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Alfred Hitchcock


The Three Investigators


The Mystery of the Screaming Clock

Text by
Robert Arthur
Illustrated by Harry Kane

A Few Words From Alfred Hitchcock

Greetings and salutations! It is a pleasure to have you join me for another adventure with that remarkable trio of lads who call themselves The Three Investigators. This time a most unusual screaming clock leads them into a tangled web of clues, mystery and excitement.

I imagine that you have already met The Three Investigators and know that they are Jupiter Jones, Bob Andrews and Pete Crenshaw, all of Rocky Beach, California, a small community on the shores of the Pacific not far from Hollywood. But just in case this is your first meeting with the three, let me add that they make their Headquarters in a mobile home trailer cleverly hidden from sight in The Jones Salvage Yard. This fabulous junkyard is owned by Jupiter’s aunt and uncle, for whom the trio work to earn spending money when they are not busy with their investigations.

Enough of introductions. On with the case! The clock is about to scream!



The Clock Screams

The clock screamed.

It was the scream of a woman in mortal terror. It started at a low pitch, then went higher and higher until it hurt Jupiter’s ears. A shiver ran down his back. It was the most terrifying sound he had ever heard.

And yet it was just an old-fashioned electric alarm clock. Jupiter had merely plugged it in to see if it would run. The next thing he knew it was screaming at him.

Jupiter grabbed the clock’s electric cord and pulled it out of the socket. The scream stopped. Jupiter let out his breath with a gasp of relief. The sound of a clock screaming like a woman had been rather unnerving.

Running feet sounded behind him. Bob Andrews and Pete Crenshaw, who had been working in the front part of The Jones Salvage Yard, skidded to a stop beside him.

“Golly, what was that?” Bob asked.

“Are you hurt, Jupe?” Pete peered at him anxiously.

Jupiter shook his head.

“Listen,” he said. “I want you to hear something rather unusual.”

He plugged in the clock again, and once more the terrifying scream filled the air. He pulled out the plug and the scream stopped instantly.

“Wow!” Pete said. “A clock that screams, and he calls it rather unusual!”

“I wonder what he’d say if it grew wings and flew away?” Bob grinned. “Maybe then he’d say it was quite unusual. As far as I’m concerned a screaming clock is almost the most unusual thing I’ve ever bumped into.”

Jupiter ignored their friendly sarcasm. He was turning the clock over in his hands, studying it. Then he said, in a tone of satisfaction, “Ah!”

“Ah, what?” Pete demanded. “The alarm lever is at On,” Jupiter told them. “I’ll shut it off and plug the clock in again.”

He did this and the clock began to purr softly. It made no other sound.

“Now let’s see what happens.” Jupiter flipped the alarm lever to On. Instantly the clock screamed again. Jupiter quickly switched it off. “Well,” he said, “we’ve solved the first part of the mystery. The clock screams instead of ringing an alarm.”

“What mystery?” Pete demanded. “What mystery have we solved the first part of?”

“Jupe means a screaming clock is certainly a mystery,” Bob said. “And he’s solved why it screams.”

“Not why,” Jupiter corrected him. “Just when. The clock screams when the alarm is set. Why it does is a much better mystery. I have a feeling it will be an interesting one to investigate.”

“What do you mean, investigate?” Pete asked. “How can you investigate a clock? Ask it questions? Give it the third degree?”

“A clock that screams when it should ring an alarm is certainly mysterious,” Jupiter answered. “And the motto of The Three Investigators is — ”

“We investigate anything!” Bob and Pete answered together.

“All right,” Pete went on. “So it’s a mystery. I still want to know how you can investigate it.”

“By finding out why it was made to scream. There must be a reason for it,” Jupiter told him. “We haven’t any other mystery on hand right now, so I propose we get some good practice by investigating this screaming clock.”

“Oh no!” Pete groaned. “We have to draw the line somewhere.”

But Bob looked interested. “How would you start, Jupe?” he asked.

Jupiter reached for his tool kit, which was in a drawer of a nearby workbench. The boys were in Jupe’s workshop section of The Jones Salvage Yard, owned and run by his uncle and aunt, Titus and Mathilda Jones. Here, hidden from the eyes of curious adults by piles of junk, they could work undisturbed.

To one side of them was the big pile of miscellaneous salvage material — steel beams, lumber, crates, an old playground chute — which they had carefully arranged to hide the small mobile home trailer that was Headquarters for The Three Investigators. They could get into it only through certain secret entrances too small for an adult. At the moment, however, they had no need to go inside.

Jupiter took out a screwdriver and began to remove the back of the clock. He slipped it down along the electric wire so that he could peer inside. For the second time he said, “Ah!” He pointed with the screwdriver to something that had apparently been added to the interior of the clock. It was a disc about as large as a silver dollar, but thicker.

“I believe this is the mechanism that produces the scream,” he said. “Someone very clever at mechanics has installed it in place of the regular alarm bell.”

“But why?” Bob asked.

“That’s the mystery. To start investigating it, first we have to learn who did the work.”

“I don’t see how we can do that,” Pete protested.

“You’re not thinking like an investigator,” Jupiter said. “Now put your mind to it. Tell me how you would begin with this mystery.”

“Well — first I suppose I’d try to find out where the clock came from.”

“Correct. And how would you go about that?”

“Well, the clock came into the salvage yard as junk,” Pete said. “So I guess your Uncle Titus bought it. Maybe he remembers where he got it.”

“Mr. Jones buys an awful lot of things,” Bob said doubtfully. “He doesn’t always keep track of where he got them.”

“True,” agreed Jupiter. “But Pete is right. The first thing to do is ask Uncle Titus if he knows where the clock came from. He gave it to me just half an hour ago in a box of odds and ends. Now let’s see what else is in the box.”

A cardboard carton sat on his workbench. Jupiter reached in and pulled out a stuffed owl with most of the feathers falling out. Underneath it was a clothes brush, badly worn. Then came a broken goose-neck lamp, a vase with a chip in it, a pair of book ends made to look like horses’ heads, and several other knick-knacks, most of them broken and all equally valuable — or useless, whichever way you chose to look at it.

“It looks to me,” Jupiter remarked, “as if someone cleaned out a lot of old stuff, put it in a box and threw it away. Then some refuse collector rescued it and sold the box to Uncle Titus. Uncle Titus will buy almost anything if the price is right. He counts on our ability to fix things so they can be sold again.”

“I wouldn’t give you a dollar for the lot,” Pete said. “Except the clock. It seems like a good clock. Except for that scream when the alarm is turned on. Imagine waking up with that scream ringing in your ears!”

“Hmm.” Jupiter looked thoughtful. “Suppose you wanted to frighten someone badly. Perhaps even scare them to death. So you slipped this clock into their bedroom in place of their regular clock, and the next morning when the alarm went off a fatal heart attack followed. That would certainly be a clever murder plot.”

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