Dancing School Mystery
By Steve Bundy and Sam Gwynn
Aleta Dore' School of Dancing
Joe,” said dark-haired Frank Hardy to his impetuous, blond-haired younger
brother. “I heard through the grapevine that there’s a mystery brewing in
the old dance studio downtown. An informant told me of some strange goings-on
check it out!” cried Joe, ever eager for a new adventure. “We can get there
quickly in Dad’s roadster.”
so fast, young man,” said famed private detective Fenton Hardy, the boys’
father. “You should ask permission to use the roadster before making your
Dad,” said downcast Joe.
“But Joe’s right, Dad,” said Frank. “Tonight’s when Madame Doré’s big spring recital is scheduled. Joe and I could poke around the premises while everyone is distracted by the dancing.”
“Well, Frank,” said Mr. Hardy, puffing reflectively on his pipe, “I’m putting you in charge. You know how impetuous your younger brother can be.”
“Thanks, Dad!” said both boys simultaneously, grabbing their jackets and heading for the garage.”
“And be careful,” said Mr. Hardy. “Otis Kimball owns the building, and he is not a man you want to contend with if you cross him. He has a fierce temper.”
“OK, Dad,” said the boys as they playfully wrestled over possession of the roadster’s keys.
“And don’t be late,” said Mr. Hardy. “You both have science projects due this week. The last time I looked in the basement, Frank, you had collected a large amount of copper tubing and a boiler, but you have yet to assemble anything. And, Joe, all of that corn you have stored down there will ferment if you don’t do something with it quickly. Plus, your mother wants those empty Clorox bottles out of the way.”
“Yes, Dad,” said both lads, obediently.
As the shiny black roadster, expertly steered by Frank, rounded the corner of Washington and Bridge Joe said, “Dad’s right. A large portion of our grade depends upon our science project. Maybe we should get help.”
“No, Joe,” said level headed Frank. “Our project must be kept in strictest secrecy. We cannot tell a soul about it. Remember our promise to . . . Dr. V. B. Not a word to anyone else!”
Then, just up the street, they saw under the streetlight, a young woman standing beside a car, which was sporting a flat tire. As Frank pulled over and stopped the car Joe got out and approached the girl. The light shone down on her face. He was stunned by her beauty. She was a blonde, the kind of blonde who could get a bishop to kick out a stained glass window. Joe spoke first, asking, “What’s your name?”
She replied, “Lucy Doré.”
“Well, Lucy,” said Frank, “you must be connected, as your name would indicate, to the Madame Doré who runs the dance studio in this same building.” “Yes”, said Lucy. “She is my Aunt Aleta.”
Joe suddenly blurted out, “Hey, Lucy! How would you like to see our new science project?” Frank quickly pulled Joe aside and said, “Hey Joe, what are you doing? I just said to you, only a short time ago, we should keep the nature of our science project secret, as we promised to . . . Dr. V. B. It is, after all, intended to help the war effort in its Secret Fuels Program, and it would not be a good idea if others found out, especially if they are in the employ of alien countries.”
“You’re right,” said Joe. “I don’t know what I was thinking.” He turned his head and said, “ Well Lucy, never mind about the science project, but I do think you are one swell babe.”
“Oh, thank you”, said Lucy. “I am here to visit my aunt for a few days. I am new to Leaksville. Perhaps you would like to show me the sights.”
“Are you here for the recital?” asked Frank and Joe excitedly.
“Why no,” she replied. “The recital is next week. It had to be postponed. Didn’t you see the notice in the Leaksville News?”
Somewhat shamefacedly, the boys shook their heads. “We only read the funnies,” said Joe.
“And Tony Ray’s column, ‘Science for Amateurs’” said Frank, trying to put a better face on the situation. “By the way, I have noticed,” added Frank, “that you have a tire that is flat. Perhaps you need pneumatic assistance.”
“Yes,” said the lovely Lucy, “I could use, some help with this flat tire.”
Joe, who thought he needed to say something constructive, said, “There is a combination cab stand and gas station called Moon’s nearby, and I know a man there named Fire Chief who is a good service attendant and is capable of assisting you.”
“Take the roadster and find Fire Chief, Joe,” said Frank, smiling inwardly at the opportunity to continue his conversation with Lucy in private. As Joe drove out of sight, Frank asked, “Are you perhaps taking part in the recital that was supposed to be tonight but will be next week?”
