The Secret of Phantom Lake - Arden William - Страница 1
The Three Investigators
The Secret Of Phantom Lake
A Message from Alfred Hitchcock
An ancient shipwreck! A pirate hoard! A ghost town! An island of phantoms! Confound that rascally juvenile confidence man, Jupiter Jones! How can I resist announcing this tale with such tantalizing elements in it?
So once more I take up my pen to invite all adventurous readers to join me. But step carefully and look behind you — mystery and danger await all who follow The Three Investigators to Phantom Lake!
For the deprived few who live in regions so remote that they are still ignorant of our trio, be informed that their annoyingly brainy leader is the overweight Jupiter Jones. Peter Crenshaw is the tall, muscular Second Investigator, and Bob Andrews is the small, but dogged, Research man.
Residents of Rocky Beach, California — a town a few Miles north of Hollywood — they made their headquarters in a hidden mobile home trailer in The Jones Salvage Yard, owned by Jupiter’s aunt and uncle. From this hideaway they sally forth to foil the most clever villains and unravel the darkest of riddles.
But now comes a riddle more than a hundred years old! Can even our formidable trio solve it? What is the secret locked in a yellowing letter and a long-lost sailor’s journal? Was a hoard of pirate treasure spirited from a sinking ship one stormy night long ago, and who are the shadowy men lurking in the path of the boys?
Can the stubborn trio solve a message from the dead, and find the secret of Phantom Lake? And if they do — can they find it in time? We shall see!
The Sea Chest
“Wow!” Bob Andrews cried. “It’s a real Malay kris!”
Eyes shining, Bob displayed the rippled blade of the long knife to his two companions, Jupiter Jones and Pete Crenshaw. The boys were in a roadside museum a few miles north of their home in Rocky Beach. Pete gently felt the wavy edge of the kris and shuddered. Jupiter nodded wisely.
“Many ships sailed from California to the East Indies in the old days,” Jupiter remarked. “A number of the artifacts in this little museum came from the Orient.” Pete and Bob groaned silently as Jupe began to lecture them. The stocky boy had a head full of interesting facts, but he tended to become unbearably pompous when sharing his knowledge.
Aunt Mathilda Jones interrupted the lecture by calling across the room, “I’m more interested now in where these artifacts are going, Jupiter Jones! Stop loafing, you young scamps, and load the truck.”
“Yes, Aunt Mathilda.” Jupiter said meekly. The tourist museum, which specialised in relics from old seafaring days, was closing down. Aunt Mathilda and Uncle Titus Jones had arranged to buy its small collection for resale in The Jones Salvage Yard, the most elegant junkyard on the West Coast.
Aunt Mathilda really ran the salvage yard, as Uncle Titus was more interested in scouting for exciting new junk. A large, powerful, rather sharp-tongued woman, she was basically good-natured and kind. But when she saw boys around, she had only one idea: put them to work! Jupiter, who lived with his uncle and aunt, tried to keep out of Aunt Mathilda’s way. He and his two friends had their own important business to attend to — running their junior detective firm, The Three Investigators. But this morning Aunt Mathilda had spotted the boys in the junkyard and demanded their help. On the very first day of Christmas vacation, they were trapped!
Sighing, the boys began to carry items outside to Hans, one of the two big Bavarian brothers who worked at the salvage yard. Noting the boys’ expressions, Hans mischievously started to whistle “Jingle Bells” as he loaded the yard’s pickup truck. Aunt Mathilda watched the boys for a moment, then returned to taking inventory with the museum’s owner, Mr. Acres.
When the inventory was finished, Aunt Mathilda went to help the boys pack some boxes at the back of the exhibition room. Mr. Acres went to the entrance hall to tend to a visitor who had just come in. Moments later, the boys and Aunt Mathilda heard a voice shouting at Mr. Acres.
“I don’t care who you promised it to!”
Mr. Acres’s voice was soothing. “Please now, sir —”
“It’s mine,” the angry voice cried, “and I want it now!”
The voice was hoarse and rasping with a menacing edge. Aunt Mathilda hurried towards the entrance hall with the boys behind her. As they reached Mr. Acres, he was saying, “I’m sorry, but I’ve sold everything in the museum to The Jones Salvage Yard. No exceptions.”
Mr. Acres was standing over an ornate Oriental teakwood chest bound with heavily decorated brass.
Facing the owner across the chest was a short man with a full black beard. His glittering dark eyes were set deep in a weather-wrinkled, sunburned face. Two long scars ran down his cheek into the beard. He wore a heavy, sailor’s pea-jacket, dark blue bell-bottom trousers, and a merchant sailor’s cap with faded brass braid.
The short stranger glared at Mr. Acres and snarled, “I’m making an exception, you hear me? The chest belongs to me, and I aim to have it back. I’m warning you —!”
Mr. Acres bristled. “Now you listen to me, my man! I —”
“The name’s Jim,” the stranger growled. “Java Jim, they call me, and I brought that chest a long cruise. There’s danger in that chest, you hear?”
The boys gulped. Java Jim turned his glittering eyes on them and muttered an oath.
“What do you brats want, eh?” he snarled. “Sail off now, you hear? The old lady there, too — shove away!”
Jupiter looked quickly at Aunt Mathilda and suppressed a grin. Aunt Mathilda’s face was turning beetroot red.
“What!” Aunt Mathilda roared at the sailor. “What did you say to me, you bearded clown! If I wasn’t a lady I’d throw you out of here myself!”
Stunned by Aunt Mathilda’s fury, the sailor fell back with the large woman following him.
“It seems you’ve made an error, Mr. Java Jim,” said Mr. Acres with a smile. “This lady happens to own The Jones Salvage Yard. The chest you want belongs to her now.”
Java Jim blinked. “I… Well, I’m right sorry, ma’am. It’s just my hot temper, I do apologize, no offence meant. Been on ships too long, round just men, eh? And now that I’ve found my chest, I just lost my head.”
All the violent anger seemed to have gone out of the bearded man. Aunt Mathilda calmed down as quickly as she had exploded. She nodded at the Oriental chest, which the three boys were now examining.
“If that chest belongs to you, how did it get here?” Aunt Mathilda asked.
“Stolen, ma’am,” Java Jim replied promptly. “Some scoundrel stole it right off my ship two weeks ago when we hit port up in San Francisco. Sold it to a secondhand dealer on the waterfront up there. But the dealer had sent it down here before I got to him, so I came after it.”
“Well… ” Aunt Mathilda began slowly.
Bob, who had the chest open now, pointed to the inside of the raised lid. “There’s a name on the lid — Argyll Queen. Was that the name of your ship, Mr. Java?”
“No, boy,” Java Jim said. “It’s an old chest, probably been through fifty hands over the years. That name was in it when I bought it in Singapore.”
Mr. Acres said, “I did get it just yesterday from Walt Baskins in San Francisco, Mrs. Jones. I had a standing order with him for any items of local interest for the museum. I forgot to cancel the order when I decided to sell out.”