Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
He hurried down the steps and into the house. Joe watched him go. Then he tested the spare room door.
“Still locked,” he reported. “So much for the Why,” he said with a frown.
Frank bit his lip. “That was kind of weird,” he
said slowly. “It was like Dad didn't want us to catch a glimpse in there.”
The two of them stared at each other. Frank knew they were both thinking the same thing.
What was their father trying to hide?
I still think one of us is getting the spare room,” Joe told Frank.
It was the next morning. The two of them were walking through the woods on their way to the park to meet Chet.
“Don't get your hopes up,” Frank said. “That spare room is more like a little apartment than a regular bedroom. It even has its own bathroom. Plus, it's totally separate from the rest of the house.
There's no way Mom and Dad would let one of us live out there all alone.”
Joe shrugged. He wasn't ready to give up hope. “Then maybe they'll let
of us move out there,” he said. “That would be cool too. It's a lot bigger than our room now.”
“Then what would they do with our old room?” Frank still sounded doubtful.
“Maybe Mom will turn it into that craft room she's always wanted.”
“Or maybe the spare room will be her new craft room,” Frank said. “That makes more sense. We should probably just ask them.”
“I already tried,” Joe said. “I asked Dad before breakfast. He just said something about needing more storage space. Then when I asked Mom a few minutes later, she said it was âup in the air.'”
“Hmm,” Frank said. “That is kind of weird.”
Joe nodded, feeling excited at the thought of
a bigger, better bedroom. “It has to be almost finished by now. I bet they're just waiting for Aunt Gertrude's visit to be over with before they surprise us.”
The boys had come to the edge of the woods. Joe looked around for Chet. It was early, and the park wasn't very crowded yet. There were only a few people on the swings, and there was a small group of teenage girls playing kickball. Joe soon spotted Chet watching the kickball game.
Chet was watching for the Hardys too. He waved and hurried over to them.
“Did you bring the map?” he asked eagerly.
Joe pulled it out of his pocket. “Right here. We think we figured out some of the markings and stuff.”
“Cool!” Chet grinned. “Treasure, here we come!”
The three of them bent over the map. “This has to be the playground,” Frank told Chet. He
pointed to a drawing that looked like a swing set. “And these trees are the woods.”
“Right.” Joe waved a hand at a section of woods nearby. “The dotted line starts in there, so we should probably go look around for more clues.”
Soon the three of them were making their way
down a dirt trail. Chet pushed aside a branch. “Do you think we're going the right way?” he asked.
Frank nodded, checking the map. “The spot where the dotted line starts should be right up ahead.”
Joe was in the lead. He hopped over a fallen tree trunk and then glanced back at the others. “What do you think the treasure will be? Could it really be pirate's booty like Dad said?”
Chet's eyes went wide. “Pirate's booty? You mean like gold and jewels and stuff?”
“I doubt it,” Frank said. “Why would pirates come to Bayport to hide their treasure? And why would anyone draw a map to it on an old burger wrapper instead of just digging it up?”
Chet shrugged, looking a little disappointed. “Okay, so maybe it won't be pirate booty,” he said. “But I hope it's something good!”
Just then Joe stopped short. He was still out in
front. “Shh!” he hissed over his shoulder to Frank and Chet. “I hear voices.”
Frank heard them now too. It sounded like a couple of people muttering to each other.
“What if someone else found our treasure?” Chet whispered, sounding worried. “Maybe that dotted line was the end of the trail instead of the beginning!”
Frank tiptoed forward. When he pushed aside some branches, he saw a clearing up ahead. Two teenage boys were standing there. One was short and wiry with a wispy, dark mustache. The other was taller and heavier with spiky hair and a silver nose ring. Frank couldn't tell for sure, but it looked like the nose ring might be shaped like a skull.
He carefully let the leaves fall back into place. “Those guys look pretty tough,” he whispered to Joe and Chet. “Maybe we should hide out and wait for them to leave.”
“Okay,” Chet whispered, backing away.
One of Chet's sneakers came down on a dry branch. It snapped in two, making a loud noise like a starting pistol going off.
“Hey!” a voice yelled from up ahead. “Who's there?”
“Should we run for it?” Chet whispered, sounding frantic.
But it was too late. The two teenage punks had already rushed over. They glared at the three younger boys.
“What are you doing here?” the taller one demanded. “This is our spot!”
“Yeah,” the other guy added with a sneer. “Twerps not invited.”
“Oh yeah?” Joe retorted boldly. “I thought this was a public park.”
Frank groaned. Sometimes he wished his brother didn't have such a big mouth!
Sure enough, the teens looked angry. “Get out!” the guy with the nose ring snarled, coming at them. “Unless you want us to
you get out!”
