Read Cult of Crime Online

Authors: Franklin W. Dixon

Tags: #Mystery

Cult of Crime (10 page)

BOOK: Cult of Crime
13.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Instincts developed over long years of detective work told him that the enemy was nearby. And he had learned to trust his instincts.

Maybe, he thought, they didn’t know where Strand lived. Unlike most other people with money, Emmett Strand lived in a small house. Since his wife died, Strand had shown little interest in anything but banking, and moving would have taken a lot of time and attention. So he stayed in his modest home with, until recently, his daughter.

“Would you like some tea, Mr. Hardy?” Holly called from the next room.

“Yes, please,” he called back. He would have preferred coffee, but he saw no reason to thwart Holly’s good intentions. He had seen Emmett Strand do that too often in the past few years, on those rare occasions when he had visited Emmett in his home.

Emmett Strand was always contradicting Holly, always making her feel as if nothing she could do were good enough. There was no malice in what he did, just awkwardness. He had left Holly’s upbringing to his wife. Turned into a single parent, he had no idea of what to do, and he was too proud a man to ask.

Was it-any wonder that Holly Strand had run away from home?

Fenton Hardy wondered at the change in Holly since her return to Bayport. Surly and short tempered before leaving, she’ had become sweet and contrite, anxious to help. He shook his head. People, in his experience, did not change their natures so quickly..

Holly entered the room, carrying a tea tray with a silver teapot and a china cup on it. Next to the cup was a: little silver spoon, a sugar bowl, and several slices of lemon. Fenton poured himself a cup of tea and squeezed a lemon into it.

“Can I talk to you?” Holly asked. “About Frank?”

Fenton Hardy looked at her over the rim of his cup as he sipped. No one was supposed to know that Frank was alive. “Go ahead,” he said.

Holly bowed her head and giggled in embarrassment. “I’m sorry. I know you think something has happened to Frank, but … somehow I feel he’s okay. I can … I don’t know … I just know he’s out there.

“What I wanted to ‘know is-” She took a deep breath, steeling herself. “Is he serious about Callie?”

“Callie Shaw?” Fenton Hardy chuckled. “I don’t really know. He sees her pretty exclusively.” He gulped down more tea to hide his amusement.

The smile faded from Holly’s lips, and she cast her eyes to the floor. “Oh. I guess there’s no room for me in his life, then.”

“I wouldn’t give up too quickly,” Fenton replied, stifling a chuckle. “Frank has always been a little shy around girls. I’ve always suspected he stayed with Callie because she was safe. Now, you take Joe. He’s a real ladies’ man … “

His head spun suddenly. The room seemed to wave past him. “Now, you take Joe … ” he said again, but the words turned to gum in his mouth. His fingers grew numb, and the cup slid from them. It fell to the floor but bounced instead of breaking, and warm liquid ran from it onto the rug.

The rug rose up and slammed him in the face. He rolled onto his back. “Help me,” he tried to say, but his mouth wouldn’t move properly. Holly stood over him, studying him. Her warm smile had vanished, replaced by a cold glower.

Then darkness swam over him, and he remembered nothing else.

Holly squatted and picked up the fallen teacup. As the Rajah had instructed, she wiped the cup clean of knockout drops.

She walked up the stairs to her father’s study. He was sleeping at his desk, where she had left him. She picked his teacup off the floor and wiped it clean, too. “Can you hear me, Daddy?” she asked. With eyes closed, he nodded his head slightly. His lips twitched as if he were trying to talk, but no words came out. “Tell me the control codes to the vault, Daddy,” she said. Emmett Strand mumbled and rolled his head onto his shoulder.

“Daddy!” she snapped. “This is important” She lifted his hand and put a pen in it, then rested it on a piece of paper on the desk. “Write it down, Daddy.” Without waking, he began to write.

The desk phone rang. Holly snatched it from its cradle, worried that the noise would wake her father. To her relief, he continued writing. At the sound of the voice on the other end of the line, she snapped to attention. “Yes, I gave him the truth serum, just as you said. He’s writing now.” Her father’s hand slid off the table.

She picked up the paper and read it over the phone.

∗ ∗ ∗

 

“What do you mean, the Rajah’s in Bayport?” the chief asked Frank. “We’ve been watching the roads since the first bus rolled in.”

“When I left Joe and Holly at the train yard, I began walking back to Bayport,” Frank said. “It was a long walk, but I didn’t have any other choice. If I had hitched a ride or hopped another train, I would have been caught. So I walked.

