Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
“So what?” Iola said.
“So, what if this money belongs to the store?” Frank said. “If it does, we can't just keep it. It wouldn't be right.”
Joe bit his lip. For a second he looked ready to argue. But then he sighed. “Maybe you're right,” he muttered.
Phil nodded. “We should at least check it out.”
The others looked disappointed, but they all nodded too. “It's not like finding the booty of
old-time pirates or something,” Chet said. “If this belongs to a real living person right here in Bayport, we need to return it.”
Frank was glad that they all agreed. The mystery of figuring out the rightful owner of the cash wasn't as exciting a mystery as following that treasure map. But it was even more important.
“Hello, Mr. Bersal,” Frank said when they reached the front of the line at the KwikSnak. As usual for a Saturday afternoon, the store was busy. “Sorry to bother you. We were just wondering if your store, um, got robbed anytime lately?”
The cheerful store owner frowned. “As a matter of fact, Frank, yes!” he exclaimed. “Just a couple of days ago. Some teenage punks came in looking for a certain kind of soda. One of the kids had a nose ring. Millie was working that afternoon, and when she went to the back to see if we had the soda,
the kid grabbed all the cash out of the register and took off!” He shook his head. “Ah, what's Bayport coming to these days?”
“We have good news, Mr. B,” Joe said. “We think we might have found your money.”
Phil held up the bag. Mr. Bersal gasped as he looked inside.
“I can't believe it!” he cried. “Where did you get this?”
“We found it in a hollow tree out in the woods behind the park,” Chet said.
“Yeah,” Iola added. “And Sherlock helped!”
Mr. Bersal looked kind of confused by that. But he also looked happy. In fact, he was beaming from ear to ear.
“Thank you so much!” he exclaimed. “You kids are real heroes!”
An hour later the Hardys were back in their tree house. Frank was writing on the white-board while Joe counted a handful of cash.
“Awesome!” Joe said as he shoved the money back into his pocket. “It was really nice of Mr. Bersal to give us all a reward!”
The convenience store owner had been so pleased to get his money back that he'd immediately counted out a nice reward for all six of the kids. He'd also grabbed a box of dog treats off a shelf for
Sherlock. He'd even offered each of the kids their choice of a piece of candy from beside the register. Frank had put away his chocolate bar for later. But Joe was already sucking on the blueberry lollipop he'd picked.
“I know,” Frank said. “He didn't have to do that.”
Joe grinned around his lollipop. “Nope. But I'm glad he did!”
The reward wasn't as much as if they'd split the money they'd found. But Joe didn't mind. Somehow, it felt even better knowing they'd helped someone. No wonder their dad loved his job so much!
“Now we can fill in the whole
list,” Frank said as he went back to writing. “We know who did it. It was those two punks we saw in the clearing.”
Joe nodded. Mr. Bersal had called the police, and they'd found the teens right away. They were still lurking around out in the woods. It turned
out they had been in Bayport after visiting some relatives in a neighboring town. That was why neither Mr. Bersal nor the kids knew who they were. The teens admitted to the robbery and explained that they'd made the map so that they'd remember where the money wasâbut when they came back to Bayport after their visit, they realized they'd lost the map!
“I bet those guys never come back to Bayport again,” Joe said.
Frank was still focused on the whiteboard. “Whatâstealing the money from the KwikSnak,” he murmured as he wrote. “Whenâthis past Thursday. Whereâthe KwikSnak. Whyâbecause they're greedy. Howâby hiding the money in a tree trunk.”
He finished writing and stepped back. The board looked much better with everything filled in.
Joe wasn't paying much attention. He was trying to decide what to buy with his reward money.
“I might get that new video game Phil was telling us about the other day,” he mused, slurping on his lollipop. “Then again, maybe I'll wait. I might need the money to decorate my new room over the garage.”
Frank rolled his eyes. “I keep telling youâ¦ ,” he began.
But he broke off as he heard his mother's voice in the distance. She was calling their names, and she sounded kind of anxious.
Frank looked at his watch. “Uh-oh,” he said. “It's later than I thought. We're late to meet Aunt Gertrude!”
Frank poked him in the shoulder. “Hurry up!”
He normally wouldn't mind Aunt Gertrude's visit at all. She was always nice to him. But today he couldn't help feeling a little impatient. He and Joe hadn't had a chance to tell their father about
solving the mystery yet, since Mr. Hardy had been off picking up Aunt Gertrude at the train station by the time they got home. And now they'd have to wait even longer.
“We probably shouldn't say anything about the treasure and stuff while Aunt Gertrude is here,” Frank told Joe as they climbed down the rope ladder.
“Yeah,” Joe mumbled around his lollipop. “She probably wouldn't like to hear that we're following Dad into the detective biz.”
When they got inside, their parents were standing in the front hall with Aunt Gertrude. There was a big stack of boxes and suitcases piled just inside the door. Joe was so surprised that he almost spit out his lollipop.
“What's all that stuff?” he blurted out.
“Hello, Frank,” Aunt Gertrude said in her crisp, no-nonsense voice. “You're looking well. Joe, what's that you're sucking on?”
She reached out and plucked the lollipop right out of his mouth. Joe was too startled to protest. Besides, he knew it wouldn't do any good.
“Surprise!” Mr. Hardy sang out, beaming at them and waving a hand at the luggage. “Aunt Gertrude is coming to live with us!”
“What?” Frank said.
Joe was too astounded to say anything.
Mrs. Hardy looked amused. “I told you they'd be surprised, Gertrude.”
The adults went on to explain that Aunt Gertrude was getting tired of city life. Mr. and Mrs. Hardy had invited her to come live with them in Bayport. At first she'd refused, saying she didn't want to be a burden. But Mr. Hardy had started fixing up the spare room just in case she changed her mind. And finally she'd agreed to give it a try.
“But only under the condition that I make myself useful around the house,” she told the boys.
Mrs. Hardy smiled at that. Joe could guess why. His mother was probably hoping that this weekend's cleaning spree had been her last!
Joe shot Frank a look. So now they knew what all the secrecy was about. He couldn't help feeling disappointed. It sounded as if he and Frank were stuck sharing their old room after all.
“So what do you think?” Mrs. Hardy asked the
boys cheerfully. “It will be fun having your aunt around full-time, won't it?”
“Sure,” Frank said with a smile.
Aunt Gertrude patted him on the shoulder. “I'm looking forward to helping you with all the interesting school projects you're always telling me about, Frank,” she said. Then she glanced at Joe. “As for you, young man, one of my duties will be making sure you do
better in science class this year.” She held up the half-eaten lollipop she was holding and frowned at it. “And that you stop eating so much candy.”
Joe smiled weakly.
As the whole family trooped into the dining room, Frank leaned closer to Joe. “Guess we're not such great detectives as we thought,” he whispered. “We never saw this one coming.”
Joe nodded. “Not only am I not getting my own cool new room over the garage,” he whispered back, “but I'm also going to have to move out to the tree house full-time to get away from Aunt Gertrude's boot camp!”
Frank shrugged and smiled. “It won't be so bad.”
Joe didn't answer. He just slumped into his seat at the dining table.
Aunt Gertrude was sitting across from him. “Elbows off the table, young man,” she warned.
Joe snapped to attention. “Nope, definitely boot camp,” he muttered to Frank, who was sitting beside him. “Case closed!”