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Authors: Franklin W. Dixon

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BOOK: Cult of Crime
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“He must have been pretty impressed with your talent. Then again, I hear you were a fair hypnotist, and Leland was smart enough to know the time was ripe for a new religion.”

“No,” said the Rajah.

“Yes,” Frank continued. “So you and Leland bought a little land and started preaching, preying on poor, lost kids who had run away from home. You promised them heaven, but you just made them your brainwashed slaves.” “It was my divine right,” the Rajah said.

“But you never told Leland what you were really up to, did you? You kept your eyes open for Holly, because you knew someday she’d walk into your trap, or you would lure her in or drag her in, and then you could carry out your plans.

“But Leland was smart enough to see that your revenge scheme would blow the good scam you two had. So you’ killed him to keep him from getting in the way. Right?”

“Silence!” the Rajah raged. His hands shook as he squeezed them into fists.

Emmett Strand stared dumbly at Frank. “What are you talking about?” he asked, but a look of terrible understanding began to steal over his face. The past was coming back to Strand, and it terrified him.

Frank stared into Holly’s eyes. What he was saying fascinated her, but he could see that she was frightened, too, and in that state she was capable of anything.

He reached over and took the knife from her hand. She didn’t try to hold on to it.

“The Rajah never told you his real name, did he?” Frank asked her. “Not the name he was using when Leland found him. His real name.” “Stop!” the Rajah shouted. “I command it!”

Frank ignored him. “I saw his birth certificate, Holly. Michael’s his second name. Hadley is his mother’s last name. “His name is Paul Michael Strand.”

“Mary Hadley had a son?” Emmett Strand said in disbelief. Tears welled up in his eyes. “I never knew … I never knew… .”

“You knew!” the Rajah shrieked. Despite his size, he no longer seemed the nearly omnipotent figure he had appeared to be just moments before.

He looked like an angry little boy, and years of rage crackled in his voice.

“My mother wasn’t good enough for you! You had to go off and run your bank and make lots of money, and you didn’t care about us or anyone else. All you cared about was your money.”

“It’s not true,” Strand said. “I didn’t know. Do you mean all these years you thought that I-? Oh, you poor boy. My poor son. “

“I don’t want your pity, old man!” the Rajah said. “I don’t need it.”

“You’ve got nothing else, Paul,” Frank said.

“Your followers have left you. You’re wanted by the police. Give it up.”

To Frank’s surprise, the Rajah smiled. “You think you have power over me because you’ve discovered my secret? The voices still speak to me.” He tapped two fingers on his forehead. “They have told me my future, and it is good.”

He stretched out his hand to Holly. “Come with me, little sister.”

She looked to Frank, but though she moved her lips, no words came out. She was confused, Frank realized. She was in shock, and he wasn’t sure what to do.

Before anyone could move, Holly stepped over to the Rajah and took his hand. “No!” Frank screamed, but it was too late.

The Rajah spun her as soon as her fingers touched his. As she twirled into him, his arm wrapped around her neck and shoulders, holding her there. A hand disappeared into his silk robe and came out a second later, holding a gun. He pressed the barrel of the gun against Holly’s temple. “Now,” the Rajah said, “I will have my revenge.”

Chapter 18

“LET HER GO!” Frank shouted at the Rajah. “It’s all over. You’ve lost.”

The Rajah’s mouth twitched in anger. Then his lips curled into a vicious smile. Madness glazed his eyes…

“My father has sinned, and he must pay,” the Rajah said. “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. From this day, I am the Lord, and I shall avenge.”

Firmly holding Holly, he turned the gun on Frank. “You thought you could trick me, but I know. Call in the others.” “What others?” Frank asked.

“You came with three others, your brother and two boys. Call them in, or this precious flower will be crushed.” The Rajah tightened his grip on Holly.