“Yes,” said Lucy, attentively. “I am dancing the finale after the talented Bundy children perform their Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers number. It is a flamenco followed by a fox trot and salsa and a wild lambada, which I shall perform alone. Unless,” she added suggestively, “I can find a talented partner . . . someone who knows all the right moves . . . .”
Frank was about to frame an appropriate response when a huge, dark shadow loomed over them. “I am Otis Kimball. I am the owner of these premises, and I would like to know what you are doing hereabouts!” He brandished a club in his heavy, meat-fisted hand.
“Oh my!” exclaimed Lucy! “I just had a flat tire and pulled over here. This kind boy, Frank, is staying here with me while his brother, Joe, gets us some help.”
Frank said, “Mr. Kimball, you won’t need that club. We don’t mean any harm. As soon as I get her tire pumped up we will be gone.”
Mr. Kimball shone his flashlight down on the flat tire. They could then see that the tire had actually blown out. He said to Frank, “Son, do you know how to change a tire?”
Frank said, “Why yes. My dad, Fenton Hardy, taught Joe and me years ago how to ‘put the rubber back on the road.’”
“Well then, young Frank, I will leave this to you. I have other things to do, bigger fish to fry. But don’t let me catch you around here again! I am sick and tired of you youngsters riding by with your brains hanging out the windows of your automobiles.”
“Yes sir!” said Frank. Lucy’s car was a new 1960 Corvette, cherry red with a white top. Lucy gave him the keys to the trunk, and Frank began the job of changing the tire. Just as he began, Frank heard the familiar sound of the 1932 Chevy roadster. It had been a year-long project that Mr. Hardy and the boys had worked on together. They restored the car; put a V-8 engine in it and a three speed floor shift. They put four coats of black lacquer paint on it. The finish was so deep and shiny that it looked liquid, almost like you could dip your hand down into it.
Joe returned and explained that he could not get Fire Chief to help. He had gone out on an emergency call to the Boulevard and wouldn’t be back for an hour or more. So, Joe stood by and watched as Frank changed the tire. He couldn’t take his eyes off the brand new shiny red Corvette, that is, until Lucy squatted down to hand Frank the chrome lug nuts she had gathered up to keep from getting lost in the darkness.
“Here are your nuts, Frank,” she said, teasingly. The streetlight bathed down upon her. She was wearing a tight, black knee length skirt and a pink short-sleeved sweater, and a string of white pearls with matching earrings. She had curves in all the right places……..
Joe was getting dreamy-eyed when Frank said, “Hey, when we get this tire changed, let’s go up the street to the Sealtest and get a burger and some milkshakes.”
Lucy said, “Sounds great to me. I’m starving! And I hear that they have excellent minced pork bar-b-que!”
“Me, too!” said Joe. “But won’t this interfere with your valuable practice time?”
“I practice all the time,” replied Lucy, fetchingly. “Practice makes perfect.”
Frank told Joe to take the roadster. “I’m going to ride with Lucy, Joe. That is if you don’t mind, Lucy.”
To his surprise, Lucy handed Frank the keys. She said, “I have a hard time getting my legs under the steering wheel with this tight skirt on. You drive and I’ll ride over here and take in the local sights.”
As soon as he turned the key, the Corvette came to life with the purr of a big cat. Frank put the car in gear, but immediately Lucy put her hand on his. She said, “This is a four-speed, Frank.” Then she moved his hand, which was on the shifter, up to first gear. She left her hand on his for just a minute. He turned to her, and they looked deeply into each others eyes for the first time. Not a word was said. Frank was mesmerized. The spell was cast…………
Frank thought, “This girl could be the best thing that ever happened to me, or she could become my undoing. But either way, I am going to take the ride.”
Off to the Sealtest they sped in the Corvette convertible with the wind blowing through their hair. Frank had never felt so much power at his command. And he also felt a different kind power coursing through him. Lucy held on to the grab bar on the dash just above the glove compartment with one hand, and her other hand was resting on Frank’s thigh. She felt the same way, too.
Lucy turned on the radio to break the tension. “I couldn’t have requested a more perfect song,” thought Lucy when she heard the voice of the great Etta James singing,
My love has come along. My lonely days are over………And life is like a song. Oh, yeah yeah, at last………….”
