Frank let go of the guy's arm and lunged for Joe, but the guy pinned him down. "No!" Frank struggled under the weight of the man, hoping, praying that Joe managed to grab onto the railing. "Joe!" Of the two, he would have the reflexes and the strength to do that. He didn't hear a splat or a thud, so he figured that's what happened and Joe was hanging on for dear life. "Get off!" Frank shouted as he rammed his elbow into the guy's stomach.
The man laughed cruelly. "Why should I?" he asked menacingly. Frank noticed he had a slight Indian accent. This was Ali Singh, wasn't it? If so, where was Klein Connors? "You're Fenton Hardy's son, huh? Both of you, in fact." He growled in Frank's ear. "You have been a big pain in the neck." Frank stiffened when he heard the distinct snap of a pocket knife opening. "I think I should return the favor." The lights flashed on, momentarily blinding the two. "What the?"
"Mr. Applegate, help Joe!" Frank's vision cleared just in time to see Ali raise the knife. The next instance, Reilly tackled Ali to the ground. Collig bounded up the stairs and gave Frank a hand up.
"You alright Frank?"
"Yes, but, Joe!" Frank glanced over the railing and shakily breathed with relief. His father was hugging him tightly.
"Ali Singh, you are under arrest . . ." Frank didn't hear the rest as he was dashing down the stairs and nearly toppled Joe over in a bear hug.
"Hey, I already fell once! Don't need my own brother doing it to me again!" blurted Joe.
Frank let out a laugh as he sniffled. "Sorry, I thought, I thought you were a goner."
"I almost was when the lights turned on, but then Dad and Franklin were helping me up." He shot his brother a reassuring smile, even though his face was ashen. "You of all people should know it would take a little more than that to kill me."
Frank laughed as he wiped the tears from his eyes. "Yeah, I know, Biff has taught you well." Joe grinned, some color returning to his face. They paused as Reilly and Collig came down the stairs with a sullen Ali Singh between them, his hands handcuffed behind him.
"Good job boys, you caught Ali Singh!"
"But, where's Klein Connors?" asked Joe. "Both of them were told the location of the Applegate treasure." He and Frank shared a look. Did Red Jackley lie to one of them?
Ali spat on the ground. "That stupid Connors wouldn't know the most obvious hiding place even if you spelled it out for him!"
"But, you didn't find the treasure here," said Fenton slowly.
"Of course not! I was interrupted by your pain-in-the-neck sons here!" He glared at Frank and Joe.
Joe bowed. "Glad to be of service." Ali stared at him in shock while Frank burst out laughing.
Collig chuckled. "Reilly, take him to the station. Franklin, if you'll help us look for the treasure."
Franklin saluted him. "Yes sir." Reilly led Ali away, while Hurd joined the others and the search began. They went over every nook and cranny, every square inch of the old tower three times over before calling it quits. The treasure wasn't there.
"But where is it?" said Joe with an angry huff.
Frank rubbed his chin. "Apparently he told both Ali and Klein it was in the old tower."
"But it isn't here!"
"No duh," said Frank with a roll of his eyes. "It could be like what Dad and Chief suggested, it's in an old water tower."
Fenton and Collig nodded. "It's the only logical explanation, now that we've eliminated this old tower," said Fenton.
"But we've been through all the old water towers too!"
Frank nodded slowly. "We have." There it was again, that nagging at the back of his mind. What was he forgetting?
"Well, now that we've caught one of the two, we can now figure Connors is hanging around to find the treasure too. He might not leave for a while. We'll still have a patrol out, but we might only need a few guys out." He grinned at Frank and Joe. "Though, with our luck, you'll be the ones to find him." He held up his finger. "That being said, I'm requesting that you two take the day off tomorrow."
"What?" blurted Joe. "But . . ."
"I agree with the Chief, "said Fenton.
"What?" blurted Frank. "But we're so close!"
Fenton glanced at them. "You two have had a couple of close encounters and the past two days have been intense. You're both still teenagers and new at this, you need a break. We're just saying for one day."
Collig nodded. "We'll keep searching for Klein, don't worry. We might broaden our search to include the neighboring towns, but we'll keep looking."
"Besides," said Fenton, "tomorrow's test day, right? You're going to need to keep your minds off the mystery to focus on that."
The boys groaned, their father had a point there. "Alright," said Frank, "we'll take tomorrow off."
Collig nodded. "Thank you. Besides, if Singh is right, we might catch Connors and you'll still have to find the treasure."