He does know! Frank thought. For a moment, he was in the Rajah’s grip again, as he had almost been at the commune. He was ready to believe that the Rajah had miraculous powers. He shook himself, pulling his eyes away from the Rajah’s magnetic gaze. There’s a simple explanation for this. He saw us from the window, that’s all. “Three seconds,” the Rajah said. “Joe!” Frank called. “Tony! Phil! Come in here. “

One by one, they entered. The Rajah gestured with the pistol, and they raised their hands and moved next to Frank. “Very good,” the Rajah said. “Turn around and put your hands and faces against the wall.” They followed his orders.

“Very good,” he repeated. Still gripping Holly, he turned to Emmett Strand. “I bless you, Father.” He aimed the gun at Strand. His fingered tightened on the trigger.

Fenton Hardy threw himself forward into the Rajah. He was still tied in his chair, and he swung his body as he lunged so that the heavy chair smashed into the Rajah’s side. The shot slammed into the side wall.

“Hiiiiya!” Frank screamed at the top of his lungs as he spun and leaped into the air. He jabbed his heel out, smacking it against the Rajah’s gun hand. The gun flew across the room. Frank landed and swung the back of his hand into the side of the Rajah’s head. With a scream, the Rajah let go of Holly and raised a hand to his pained ear. Before anyone could stop her, Holly scrambled across the room and grabbed the gun.

Her face was lit with anger and hate as she aimed it at the Rajah. “You used me,” she said bitterly. “I thought you were good. I thought you loved me for myself.”

Hunched over in pain, the Rajah stared at her in disbelief. “Little sister,” he said, but the strength was gone from his voice. He had offered peace to his followers, but now, staring at death, he was terrified. Almost by reflex, he continued, “Don’t turn on me. You were chosen above all others - “

“Shut up!” she shouted. Tears of rage blinded her.

“Give me the gun, Holly,” Frank said. He stepped forward, his hand extended. “If you shoot him, you’ll be as bad as he is. Don’t let his lies destroy your life.”

“I am destroyed!” she howled. “I’ve been such a fool!” She held the gun steady in both hands and drew a bead on the Rajah’s heart. Her finger twitched on the trigger.

Then, with a tiny cry of frustrated anger, she thrust the gun into Frank’s hands and sank to her knees, sobbing.

In a superhuman burst of desperation, the Rajah hurled himself at Joe and the other boys. Instinctively they jumped out of the way.

Laughing madly, the Rajah plunged through the window, spraying glass across the sloping roof outside. He rolled down the roof and crashed clumsily onto the ground. When he stood, he was still laughing.

“Call Chief Collig,” Frank ordered. He helped his father off the floor. “The police can pick up the Rajah now.”

“The police are too busy to help,” Joe said. “I’m going after him.” Before anyone could speak, Joe leaped out the window and slid down the roof in pursuit.

By the time he reached the ground, the Rajah was already rounding the far corner of the block. Joe sprinted after him. For Joe, it was just like running in one of his high school track meets. Except this is more important than any race, he thought. If I don’t stop the Rajah now, he’ll keep coming back until, he wins. He’ll wipe us out one by one when we least expect it.

Just like what happened to Iola. He swallowed the lump in his throat. He was going to catch the Rajah if it was the last thing he did.

But the Rajah was faster than Joe expected. Already he was out of sight, leaving only a trail of mirthless, mocking laughter for Joe to follow.

He turned onto the next street as the laughter turned to howling. There he saw the Rajah, haranguing someone he had knocked on the ground. When he saw Joe, he began to run again, but he had lost precious time, and Joe was close on his heels.

Gasping for breath, Joe poured all his energy into a last burst of speed and tackled the Rajah.

“Release me,” the Rajah ordered. “I am the power - “

“Shut up,” Joe barked, and twisted the Rajah’s arm behind his back, immobilizing him. “This time it’s really over.”

“Joe!” called a nearby voice. Joe turned to see the person the Rajah had knocked down. He laughed when he saw the chubby face.

“I looked all over for the Rajah, just like Frank told me,” Chet Morton said. “But I couldn’t find any sign of him. Biff told me you went to the Strand place.” He stopped, puzzled, and studied Joe’s silk-garbed captive. “Did I miss something?” Chet asked.