On up Bridge Street they drove with Joe right behind. Ivie Tire, New System Laundry, the Presbyterian Church, Meadow Dairies all went flashing by. Frank hardly noticed…………He had Lucy on his mind. And then they were at their destination, the Sealtest, formally known as Tysor’s Dairy Bar, though no one ever called it that, for some strange reason.
As Frank approached the Sealtest he attempted to expertly downshift the Corvette but discovered, to his consternation that his hand was on Lucy’s knee instead of the shift knob. Quickly realizing his mistake and clearing his throat nervously, he carried out the maneuver, making the sporty convertible backfire loudly.
“Whoa!” cried his friend, thin, sardonic Will Bichell, who was chatting up a carhop named Jo. “It sounds like Dewey has had one too many slaw dogs with chili.”
Plump, cheerful Doodie Grogan, another friend, playfully punched Will’s arm and said, “We are talking about a different kind of gas here. Frank is burning hi-test. And who is that babe with him? The neon lights bathed down on her.”
“Hi, guys,” said Frank affably. “This is Lucy Doré, and this swell car is hers also.”
“Hello there,” said Lucy. “I have been showing Frank how to downshift. We did not mean to alarm you!”
Will, who was known to be sarcastic at times, nodded at the handprint on Lucy’s knee: “He seems to have had a good grip on the technique.”
At that moment Joe, visibly shaken, brought the roadster to a screeching halt alongside them. “As I approached the Sealtest I saw Sheriff Axsom’s patrol car heading toward Madame Doré’s studio at a high rate of speed! Something may be up.”
“We did not hear a siren,” said Frank.
“That is because you have the volume on Lucy’s radio too loud. Turn the knob down,” said Will.
Frank reached for the dashboard but found his hand once again on Lucy’s knee. “Maybe I should twist that knob for you, Frank,” she giggled.
“Sorry,” said Frank, mildly abashed.
“I think that we should immediately head back,” said Joe, who was, as usual, excited at the prospects of an adventure.
“You bet!” said Will, wedging his slender frame between Frank and Lucy in the Corvette. “And don’t try any of that funny stuff with me, you naughty boy,” he added teasingly to Frank, who was not amused at the new seating arrangement.
Plump Doodie squeezed himself into the passenger seat of the roadster as Joe applied pressure to the accelerator pedal, making the tires squeal.
“Chawl don’ want nuthin’?” asked Mavis, the peroxide-blonde carhop, cracking her gum. The two cars left her in a cloud of smoke and dust as they sped off towards the studio.
Frank and Lucy, with Will squeezed in between sitting on the console, started back down Bridge Street toward the dance studio. Will, without asking, turned on the Wonderbar radio in Lucy’s 1960 Corvette.
It was Little Richard singing,
“Good golly Miss Molly! Sho’ like to bawl! When we rockin’ and rollin’, can’t hear your Mama call! OOOWWWW.”
Will turned it up loud. “Wow, ain’t nothin’ better than this!”
Still, Lucy didn’t care to have Will squeezed in between her and Frank. She didn’t care much for Will at all. He gave her a bad feeling. He was also wearing English Leather, which she detested. In addition, she was just getting to know Frank and she liked what she saw so far. Added to that, he was wearing Canoe, which she liked. The thing is, she would rather have just Frank and herself in the car, ALONE!
When they got to the dance studio, there was Sheriff Axsom’s car in the alley with no lights of any kind on. And he was in the car talking with a very small woman.
Lucy said, “Frank, this may be a good time for me to show you the studio. And it may be a good opportunity for us to give Will the slip at the same time.”
This was music to Frank’s ears. He had been longing to be alone with Lucy all night. He said, “Yeah, let’s go!” But first he had to figure out how to get rid of his unwelcome friend. “Say, Will,” he said, thinking quickly, “I hear that Otis Kimball, whom you ‘mooned’ last week, has been looking for you. He owns this building.”
Will turned pale and quickly left on foot. Frank and Lucy went in the rear door of the building. They were afraid to turn on the lights, since the sheriff was just outside in the alley. No sooner had they got into the back of the building when they bumped into each other in the darkness, and then quickly found themselves in each other’s arms. They held each other for a brief minute and then their lips met, quite tenderly at first. Then they found themselves kissing with a new found passion. There was definitely a strong attraction between them. Something they both wanted to explore…………...
The street light was shining through the windows. They could now see each other but not much else. After a few minutes their eyes became better adjusted to the light. That was when Frank saw all the radio equipment in the back room. “Is your Aunt Aleta a radio operator, Lucy?”