The boys grinned, that was true. "Fair enough Chief," said Joe. "Oh, by the way, how come you got here so fast? Not complaining, just curious."
Collig grinned. "Of course you would be. I had Reilly and Franklin patrolling this area for a little while and they saw a man approach the tower. They called it in and gave chase. "
"But the guy got away," said Franklin with a sigh. "And I bet it was Connors too, because when we came back to our car to report that we had lost him, we saw the light coming out of the old tower. Apparently you two had just called in that Mr. Applegate had been injured. The Chief wanted us to catch you before you went in, but by the time we got to the house, you had gone in. The Chief and your dad were here by then too."
Frank and Joe glanced between Collig and their father wide-eyed. Fenton nodded at Collig. "Collig called me a few minutes after you had left and told me about the guy Reilly and Franklin saw. I figured it had to have been either Connors or Singh. I was concerned he would circle back and corner you. I also know you two had your phones on silent, so you wouldn't have heard any texts." He looked at Joe. "I got your text when I was only a few minutes out."
"And when your dad told me that you were coming here, I took off. Can't let my two best boys go into danger without backup." Collig grinned.
The boys grinned back. "Well, I guess we can thank Klein for saving us," said Frank with a chuckle.
Collig chuckled. "I don't think he'll be happy about that soon."
Fenton glanced at his watch. "We need to get going, boys, you still have to get up for school tomorrow." They bade Collig, Franklin, and Hurd goodbye before heading home.
The next day at school, the boys were really glad Collig made them take the day off. The tests were pretty stressful. The boys had not done much studying the past few days and only hoped they could remember everything. When they got back home, they napped until dinner time, then went back to sleep after dinner and didn't get up until early the next morning. They got ready, and the family left for the graduation ceremony. They got bored real quick. They bounced their legs with impatience, waiting for the ceremony to finally finish. They would have rathered being out there, helping the police look for Klein Connors. They really only cheered when Samantha Radley and Timothy Hooper got their diplomas. They participated in the standing ovation when Timothy proposed to Samantha and she said yes. The excitement and joy for their friends got them through to the refreshments afterwards. They were quickly surrounded by their friends and the talk consisted mostly of the surprise proposal.
"Man, the graduation was really special this year!" said Chet with a broad grin at Biff.
Biff grinned broadly back. "Right? Sorry I couldn't tell you guys, Tim made me promise not to tell a soul. Working on the mystery kind of helped with that." He laughed.
Chet laughed as well. "Well that's good to know. Think the happy couple will join us for our party tomorrow?"
Biff shrugged. "I don't see why not. I'll have to double check with them to let you know for sure, but I think they'll be there."
"Oh this is so wonderful!" said Iola, Chet's younger sister, with a clap of her hands. "The Principal's speech was fantastic, the Hardys rounded up a gang of criminals, and they're getting close to finding Mr. Applegate's treasure! The proposal was just the cherry on top!" Frank gasped and his eyes widened.
"Uh, Frank, you alright?" asked Joe.
Frank grasped Joe's shoulders. "That's what I've been forgetting, Joe, Cherryville was circled in red ink on the map! And Red used to work there! That's where he hid the treasure! It must be in an old water tower in Cherryville!"
Joe's mouth dropped. "Well, what are we waiting for?"
"Wait, what? Cherryville?" said Biff.
"Hey, wait!" shouted Chet, but the boys had already taken off. Frank got behind the wheel and Joe lunged into the passenger seat. The next minute, they were off.
"Ugh! How could I be so stupid! So so stupid! All the clues were there, why didn't I see it earlier?"
"Hey, the Chief was right, we definitely needed a break," said Joe. "Besides look on the bright side, Klein probably hasn't figured out where it is yet either." He grinned at Frank, who burst out laughing.
"I guess not. Keep your eyes peeled for water towers or anyone we can ask for directions when we enter Cherryville. Klein might not have figured out where it is yet, but I don't want to take any chances."
"Roger that," said Joe. But they didn't have to worry too much about that as two water towers came into view, one clearly newer than the other. The old one looked like it came straight out of a Western movie, and the boys surmised that it had been dried up for years.
"We'll have to be careful," said Frank as he parked the car. "Those rungs might be rotten and falling apart."
"Yeah, I've had enough of falling for one month." Joe paused as he was getting out of the car. "And there's no Dad to catch me." He winced. "Maybe we should have told him."