∗ ∗ ∗

 

“I can’t thank you enough for all your help,” Emmett Strand said. He stood with the Hardy boys-and Holly in Kennedy International Airport in New York.

“Our pleasure, sir,” Frank said. He faced Holly and smiled. “You look good.” He hadn’t seen her in the six weeks since the Rajah’s capture.

She blushed. “Thank you. I’m feeling a lot better these days. I’ve been getting professional help.”

“We both have,” Emmett Strand said. “Together. We’re close now for the first time in our lives.” He held up two airline tickets. “That’s why we’re taking this trip to Europe. It’s about time I stopped worrying about making money and started being friends with my daughter.”

He gave Holly a hug. “It’s funny. If Paul hadn’t tried to destroy me, I would never have known how miserable Holly was. In a way, we’re a lot better off.”

“So is the Rajah,” Joe said. “He’ll get lots of help where he is. Maybe they’ll even straighten him out someday.” But probably not, he thought. At least he’s behind bars where he can’t do any more harm.

Strand nodded sadly. “It’s too bad about him. When I married his mother, I wanted to be a good husband. But it was a mistake. She never really wanted to be married, and when she divorced me, I thought I’d never love anyone again. Until I met Holly’s mother.”

“The hate that twisted him all those years wasn’t necessary. If I had known, I would have been there for him. His mother didn’t tell me she was pregnant when she left me. I never knew.”

Frank patted his shoulder comfortingly. “Now you’ve got your daughter back. Make the best of it. “

“I’m so glad the murder charges against you were dropped, Joe,” Holly said.

Joe shrugged. “It was no big deal. All the Rajah’s guards knew he killed Leland. When he turned on them, they turned on him. It wasn’t a smart move on your half-brother’s part. He may have headed the cult, but Leland was the real brains behind it.”

Flight information blared over the airport loudspeakers. “That’s our flight, honey,” Emmett Strand said. “We’ve got to go.”

“Could I catch up in a minute, Dad?” Holly asked. “I’d like to speak to Frank alone.” Her father smiled and nodded, and strolled toward the boarding gates. Smirking, Joe also walked away.

“I just want to thank you again,” Holly said when they were alone. “If you hadn’t rescued me, I don’t know what would have happened. You saved my life, Frank.”

“You would have seen the light eventually,” he replied.

“I don’t think so,” she replied. “I only escaped because, for a moment, I thought you loved me. I guess you do, in a way.”

It was Frank’s turn to blush. “Don’t push so hard at love, Holly. You’ll find it.”

“I already have,” she said. “Goodbye, Frank.” She kissed him.

Then she was gone, vanished with her father beyond the boarding gates. Gently he brushed the touch of her off his lips and went to find his brother.

Joe stood at a newsstand, reading a magazine. “It says here that most of the Rajah’s followers went back to their families. At least from now on, they’ll know better than to think a guru is anything more than just another human being.”

“A men to that,” Frank said. They started for the exit.

At the door, a boy approached them. He was dressed in a plain blue suit. He was sixteen at most, and his flame-red hair had recently been cut short, though it had already started to grow again. His hair and the many freckles on his face marked him as Irish-American. In his arm was a stack of books. He didn’t recognize Frank or Joe at all. “Kadji?” Frank said, startled. “Is that you?”

For a moment the boy appeared puzzled. Then he beamed at Frank, though it was obvious he still didn’t recognize him. “That was in a past life. I’m called Brother Raphael now.”

He thrust a book at them. It was beautifully printed, with a painting of angels battling devils on the cover. “This book reveals the secret struggle that has shaped the history of mankind. I want you to have it. It will show you the role that you are destined to play.”

He tried to put the book in Frank’s hand. “Our ministry is costly, brother. If you could make a small contribution…”

Frank shook his head. “I’m sorry,” he said. He pulled his hands back to avoid the book. “I’m sorry for you.”

But the boy had already lost interest and, with the book ready, walked toward a young, dark haired girl wearing blue jeans and carrying a knapsack. Wordlessly, the Hardys left the airport and went home.

 

The End.

BOOK: Cult of Crime
13.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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