“Yeah.” The shorter guy grabbed at Frank's arm.
Frank twisted away just in time. “Run!” he shouted.
Joe could hear Chet panting loudly behind him as they raced off through the woods. Frank was in the lead. He ran down one trail and then another.
“Faster!” Chet cried, sounding terrified. “Are they catching up?”
“I don't think so.” Joe slowed down, listening. “I don't hear them anymore.”
He stopped. So did Frank and Chet.
“I guess they didn't want to catch us,” Frank said.
“They just wanted to chase us away.”
Chet looked anxious. “How are we supposed to find that treasure now? The trail starts back in that clearing!”
“I know.” Joe shrugged. “Maybe we can try again after lunch. Those guys might be gone by then.”
Frank nodded. “If not, we'll figure out a new plan.”
“Hi, Mom!” Joe shouted. He had to shout to be heard over the noise of the vacuum cleaner.
Joe and Frank had just arrived home for lunch. Their mother was vacuuming the living room, and their father was nowhere in sight.
“Hi, boys,” Mrs. Hardy said, switching off the vacuum. She grabbed a rag and started dusting the coffee table. “What are you doing home so early?”
Frank checked his watch. “It's twelve thirty.”
Mrs. Hardy looked alarmed. “Already?” she cried. “But I haven't touched the dining room yet, let alone the foyer. . . .”
She hurried off into the next room, clutching her rag and muttering to herself. Frank stared after her.
“Weird,” he said. “Mom's in a total cleaning frenzy.”
“Yeah. That's not like her.” Joe glanced at the vacuum. “She hates cleaning.” Mrs. Hardy usually left most of the vacuuming and dusting to the cleaning lady, who came once a week.
Frank was already heading toward the kitchen. “I'm starved. Let's make ourselves some sandwiches.”
Soon the brothers were fixing lunch. Joe was still thinking about their mother's cleaning spree.
“I know why Mom's such a clean freak all of a sudden,” he said. “Aunt Gertrude's coming tonight, remember? She's a cleaning machine. Mom probably doesn't want to hear her grumble about how dirty the house is, so she's cleaning up before her visit.”
“You may be right,” Frank agreed. “Mystery solved.”
Joe grinned. “Except for the mystery of why Mom isn't making Dad help,” he said. “After all, Aunt Gertrude is
Just then their mother rushed in carrying some folded dish towels. “Hey, Mom,” Frank said. “Where's Dad?”
Mrs. Hardy dropped the towels on the counter. “Your father?” she mumbled, sounding distracted. “He's out doing some shopping.”
She raced away again before the boys could say anything else. Joe stared at his brother.
“Did you hear that?” he asked. “Double weird. Dad hates shopping just as much as Mom hates cleaning!”
“Maybe it's opposite day,” Frank joked. “But I know one thing for sure. If we hang around too long, Mom will probably make us help her clean.”
Joe's eyes widened. “You're right. Let's get out of here!”
They hurried outside with their sandwiches. Crossing the backyard, they headed into the woods.
Their tree house was invisible to anyone who didn't know it was there. But as soon as Joe tugged on a rope attached to a pulley, a ladder tumbled down. The boys climbed up into the tree house, then pulled the ladder up after them.
“Whew!” Joe flopped down onto the wooden floor. “At least we never have to clean anything up here.”
Frank took a bite of his sandwich. Then he wandered over to the whiteboard hanging on the wall. The notes from their last mystery were still written there. “Guess we should start making some notes for our new mystery,” he said, wiping away the old ones.
Joe liked solving mysteries, but he hated taking notes. Still, he had to admit that Frank's notes helped sometimes.
“Are you going to list the six
s?” he asked.
The words “Who,” “What,” “When,” “Where,” “Why,” and “How” were still written down one side of the board. Frank picked up the pen and stared at them.
“I'm not sure what to write,” he admitted. “We don't know much except that we're looking for treasure. We don't even know what kind of treasure it is.”
He wrote “Treasure?” by the word “What.”
Joe chewed a bite of sandwich. “We don't know who hid it,” he said. “Or when, or even why. The only part we might be able to figure out is where and how, thanks to that map.”
He pulled out the map and looked at it. This time he noticed that blob of reddish goo under the dirt. “Hey, I have an idea,” he said. Brushing off some of the dirt, he tasted the goo. “We were right. It
ketchup.” Joe licked his lips. “And it doesn't
taste that old. So the map probably isn't old either.”
Frank looked kind of grossed out. But he turned back to the whiteboard and wrote “Recently” beside the word “When.”
“Anything else?” Frank asked, staring at the mostly blank board.
Joe took another bite of his sandwich. It was pretty good, but not as good as the ones his mom made.