“I was just getting to the Bayport town limits when I was nearly spotted by a passing car. There was a ditch by the side of the road and I jumped into it. Imagine my surprise when I recognized the people in the car.” “The Rajah?” Chet asked.

Frank laughed. “Good guess, Einstein. That was a few hours before his followers came rolling into town.”

“Impossible!” Chief Collig muttered. “Joe described the Rajah’s Rolls-Royce perfectly. There’s no way it could have gotten in without getting spotted.”

“That’s just it,” Frank said. “He didn’t use the Rolls-Royce. He came here in an old, beat-up Volkswagen. You have to hand it to the Rajah. He knows how to keep a low profile when he wants one.

“Anyway, once I got to town, it wasn’t too hard to find the car. The Rajah’s holed up in the old Miller Hotel on the square, under the name of Michael Hadley.”

“Mikey!” Joe said. “That’s what Shakey Leland called him.”

“And he’s in the square,” the chief said in horror. “He could touch off that crowd in an instant. I’ll send Riley over to arrest him before he can cause any more trouble.”

“You can’t charge him with anything,” Frank reminded him. “But maybe we can head him off before he carries out his plans.

“Phil, use my computer and call some law enforcement data bases. Try to find something on a Michael Hadley who hung around with a Shakey Leland.

“Chet, I want you to keep an eye on the Miller Hotel. We’ve got to know when the Rajah makes his move.

“Tony, find Biff Hooper. We’ll need all the friends we have - especially ones with muscle. As soon as you find him, head over to the Strand place and help protect Holly. When everything breaks loose, she’ll be in danger.”

The back door slammed, and Con Riley burst into the room. The color was drained from his face, and for the first time since Frank and Joe had met him, he looked like he was verging on panic.

“The call came in on the radio, Chief,” Riley said. “We’ve got to get over to the square.

“It’s a riot.”

Chapter 15

THE SQUARE WAS on fire.

Mad shadows of a thousand-headed monster rose up on the wall of City Hall, cast there by the flames. They roared across the grassy park in the midst of the square.

They haven’t spread to the buildings yet, Frank realized. It can be stopped. From somewhere he heard sirens but couldn’t tell if they were from police cars or fire engines. They must be fire engines, he thought. All the cops are here already.

Policemen in black, faceless helmets dashed back and forth in the streets, chasing the Rajah’s followers. As they ran, the Rajah’s people picked up rocks and hurled them at the pursuing police. Waving nightsticks, the policemen forced back the rioters as best they could, trying to stem the flood of violence.

“It’s no good,” Chief Collig said suddenly to Frank. “We haven’t got enough men to handle a riot this big. The mayor will have to call in the National Guard.”

Bayport will be in ruins long before they get here, thought Frank. He turned to speak to the chief, but Collig was already gone to help his men.

Across the square, glass smashed. Frank looked over to see the front window of the police station falling away, shattered by a rock.

Nearby, Joe pulled three rioters off a policeman who had fallen. Panicked, the policeman swung at Joe with his nightstick. Joe hopped out of the way and was swallowed up by the crowd.

A mist hit Frank, startling him. Firemen had arrived, spraying the grass fire with a jet of water that turned the flame into thick black smoke. The smoke billowed over the square, darkening the late afternoon..

Frantic policemen whispered to the firemen, who turned the hose on some rioters and drove them back and out of the square.

Frank heard more windows breaking, somewhere to the south. The riot was moving out of the square and into the residential areas of Bayport, he knew. No one seemed to notice him. He was looking for a familiar face, one that could bring the riot to an end. He was looking for the Rajah. Instead, he found Joe. In an alley, Joe had cornered one of the Rajah’s guards, a brown bearded man with beady eyes and bad teeth. He growled at Joe through a twisted mouth, and his hand crept slowly around his back.

“Trouble, brother?” Frank yelled over the din of the crowd.

“I know this guy,” Joe replied. “The last time I saw him, I had to take a Magnum away from him. His name’s Bobby. He was just going to tell me what the Rajah’s real scheme is.”

Bobby’s hand swung behind his back and came out again with a Walther automatic pistol.

The alley exploded in a cloud of gas. Joe choked and leaped forward, slamming into Bobby. He slugged the Rajah’s guard with all his strength. Bobby crumpled to the ground, the Walther sliding from his hand as he slid down the wall. Joe kicked the gun into a pile of rubbish.

