The Haunted Fort Part 15

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The Final Link THE trapped boys stared at Warren in astonishment, hardly able to believe their eyes.

"Then you, Alex, and Copier have been behind the painting thefts and the haunted fort!" Joe exclaimed.

"No doubt you're surprised," Warren answered with an irritating air of superiority. "Too bad you had to find out. But you may be able to tell us more than stupid Copier."

The art thief flushed. "Oh, yeah? You haven't been holed up in this miserable dungeon-all because of that worthless junk!"

He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. It was then, in the dimness, that the boys noticed a stack of paintings, some without frames, against the wall farther up the corridor. The stolen fort pictures!



"Shut up!" Warren snapped at his partner. "You talk too much!"

"Alex, it was you who kidnapped Mr. Davenport for the treasure clue," Frank prodded. "Where does Oilman fit in?"

Warren laughed. "He doesn't. After we failed to find any clues in the old frames, we removed several in order to 'frame' Gilman, so to speak." The merchant went on to admit being the ringleader, and that he and Alex had put Frank in the steel drum.

"We didn't intend to drown you," Alex put in. "That's why we didn't put the lid on tight."

The sport-store owner had quickly engineered the fake detour after Alex phoned him that the boys were heading for the fort that night. Warren also had been responsible for the canoe sabotage, as well as the dock fire. It was Alex who had learned the Hardys had been asked to come to Millwood.

"No doubt you, Alex, and Warren stole all the fort paintings from the gallery," Frank said.

Warren nodded, boasting, "Pretty clever I was to get into Millwood by playing the weekend painter bit."

He said that the red paint smear had accidentally been rubbed off from his artist's smock onto the back of the picture while he had been examining it in the gallery.

"And of course you had a swell chance to shotgun that red paint into our room," Joe said.

"Naturally." Warren's eyes glittered. "I trust you remember that message I left."

The Hardys and Chet felt a chill of fear as they recalled the ominous threat.

Ronnie spoke up. "Joe, he must be the one who hit you on the head!"

Warren glared. "And you must be the twerp who beat us to that map!"

"Did you push my car down the slope?" Chet asked. Warren pointed to the chauffeur.

"My orders, of course, though your pal was lucky enough to foul them up. Alex tells me he gave you three quite a runaround in the woods one night."

Not to be outdone, Alex boasted of cutting the ferry cables. "We had to do something to discourage tourist pests. Unfortunately that zany Frenchman and Everett kept nosing around the fort-they had lumps on their heads to show for it."

"By the way," Copier whined proudly, "those well boards didn't move by themselves. You Hardy pests kept me cooped up that day, but I sneaked out once."

The boys learned that the drumbeats were made by Copier who had used an Indian tomtom to signal his partners for meetings.

"What have you done to Mr. Davenport?" Frank demanded, worried because of the elderly man's silence and drawn face.

"He hasn't been cooperative." Warren smirked. "He'll get worse treatment if you don't tell us where the gold chain is hidden 1"

Even Chet now realized they must spar for time. "One thing still puzzles us," he said, "is how you walked on the lake Monday night. It was great."

"Simple," Warren bragged, holding up two black slotted objects resembling small surfboards. "Water shoes, made of urethane. Copier trimmed 'em down. By the way"-he chuckled-"Alex provided Kenyon with a little acid 'turpentine-' "

"You batted zero out there, Warren," Joe taunted. "We already uncovered that."

Warren became furious. He struck Joe across the face. "Wise guy! What's that painting clue? When you almost dug into our setup here, Copier overheard you say something about a tomahawk -what? Better still, where's that gold chain?"

"We don't know yet-we've been looking in a tunnel," Frank said.

"Tunnel? Where?" Alex demanded. "You've got a lead-out with it!"

The Hardys explained the clue, adding that Warren's hatchet had given them the lead. "The west dungeons, either entrance," Joe said. "There are loose cell stones. One tunnel leads to a cave-in. We can show you."