“No, Frank,” she replied. “This is very strange to me, indeed. She is just a little old lady who teaches dance.”
Frank had heard that Madame Doré had a foreign accent and had wondered how she came to live in Leaksville and operate a dance studio here. In fact, one of his friends, Jeanne Turner, who in fact had been his original informant, wondered if she was doing something else that was illegal and the dance studio was just a front.
Frank said, “We had better get out of here, Lucy. Sheriff Axsom won’t take too kindly to finding us snooping around in the dark, even if this is your Aunt Aleta’s place.” He turned around to leave the building and stumbled over something on the floor. “What the heck is this?” exclaimed Frank as he got back on his feet.
Lucy reached down and grabbed a handful of something dry and particulate. “Darn, it’s corn!” said Frank. “Why would someone have bags of corn stored in a dance studio?”
Suddenly the couple was forced to blink as the blinding lights in the room were switched on. “Vat ist you all doink in here, Loozy?” asked Madame Doré, who clutched a small, nickel-plated revolver in her small fist.
“Oh, Aunt Aleta!” exclaimed Lucy, blushing deeply. “You startled us. Frank and I were just looking for the light switch, and stumbled across this suspicious radio equipment and even more suspicious supply of corn.”
“Zis should not concern you, Loozy. I sink you and ze boy should be goink,” said the tiny woman.
“It sounds to me,” said Frank boldly, “that you are trying to hide something. This radio equipment may be an indicator that you are in the employ of an alien power. That and your weird accent lead me to believe . . .”
She did not allow him to finish, brandishing the revolver’s barrel under his nose. “Nosy boyce can lose der noses,” she said, threateningly.
Joe Hardy, who had been delayed in reaching the studio because his chubby friend Doodie had insisted upon waiting at the Sealtest for his slaw dogs and hushpuppies and had decided not to make the trip to the studio after all because he wished to engage the attractive new carhop, Jo, in conversation, had come silently through the door. “Not so fast, lady,” he said, sticking a small piece of copper pipe he had found in his jacket pocket into the small of her small back.
Frank, greatly relieved, disarmed her, tucking the revolver into the waistband of his trousers. “You vill be sorry, younk man,” she said to him, visibly angry. “You should not hangk vis such boyce, Loozy.”
Lucy had been reduced to a state of stupefaction by the recent turns of events and could only say, “Buh . . . buh . . . but . . .”
“Here,” said Joe “is a convenient roll of duct tape. We can use it to tie up ‘Madame’ while we make a further investigation of the premises.”
Suddenly a large, meaty hand reached into the doorway and turned the lights out, plunging the studio once more into darkness.
Before Joe could hand off the duct tape to his older brother, Frank, they were all in a state of confusion. Joe threw the tape as hard as he could in the direction of the man who turned off the lights. The man must have had a gun in the other hand because a shot rang out, along with a yellow flash from the muzzle of the gun. To make things even more startling, a covey of pigeons went aflutter in all the commotion.
In the melee, Frank instinctively grabbed Lucy and pushed her through the open door and followed right behind. His younger brother Joe, terrified, dove straight through the large window, landing on the raised deck with hardly a scratch though his trousers were soiled by pigeon droppings.
Joe quickly rose, brushed off his knees, and bolted down the stairs and into his dad’s ‘32 roadster. He burned rubber from Clute’s Insurance all the way down Washington Street to Wright’s Ladies Shop.
Frank and Lucy, in Lucy’s car, were already on the way down Bridge Street. They hung a left at Cootie’s Atlantic and they somehow met back up with Joe in the parking lot of the Leaksville Methodist Church.
“At first I thought that huge, meaty hand must have belonged to Otis Kimball,” said Joe. “But I saw Sheriff Axsom’s cruiser in the alley.”
“Yeah!” said Frank. “That’s the same cruiser we saw earlier in the alley, with a little old lady in there with him! The same little old lady that we were talking with in the dance studio!”
“Hey now, wait a minute!” protested Lucy. “No one would ever think that my dear Aunt Aleta would be involved in something illegal.”
Frank used the instincts that his father, Fenton Hardy, the famous detective, instilled in him. “That may be the point. She has a perfect ‘cover.’ Look, guys! We found bags of corn in Madame Doré’s studio. We discovered the radio equipment in there, too. Then she is meeting secretly with Sheriff Axsom in the alley. There’s no denying, something is rotten in Denmark. And I can smell it from here!”