Then he coughed and doubled over. Fire burned his eyes and nose, but there was no fire. He rubbed his face, trying to put it out. The more he rubbed, the hotter the fire grew. His stomach began to churn. He felt like passing out. He wanted to stop coughing, but he couldn’t.

Frank caught Joe’s arm and helped him out of the alley. The elder Hardy brother was coughing too, and crying, but while Joe had fought Bobby, Frank had stripped off his jacket and tied it around his nose and mouth. “We got hit with tear gas,” he told Joe. “Relax. Don’t rub or it gets worse. Just let the wind blow it out of your eyes, and you’ll be okay.”

Only half-able to see, they stumbled through the streets, staggering into rioters who barely noticed them. The Rajah’s thousand-headed monster had broken up into five thousand frightened teenagers, all running in different directions, pursued by the law.

Frank knew what the terror in their faces meant. It meant that the Rajah’s hold over them was broken at last. He had abandoned them to the police, and that breach of faith could never be repaired.

A team of policemen in gas masks and riot gear stopped, recognized the Hardy boys, and moved on. Slowly moisture returned to Joe’s throat, and the coughing subsided. He was able to see again. Another squad of policemen raced through the clearing smoke, and then two boys appeared - Tony Prito and Biff Hooper.

“Are you guys all right?” Tony asked. “We came over as soon as I rounded up Biff. What happened? It looks like a war zone out here.”

It was true. Much of the park was burned away, and the smell of smoke clung to everything. Broken glass littered the sidewalks. The scene was like something out of a war movie.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Frank said. “Why would the Rajah throwaway his cult like that? He practically sacrificed them!”

“And half of Bayport with them,” Joe murmured. “What’s his game?”

Biff twirled a finger around his ear. “Aw, you know his kind of creep. Crazy.”

Frank and Joe scowled, but Tony laughed. “Yeah, every cop in town is out chasing his followers. He didn’t even have the guts to be here with his people.”

Frank gasped. “Every cop? You sure of that?” “Positive,” Tony replied. “Chief Collig superseded all other orders when the riot started.” He never got a chance to finish. “The bank!” Frank and Joe shouted at the same time.

In a second, both were on their feet, racing for the Strand Bank. When they reached it, they saw five men inside, dressed in black leather jackets. They held Uzi submachine guns in their hands. One of them was on his knees in front of Emmett Strand’s desk, tapping on a computer punchboard hidden under the desk drawer. Peering through the window, Joe recognized one of the men. It was the other man who had held him up on the road outside the commune. “Those are the Rajah’s men,” he whispered to Frank. “But where’s the Rajah? What are they doing?”

“Opening the vault,” Frank whispered back. Tony and Biff caught up with them and hid themselves along the granite wall of the bank. “I don’t know how, but they’ve got the computer access code.”

“Not from old Strand,” Joe said. He frowned. He knew Emmett Strand shared the information with no one at the bank. Someone else had provided the information, someone who had enough contact with Strand to be able to get it out of him. “Holly,” he gasped. “What?” Frank whispered.

“It all fits,” Joe said. “That’s why the Rajah had us take Holly out of the commune. So she could go home ‘saved’ and wheedle the access codes from her father.”

“You’re talking crazy,” Frank shot back. But he had a sinking feeling that Joe was right. They had been used, and because of it, the Rajah’s agents were about to reap millions of dollars.

Except that the Hardys hadn’t died when they were supposed to. And that would be the Rajah’s downfall, if Frank had anything to say about it.

“Frank!” Phil Cohen shouted from across the square. He ran toward them, waving a computer printout. “You’ve got to see this!”

Frank tried to signal him to hide himself, but it was too late. The square, abandoned by rioters and police, was silent as the grave by now, and Phil’s words echoed through it like thunderclaps. The gunman nearest the door burst out, aiming at Phil. Biff tackled the gunman. The Uzi flew from his hands and skidded along the sidewalk. Joe lunged for it.

A burst of gunfire ripped between him and the gun. A second gunman stood there, aiming at them. Across the street, Phil froze. The second gunman signaled him over. One by one, the boys got up and raised their hands over their heads.

“What’d you shoot for?” the first gunman said to his partner as he got to his feet. He picked up the fallen gun. “If any cops heard that-“

BOOK: Cult of Crime
13.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Enchantment by Nina Croft
Savannah Past Midnight by Christine Edwards
The Pretender by Kathleen Creighton
Empty Streets by Jessica Cotter
Jim Steinmeyer by The Last Greatest Magician in the World
Illusions of Death by Lauren Linwood