowed to have his own way they would be turned over to the police on a theft charge. Even yet, they realized, Mrs. Lunberry was not entirely convinced of their good intentions. Their only way of proving their sincerity would be to carry out their promise to locate Virginia Sinder and take her to her grandmother.

"And that," declared Joe, "is easier said than done."

'' But it has to be done,'' returned his brother.

Worst of all, they discovered on their arrival home that Fenton Hardy would be unable to carry out his plan of visiting the Grafton hideout the next day. An important client of the great detective had wired a message to the effect that he would be in Bayport for a conference which could not be postponed. When the boys explained their predicament, however, their father made a suggestion.

"Call up Mrs. Lunberry and see if you can get her to ask Lemuel where he is staying. If he does know where to locate Virginia you may be able to shadow him."

The idea bore fruit. Over the telephone the woman said that Lemuel had returned and gone away again, greatly disappointed because she had not given him the promised check. He had told her, however, that he would await a telephone call from her at the Westside Hotel in Bayport the following day.

The Search Ended 185

This clue proved to be valuable. The boys made a point of watching the hotel, a shabby little place of unsavory reputation. Early the next morning they were rewarded by seeing Spotty Lemuel emerge from the hotel. The Hardys shadowed him for several blocks.

Finally he loitered on a street corner, glancing at his watch occasionally as if waiting for someone. The two lads, pretending to be interested in a shop window display a few yards away, kept their sharp eyes on him. Presently a second familiar figure came hurrying down the street. Frank could see his reflection in the plate glass window.

"Rip Sinder!" said the lad quietly.

The two men began talking about something, but the boys could catch only snatches of their conversation. They did not wish to risk discovery by venturing closer. They perked up their ears, however, when they heard Lemuel say:

"By the way, Rip, I don't suppose you've found Virginia yet?"

"No, I haven't," growled Sinder. "But if she thinks she's going to stay clear of me she's mistaken. I'll get her."

"How?"

"I've found out where she left her car. It's at the Highway Garage in Brockton. Why are you so interested in Virginia all of a sudden?"

186 A Figure in Hiding

Lemuel gave an evasive answer. Then the pair moved off down the street. The Hardy boys did not follow, for they had obtained the exact information they wanted.

"Evidently Lemuel hasn't told Rip Sinder anything about his little scheme for collecting five hundred dollars from. Mrs. Lunberry," remarked Joe as the brothers hurried away.

"He plans to find Virginia himself, take her to Doeville, and get the money. Well, maybe we can thwart that. If the girl's car is at the Highway Garage we'll watch that place until she shows up."

The faithful
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