“I would also like to point out that she held a gun on Frank and threatened him with bodily harm! But,” Joe added, “We are not in Denmark, Frank.”
“It was only a figure of speech,” replied Frank, recalling Mr. Biggerstaff’s English class.
Lucy said, “You know, I never got that hamburger you promised me at Sealtest, Frank. I could go for some food about now.”
“That’s right, Lucy,” said Frank, who, as a typical teenager, was always hungry. “I’m famished! Joe, you circle the block in the ’32 from time to time and when the sheriff has gone, come on up to Sealtest and let us know.”
“I want to slip back in there and take another look at that corn,” said Joe boldly. “Besides, ours is mildewed and we need some more for our project. And furthermore, I think those people are up to no good.”
“You do that, Joe. Just be careful. But right now, I’ve got a date with Lucy. Take all the time you want.”
Frank turned the Corvette around in the middle of the road in front of the Methodist church narrowly missing a group of 10 year old Brownies who were leaving their meeting in the basement of the church, and headed back down Jay Street. He hung a left on Bridge Street.
When they approached Cootie’s Atlantic again, Lucy said, “Hey Frank let’s take the long way to Sealtest. I want to see what’s down this way.” Frank felt the light pressure of her fingers on his thigh as she pointed to the right with her other hand.
Frank so much enjoyed driving Lucy’s great sports car, especially with her at his side that he would have driven her anywhere she asked, even to Draper.
Just behind the Atlantic station there was Knight Oil Company. “Good people, those Knights,” said Frank. “One of the boys is so quiet he is known as ‘Silent’ Knight. He may someday be qualified for elective office.”
“Charming,” said Lucy, sounding slightly bored.
“Everyone in Leaksville is related. The Knights and the Gwynns, for example, are both related to the Howes,” said Frank.
“How?” asked Lucy.
“Yes,” replied Frank. “Howe.”
They passed by the First Baptist Church on the left and then stopped at the corner of Boone Road. Frank thought that Lucy would like to cruise through Spray, so he turned left, going by the public library, and started toward the romantic old mill town. When they stopped at the red light at the next corner, there in front of them, up on the hill, was an attractive round clock housed in a handsome brick pedestal. On the face read “Fair’s Funeral Home.”
When the light turned green they proceeded slowly by the establishment. The large two story house sitting up on the knoll had a one story porch with a green canvas awning all the way across, and the awning came outward in the center to make a shelter to drive under.
Unbeknownst to the pair, as they passed by the funeral home, red-haired, ever neat, Jimmy Fair was sitting in the front office of the funeral home with his shiny Weejuns propped up on the desk while talking with his ambulance driver on the two-way radio. He said, “Buzzy, you should see this red ‘Vette that’s going by with this blonde in the passenger seat!”
“Hey now, Jimmy! It’s not Margaret Bundy, is it?” asked Buzzy with angst in his voice.
“No, man. Somebody else. This one’s good looking too, though,” said Jimmy. “Which way are they headed, Jimmy”, said Buzzy.” “Toward the traffic circle, Buzz.” “I’m coming back from Draper on Meadow Road, going by the Palomar right now. Maybe I can meet them.” Jimmy suddenly heard over the radio the sound of the siren beginning to wail on the red Cadillac ambulance. He laughed at the impetuous, Buzz, then he signed off by saying, “KIP489 Leaksville, over and out.”
Meanwhile, Frank and Lucy got to the Spray traffic circle and drove around it, passing by Price’s gas station. While doing so, they noticed Fire Chief jogging repeatedly around the traffic circle as if he was trying to figure out how to get to the Boulevard. When they passed the nearby Circle Drive-In, Lucy said, “Man, do those onion rings smell good!”
“Yeah, but you know that Joe thinks we are at the Sealtest, so we had better get on over there, and in a hurry!” said Frank. When he got to the corner at the Spray jail, Frank dropped the shifter back into 2nd gear, let out the clutch, floored the gas and the Corvette shot up the hill toward Bridge Street like a bat-outa-Hell.
Lucy cried, “Hey, Lead foot! Let’s get there alive! I’ve just been as close to the funeral home as I care to get for now.”
They got to the Sealtest, ordered their hamburgers, and milkshakes, onion rings, too, and really enjoyed the long overdue meal. The night was warm, the convertible top was laid back, and the moon shown down on the young couple. Life felt pretty good………… for the moment.