Frank grinned sheepishly. "Yeah, maybe we should have. But we're here now, let's see what we can find out. If Klein is here, we leave and don't interact with him until the police arrives. If he's not, we find the treasure and run."
Joe nodded. "Right." He shut the door and dashed to the old tower while Frank locked the car. He dashed to the old tower and began climbing up after Joe. One rung gave way under Joe's feet, but he was able to keep climbing and the two made it to the top safely. Frank opened the trap door, and the two gasped. They could see in the daylight streaming through the cracks, someone was living here! There were boards piled up around the edges of the water tower while in the center was something that looked like a miniature stove, a sleeping bag, and miscellaneous personal items. They couldn't see anyone either in the tower or walking towards them, so they decided to take the chance and climbed down the ladder into the tower. "So," whispered Joe, "if I was to hide my loot in a water tower, where would I put it?"
"It's obviously not out in the open," said Frank. "Maybe one or more of these boards are loose?"
Joe cracked his knuckles. "Let's find out." The boys went to one half of the tower and began knocking and softly pulling on the boards. Joe finished first and turned his attention to the pile of boards on that side. Nothing. They turned around, and gasped. "No way."
"Is it really that simple?" asked Frank as they stepped closer to the other pile of wood.
"It's so cliche that it could be overlooked," said Joe. They stopped in front of the pile. Two boards formed an X in front of this pile. "X marks the spot," said Joe with a grin.
"Looks like it," said Frank right before they practically dove into the pile. They pulled back the boards one by one until they found a brown burlap bag. Joe let out a soft whoop that turned into a squeal as Frank opened the bag.
"We found it! We found it!"
Frank pulled out papers signed in Hurd Applegate's name, stamps, cash, coins, and jewelry. "I think that's everything!"
"Let's get these to the Applegates and find out!"
"Right!" Frank quickly returned the contents to the bag and slung it over his shoulder. He climbed the ladder after Joe, but waited for Joe to get to the ground before dropping the bag into his arms and climbing down. When Frank reached the bottom, the two high-fived. "We did it!"
"Yes you did." The boys turned, and found themselves facing a gun, held by none other than Klein Connors. "Neat trick you pulled on me and Red that day, claiming to be the Mason boys, and we fell for it hook, line, and sinker."
Joe grinned nervously. "Yeah, sorry about that. Guess it won't work twice, huh?"
Klein scoffed and shook his head. "Nope, I'm not that stupid. But I'll cut a deal with you."
Frank and Joe glanced at each other. "What's the deal?"
"I'll let you live and let you keep half the treasure, you can return it if you want, if you get me out of Bayport. No one would question Fenton Hardy's sons."
"And if we don't?"
Klein shrugged. "I'll kill you, take your car and the loot, and get out of here."
"Or," said Joe, puffing out his chest, "you could turn yourself in, make a confession, and get a deal." Klein did not notice that the boys were relaxing and seemed to sometimes be looking at something behind him.
"Listen," growled Klein, "I'm the one with the gun, I make the deals!"
"Well, that's funny." Klein's eyes widened. "Wonder what five guns mean?" He turned around, Collig, Reilly, Franklin, and two State Police officers had their guns aimed at him. Fenton Hardy had his arms crossed and was glaring at Klein. Though he did turn that glare on Frank and Joe a couple of times. "Drop the gun," ordered Collig. Klein dropped the gun and raised his hands. "Klein Connors, you're under arrest." Collig snapped handcuffs on him. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, the court will assign you one."
Fenton stepped towards his sons.
"Well, um, we found it!" said Joe, taking the bag from Frank and showing it off.
"I see," said Fenton. "Good job. Just, next time, tell me where you're going."
"Yes sir," mumbled the boys.
"So, how did you get here so soon this time?" asked Joe.
"Chet told me," said Fenton as the three walked back to the car. "I called Collig so I could get a ride since you took our car." The boys grinned sheepishly as Fenton unlocked said car. "And he decided on bringing Reilly, Franklin, and the two State officers."
"Good old Chet!" said Joe.
"Yes, doing the one thing my sons didn't." He got behind the wheel and started up the car. "If you two are going to pursue this seriously, you are going to need to think about having back-up before rushing into dangerous situations."
"I'll let it pass this time since this is your first official mystery. Just consider this your first warning."
"Yes sir!" chroused the boys, a little more cheerily.
"Now, contact Slim and have him start spreading the good news."