"No you don't!" Warren said harshly, satisfied with the information. He picked up two lanterns.

"Copier, you stay here and keep your eye on these punks. Alex, we're going for that chain!"

After Warren and the chauffeur had left, Frank racked his brain for a way to escape. Joe looked over and shrugged. Adrian Copier boasted, "You fools should have paid attention to my warning in Bayport.

You'll be sorry you didn't!"

A few minutes later Copier began pacing the room nervously. Frank glanced at Mr. Davenport, who winked and signaled the boy closer.

Though bound hand and foot, Frank inched along the floor until he was two feet from the millionaire.

Suddenly Davenport moaned and slumped over. In alarm Copier rushed to him.

"Davenport! What's happened? Don't die! Please. Not here!"

All the while Frank was pulling his knees up until he was poised like a spring.

Wham! His feet flew forward and caught Copier on the side of the head. The thief collapsed like an empty sack.

Instantly the millionaire opened his eyes and smiled. "Good work!" He untied Frank, who promptly released the others. As they freed Mr. Davenport's legs, he assured them he was all right. He chuckled.

"Some act I put on, eh?"

Ronnie agreed to stay with him while the Hardys and Chet went after Alex and Warren. The Bayporters emerged and crossed the vacant parade ground to the West Barracks. "They could have gone in either one," Frank surmised. "Let's check the first!"

They squirmed below and crept along the silent corridor into the clue-marked cell. Frank switched off his light before dropping soundlessly into the hole at the beginning of the tunnel. Chet followed, then Joe.

They listened carefully before flashing on their beams. The lights hit the barrier of caved-in dirt sixty feet ahead. Nobody in sight.

"They must be in the other tunnel," Joe said, and turned about. "Come on!" But his attention was suddenly caught by a straight fissure in the stone wall at the start of the tunnel. On a sudden hunch Joe grasped a projecting stone edge and he tugged with both hands. Frank did the same. The stone moved slightly. Excited, the Hardys pulled with all their might. Finally a door creaked open!

"What do you know about that!" Chet exclaimed.

Cautiously they stepped inside a paved passageway.

Wondering if they would meet Warren and Alex, the three boys followed the newly found tunnel beneath the fort interior. At its end, they played their flashlights around a large chamber.

Frank spotted a glitter of metal and followed it with his ray. Link by link, a huge gold chain was revealed, hanging majestically around the vault!

"The treasure!" Joe exclaimed. "We've found it!"

"And look at this," said Frank, pointing to a dusty book and tomahawk on a table.

"I knew the Prisoner-Painter had a reason for putting the clue in that one cell!" Joe said.

The boys were curious about the book, but Frank rushed the others back into the passage. "Let's get to that other tunnel!"

They went up to the second dungeon entrance and slipped down to the cell above the tunnel. The stone had been pushed aside from the hole.

"Quiet!" Frank whispered, turning off his light. They dropped below and tensely moved forward into the darkness. After a while they saw a lantern flash ahead!

"Get down!" Joe whispered. They dropped to their stomachs, hearing first Alex's voice, then Warren's.

"But the kid said something about a cave-in down there to the right-it's a dead end."

"You're crazy-the cave-in's the other way!" Warren retorted. "There must be a link-up in this direction."

"I say left," the chauffeur persisted.

As the men's voices rose in argument, Chet and the Hardys crept closer.

"Suit yourself," Warren said finally, "I'm trying the right. Yell if you find it." Their footsteps receded. Frank signaled the others to their feet.

"They've separated-let's take Warren first!"

With Joe remaining on guard, Frank and Chet turned down to the right, moving along opposite walls.

When they reached the pale glow of the leader's lantern, Frank jumped him.

Startled, Warren wrenched him off and swung his lantern. He was about to bring it down on Frank's head when Chet tackled him.

"Alex!"