Just then, they were startled to see the shiny black ‘32 roadster speeding up the street, young Joe’s blond hair blowing in the wind, with the sheriff’s car in hot pursuit, red lights and sirens blaring.
Frank reached down and, expertly shifted the Corvette into reverse, barely missing Mavis, who was returning to the entrance with a large stack of trays, and two dollars and twenty-seven cents in tips. It had been a busy night!
As they pulled into the street, Lucy asked, “What are those small things that make a trail in the roadway?”
Frank slowed and leaned out the open door. “Why, they appear to be kernels of corn. You don’t think that Joe . . . ?”
As their eyes met, their mutual suspicion was confirmed. The impetuous Joe had apparently re-entered the studio and had stashed a bag of corn in the roadster’s rumble seat. It must have had a hole in it, and this proved fortunate, for it gave them a clearly visible trail to follow in the moonlight.
“I think we should hurry,” said Lucy, concerned.
Frank, once more tactfully avoiding Lucy’s knee, shifted gears and pressed on the accelerator pedal. The powerful red Corvette leapt into action like an un-caged beast.
After a block or so of following the trail of corn, it became apparent to Frank, through quick thinking and elementary logic, that the Hardy home was Joe’s destination. “Hold on,” he shouted to Lucy. “I know a short cut!”
Turning right at Short Union St., he boldly ran through a four-way stop sign, turned left, and headed up Morgan Road, upon which the Hardy residence was situated.
As he turned into the driveway of the family’s house, he could see that they were too late. Joe lay spread-eagled on the gravel drive, and Aleta Doré stood over him in triumph, her small foot in the small of his back. Sheriff Axsom was trying to push the handcuffed famous detective Fenton Hardy into the back of his cruiser. Mrs. Hardy looked on in distress, wringing a dish towel that had “I rode the Wild Mouse at Myrtle” printed on it.
“Goodness,” said Frank. “This situation looks very bad. What do you think I should do, Lucy?”
“Well, Frank,” said Lucy, “I know that you are always glad to see me, but I do believe that the bulge in your trousers is the small, nickel-plated revolver you took from my Aunt Aleta!”
Frank, reaching into his trousers, ascertained that she was correct, and pulled out the pistol. “You are one quick thinker,” he said.
“Just one second, sonny,” said a deep voice, and Frank felt a heavy, meaty hand clamp down on his shoulder.
Sheriff Axsom took the revolver from Frank, who at this point was feeling almost sick with anxiety. Despite the hearty snack at the Sealtest, he had a hollow and aching feeling in the pit of his stomach. Never in his life had he been in any sort of trouble. And there before him was his brother laying on the ground with this strange little lady’s foot in his back, his father in handcuffs, and his poor mother on the verge of falling to pieces like a two dollar watch.
“I’m not sure whether to charge you with just a handgun violation or assault on a police officer,” said Sheriff Axsom. “Turn around, boy. Cuff him Aleta. We’re going on a little ride. The whole family. But first we need to go downstairs to your basement.”
“Wait! I can explain everything!” pleaded Frank.
“This has been explained to me already, Frank,” said Sheriff Axsom with tight lips. “And I don’t believe a word of it. You all will be charged with attempting to produce for sale non-tax-paid liquor.” He added, to Madame Doré, “Aleta, get the camera out of the car, will you? We need to get documentation of the evidence.”
“Hold it!” exclaimed Fenton Hardy. “What does a dance teacher have to do with all of this anyway?”
“Now that you have been apprehended I can reveal that Madame Doré is actually an undercover revenue agent sent here by the Treasury Department. We have been busting bootleggers for months now, and she has been helping by tuning in to their chatter on the two-way radio. We will soon make another stop, at Fair’s Funeral Home, where two of the employees there are using the ambulance to transport contraband. She also is letting the sheriff’s department store confiscated corn in her studio as potential evidence. And of course, bootleggers like yourselves are obviously now stealing the corn to make your own ‘shine.”
“No, no, no!” cried Fenton Hardy. “No such thing is going on here!”
As they went into the basement, the sheriff was about to take the pictures. “Mr. Hardy, I have always had the utmost respect for you, as you are a retired famous detective. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what we have before us--a boiler, copper tubing, corn, and whatever all this other stuff is. I suppose your family wears a lot of white, judging by all of these empty Clorox bottles.”