As soon as the message that the Appegate treasure had been found, the Applegates immediately invited everyone to a grand party in celebration. Everyone pretty much went straight away from the graduation to the Tower Mansion. LAura and Gertrude got a ride with Jack Wayne. Frank and Joe handed over the treasure to Hurd and Adelia the instance they arrived at the Tower Mansion.
"Yay! Frank and Joe are heroes!" chroused Slim's twin sisters before the two hugged Frank and Joe.
"Three cheers for the Hardy boys!" shouted Biff. Everyone cheered and applauded. Frank and Joe felt embarrassed yet pleased by the praise.
"If it wasn't for our Dad's expertise, we might not have been able to make it," said Joe.
Fenton chuckled as he hugged Joe. "And if it weren't for my family, I wouldn't have been rescued." He winked. "I guess we're even, for now." They laughed.
Later that night, the boys tumbled into bed. The party was a blast, and Hurd surprised them with giving them each a thousand dollars as a reward for finding the treasure and helping their father take a dangerous gang off the streets. Adelia surprised them with blankets, one of which Joe recognised as the blanket she had been working on when they had found the wigs. But the cool thing about these blankets was the fact that they had several hidden pockets. Joe grinned as he knew of a few things Frank would put in his blanket. He then sat up in bed and gasped.
Frank sat up, concerned. "What? What is it? Did we forget something?"
"We didn't get a chance to talk to Nancy!"
Frank blushed. "Oh, oh, um, we'll call her first thing in the morning."
Joe grinned as he laid back down. "Well, Chet did predict we might have it solved by the time we do, right?"
"What are you thinking about?"
"Well, with Grandma Dottie and Grandpa Willie coming in July . . ."
"Oh, that's right, you wanted to spend the entire summer with Nancy," cooed Joe with a sly grin.
Frank's blush grew redder. "Joe!"
Joe chuckled. "I know, I know." He became quiet for a bit. "So you're thinking of surprising her next year?"
"It might be best, I mean . . . I kind of want to solve more mysteries."
Joe nodded. "Yeah, I do too. I wonder how soon we'll get another?"
"I don't know, hopefully soon." Unknown to Frank and Joe, the next mystery would be arriving soon, practically right around the corner. But in that moment, the boys planned on setting apart some time for the following year to make a trip out to River Heights, maybe even with their entire family. Helping rescue her husband seemed to put a gleam in their mother's eyes, a gleam they hadn't seen since before they heard of Mrs. Drew's death. Maybe, just maybe, another year was needed before Laura, Carson, and Nancy could talk to each other about Catherine. So maybe waiting another year was the best way to go. In the meantime, they planned on what to get Nancy for her birthday, and continued to talk about that until they fell asleep.
First thing the following morning, they called using what they termed "Pen Pal Phone". But Nancy didn't answer.
"Hi, Hannah? This is Frank and Joe Hardy," said Frank.
"Hi Frank! Joe! How are you two doing?"
"We're doing awesome!" blurted Joe. "And we want to tell Nancy all about it!"
"Well, I'm afraid she's not in right now. She's out running some errands for her father and I'm not expecting her back until late this afternoon, almost dinner time."
"Aw! Darn it!" said Joe.
Hannah laughed. "Shall I take a message for her?"
"Yes! She has to call us back ASAP! It's urgent!"
"Joe!" hissed Frank.
Hannah laughed. "Alright, I'll be sure to let her know."
Frank rolled his eyes but chorused with Joe, "Thanks Hannah!"
"No problem! You have a wonderful day!" She hung up.
"Ugh, now what?"
Frank slowly grinned. "We could go around town, looking for a new mystery. Summer vacation has officially started."
Joe grinned. "You're on!" He jumped up and raced towards the door. "First one who finds a mystery gets to tell Nancy you have a crush on her!"
Frank fell out of his chair with a yelp. "No!" He dashed off after the laughing Joe, both eager to really get their detective business underway. Especially now having had their first taste of it, they were sure they wanted to continue.
(Thank you all so much for reading this! I really appreciate you taking some time out of your day to read and comment! Nancy Drew will return October 1st, hopefully, provided this next chapter decides to cooperate with me, lol. But that's not the important announcement. No, the important announcement is, be on the lookout for the next installment in the Hardy Boys series rewrites come January/February! And possibly the beginning of the Red Randall series. It will all depend on how things go in November and December. But I can definitely say The Secret of the Old Mill will begin in January! look forward to seeing you all again then! If you're only sticking to the Hardy boys. If you're reading Nancy Drew as well, I'll see you in a few days!)