Warren's cry echoed as he kicked Chet away, only to reel staggering into the wall from Frank's smashing uppercut. A second punch dropped him unconscious before Alex rushed out of the shadows.

"Why, you-" As the man lurched toward Frank, Joe caught him from behind with a stinging bang on the left ear. Enraged and thrown off balance, Alex threw a backhand blow. Joe ducked it and at the same time Frank swung a roundhouse right. It landed on the point of Alex's jutting chin. Out cold, he fell face forward on the tunnel floor.

As Frank rubbed his bruised knuckles, Chet and Joe bound the captives with belts.

"Wow! You really bombed him," Chet praised Frank. "Hey, what's that noise?"

They left the conspirators and hurried outside to the parade ground. Mr. Kenyon rushed up to them, followed by half a dozen policemen 1 "Frank! Chet! Joel You're a sight for sore eyes! Did you find Mr. Davenport?"

"Yes. He's okay." Chet grinned. "We have three prisoners, too."

Rapidly the boys related their amazing adventure, ending with outwitting the thieves.

"I knew something was fishy when you didn't get back to Millwood," Uncle Jim explained, "especially after the housekeeper said Alex had gone to look for Mr. Davenport, and never showed up again."

He expressed astonishment at Warren and Alex being in cahoots with Copier, and surmised that the chauffeur had forged his references. "But it sounds like Ronnie Rush has reformed a little," he added, smiling.

The Cedartown police chief congratulated the boys, then sent his men below for the prisoners. The Hardys, Chet, and Uncle Jim rejoined Mr. Davenport and Ronnie. Grinning, Joe asked the art patron if he could stand another shock, The elderly Southerner straightened his shoulders. "Reckon so if I can deal with criminals."

With Ronnie meekly trailing behind, the Hardys led the way to the secret chamber beneath the center of the fort. There the group gazed in awe at the magnificence of the gleaming chain of gold.

"It's beyond words!" Mr. Davenport said happily. "Thanks to you detectives, and Jason's clue, this priceless treasure is safe! I'll see that it's properly displayed near the paintings of my esteemed ancestor."

Chet looked slyly at Ronnie. "If I do a painting of the treasure, will you 'help' me win another prize?"

Ronnie grinned sheepishly. "Never again!"

The Hardys then explained their theory about the infiltration tunnels, and Joe pointed out the old book.

Mr. Davenport leafed through it. He looked up, astonished.

"What you boys have uncovered will rewrite history!" he declared. "This is a ledger left by Chambord hours before he and his garrison evacuated Senandaga, using these tunnels to escape to another battle area. According to this account, he planned to station Iroquois Indians-disguised as French soldiers-on the ramparts."

"To decoy Lord Craig!" Frank guessed.

"Precisely."

"Then the men the British attacked were actually Indians!" Joe put in, then frowned. "But Follette said 'Frenchmen' had been seen on the ramparts after the English had left."

The boys recalled Everett's account of the "French" fleeing when they could not manage the cannon.

"The disguised Iroquois must have come back!" Chet exclaimed. "Maybe to loot the fort."

Mr. Davenport nodded. He said that Craig, after taking the fort, must have suspected the trick, and left immediately. "Chambord's estimate here of the size of the attacking British force seems too large-Craig himself may have played a trick!"

"So the last true holders of Senandaga were the Iroquois!" Joe exclaimed. He held up the tomahawk.

"Wait until Rene Follette and Mr. Everett hear about this!"

Frank and Joe looked at the chaine d'or and wondered when another challenge as baffling as the haunted fort would come their way. Sooner than they expected, they would be called upon to solve THE MYSTERY OF THE SPIRAL BRIDGE.

Mr. Davenport grinned. "I'm hereby inviting you all to celebrate with a hearty Southern repast. How does that sound to you, Chet?"

The stocky boy beamed. "Super! Right now, I could use some real fortification!"

The Haunted Fort Part 15

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The Haunted Fort Part 15 summary

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