“But it is rocket science!” blurted the impetuous Joe.
“SHUT UP, Joe!” demanded Frank.
Mr. Hardy said, “Joe, what are you talking about?”
“Nothing, Dad,” said Frank.
“What’s going on, boys?” he asked again. Older brother Frank finally confessed that the two, being members of the Young Rocket Scientists of America, had been contacted and recruited by the Defense Department to come up with an alternative fuel for rockets to be used in case of war. “We talked on the telephone to Dr. V. B—Wernher Von Braun--himself!”
“How did you know it was Dr. Von Braun?” asked Mr. Hardy incredulously.
“He had a German accent,” replied Joe. But to himself he recalled, uncomfortably, that Will Bichell has used just such an accent on several occasions in the past. “Sneaky, sardonic Will may have played a trick on us,” he thought dejectedly.
Sheriff Axsom said, “This story is so preposterous that it just may be true. I will let you guys go free on your own recognizance while I check out the story with higher authorities. Take off the cuffs, Madame Doré.”
“That’s fine,” said Frank as she unlocked his cuffs. “The thing is, the Defense Department will never confirm any such activity. It is Top Secret!”
“What! No deal!” shouted the sheriff. He reached down to pick up the cuffs that Madame Doré had dropped in her excitement. At the same moment, she reached down as well, butting heads with the sheriff. Both were stunned.
In the ensuing confusion, Frank and Lucy were already in her car and were headed in the direction of the Virginia state line before the sheriff could get his eyes properly focused. When he raced for his own car, he tripped over Fenton Hardy’s outstretched leg and dropped his keys into a mud puddle.
Joe saw an opportunity and impetuously jumped in the ‘32 roadster and headed in the same direction, gravel flying.
Fenton Hardy, standing in the driveway dumbfounded, said, “I’m very sorry, Sheriff Axsom. I just don’t know what gets into those youngsters!”
“Book him, Doré,” said the sheriff.
There was, however, one more surprise in store. At that moment, a large, dark limousine swerved into the driveway, sliding to a halt on the scattering gravel. It was immediately clear where it had come from, for its license plate read “GOVT.”
Out of it stepped, respectively, Joe Hardy, Frank Hardy, and Lucy Doré, followed by a short, stout man in a dark suit.
“Joe! Frank!” cried Mr. Hardy.
“Frank! Joe!” cried Mrs. Hardy.
“Loozy!” cried Madame Doré.
“Mom! Dad! Aunt Aleta!” cried all three simultaneously.
The short, stout man in the dark suit turned to face the sheriff. “I am,” he said, “Dr. Wernher Von Braun, head of ze American space program. Dese boyce, whom I intercepted vhile drifink down from Vashington, haf been invaluable to us in creating new rocket fuels, made from common domestic products, that vill aid us in beating alien powers to ze moon! Dese Hardy boyce,” he continued, “haf discovered a new form of rocket fuel based on ze fermentation of corn, a simple and readily available product. Zey haf put us ahead of the Zoviets!”
Sheriff Axsom, dumbfounded, said, “Do you mean . . . ?”
“Ja!” said Von Braun. “Dot is vat I mean! Zey are heroes.”
Lucy, her face radiant, turned to Frank and said, “My hero!”
Joe, his face equally radiant, turned to his mom and dad, saying, “See! I told you so!”
Lucy put her arms around Frank’s neck and kissed him, which was a welcome surprise. He met her gesture with enthusiasm that matched hers. Then he said, “Well, I guess that about ties things up.”
At this moment, Madame Doré, stumbling forward as if in a trance, said, “Wernher! Ees eet really you? Ve thought ve vould never meet again!”
Dr. Von Braun immediately recognized his lost love, from whom he had been separated in Paris years before during a thunderstorm. “Mein Gott!” he exclaimed. “Vot are you doink in Leaksville, Aleta?”
“I came,” she said, “to teach ze dance!”
Everyone embraced. Joe embraced his mother and father, Mr. And Mrs. Hardy embraced each other, Frank embraced Lucy, Lucy embraced him back, Madame Doré embraced Wernher Von Braun, and Sheriff Axsom, with no one left to embrace, embraced the front fender of his cruiser.
From the radio of the government car came a suggestive lyric:
“Ah Louie, Louie, hey hey, we gotta go . . .”
“Everyone vill dance. Now!” commanded Madame Doré.
And everyone danced . . . as if their lives depended on it.