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The Three Investigators

Crimebusters #2

Murder To Go

Text by
Megan Stine
William H. Stine
Based on characters created by
Robert Arthur


Smashing Beauty

Pete Crenshaw zipped his car into the outdoor parking lot of Rocky Beach Memorial Hospital and hit the brakes. He revved the engine of the used ’81 Scirocco a couple of times, loud and hard, then switched off the ignition. The windshield wipers stopped in the middle of their arc.

Pete liked to think he was just like his car — lean, mean, and prone to quick moves. At over six feet tall and built like a decathlon athlete, he wasn’t far wrong.

“Wow. This is serious rain. And I mean serious” Pete said to his friend Jupiter Jones, who was sitting next to him.

Jupiter Jones was neither lean nor mean. He preferred to describe himself as “well padded” or “husky.” He never seemed to run out of substitutes for “overweight.” Most people would have laughed at Jupe’s attempts to disguise the truth. But Pete kept the teasing to a minimum. After all, seventeen-year-old Jupiter was Pete’s best friend. And Jupe was also the founder of The Three Investigators. Along with Bob Andrews, they were Rocky Beach, California’s most famous detectives.

The two of them sat in the car and watched the storm. It was more than the typical summer downpour. Rain pounded the windshield. Then, just when Pete and Jupe were least expecting it, lightning flashed and crashed.

“Come on. It’s never going to let up,” Pete said, brushing his reddish-brown hair out of his eyes. “And visiting hours are almost over. Kelly’s waiting for me.”

“You can’t let girls boss you around,” Jupe said, unbuckling his seat belt reluctantly.

“I hate to tell you this,” Pete said to Jupe, “but girls are the one subject you’re not an expert on.”

“True,” Jupe admitted. “However, as you well know, that won’t stop me from giving you advice.” Pete laughed.

Then the two friends pulled up the hoods of their Windbreakers and made a dash through the rain for the hospital entrance.

Inside the hospital lobby they shook out their wet jackets and hurried to room 2113.

When they got there, Kelly Madigan was lying in her hospital bed, talking on the phone and twirling a curl of her long brown hair with her fingers. The TV was on, playing music videos with the sound off. She didn’t look like someone who had just had her appendix taken out three days ago.

Kelly was a pretty, energetic cheerleader at Rocky Beach High School, the same school Pete, Jupe, and Bob attended. One day six months ago she suddenly decided that Pete Crenshaw ought to be going steady and he ought to be going steady with her. Pete didn’t put up much of a fight.

“Gotta hang up, Sue,” Kelly said, giving Pete and Jupe a small wave. “Time for my Friday night date. My own personal hunk just walked in with a friend.” Then Kelly laughed. “Is the friend a hunk too?” Kelly said, repeating what Sue had just asked her. She looked Jupe up and down with her large green eyes.

Jupe tried to stare back at her but then he got nervous and looked away.

“Depends, Sue,” Kelly said. “Do you think Frosty the Snowman’s a hunk?” she added with a teasing but sweet laugh.

Jupe crossed his arms and sat down grumpily on one of the uncomfortable wooden chairs that were standard in hospital rooms.

Suddenly Kelly held out the phone to Jupe! “Sue wants to talk to you,” she said, smiling.

Jupe swallowed hard and tried to look as though he didn’t know the meaning of the word “panic.” Talking to suspects in a mystery was no problem. Talking to girls — that was Bob Andrews’ department.

“Go on, Jupe,” Pete teased. He was sitting on the bed next to Kelly.

Jupe slowly stood up and took the phone.

“Hello,” he said formally, “this is Jupiter Jones speaking.” Jupe paused.

“Hi,” said a girl’s voice with a nervous giggle. “I’m Sue. How’s it going?”

“How is what going?” Jupe asked. His logical mind required logical questions before he could give a logical answer.

“Oh, I don’t know, you know,” said Sue.

Jupe cleared his throat and squinted one eye at Kelly. He wished he didn’t have an audience for this phone call. Pete and Kelly were holding hands and grinning at him.

“Don’t you want to know if I’m cute or something?” Sue asked on the other end of the line.

Just then a nurse with bright copper-red hair stuck her head in the door. “Visiting hours are over. You’ll have to leave now,” she said.

Jupe sighed with relief and handed the phone back to Kelly. “I’ll call you later,” Kelly told Sue, hanging up quickly. Then she winked at Jupe. “Jupiter Jones, ladies’ man, strikes again,” she said.

Suddenly the door banged open. A doctor, two orderlies, and two nurses pushed a gurney into the room at top speed. Jupe had to jump out of the way.

They had a patient on the gurney, a young woman with dark curly hair. Her pretty face was pale, bruised, and bandaged. She was unconscious.

“New roommate for you, Kelly,” said the doctor, a young intern with a short ponytail and a calm smile. He helped lift the new patient onto the second bed in Kelly’s green hospital room.

“Is she hurt badly?” Kelly asked.

“Her wounds appear superficial,” Jupe said. His eyes never missed anything. “My guess is she’s just recovering from a concussion and mild shock.”

“Hey — great diagnosis,” the doctor said, looking over at Jupe with a surprised smile.

The hospital team gently settled the young woman into the bed and then hooked up her i.v., which started the medication dripping. When they were certain she was secure, the nurses and orderlies backed away and the doctor wrote notes on her chart.

“What happened to her?” Kelly asked the doctor in a concerned voice.

“Car smash-up on Countyline Drive. She went right off the road. We always get a couple on a rotten night like this,” he said, moving toward the door to leave. “She’s a celebrity’s kid, although it’s hard to tell with all the bumps and bruises. She’s — ”

But before the doctor could finish his sentence, the nurse with the copper-red hair opened the door again. “I said it once. I’ll say it again,” she barked at Jupe and Pete. “Hospital visiting hours are over. This means you must leave immediately. The only exception is if you are very sick, in which case please see the admissions nurse.”

“We get the message,” Pete said.

“Good,” said the nurse with a pinched smile. “I guess I won’t have to call out the guard dogs tonight.”

As she turned and left the room, Pete leaned down and gave Kelly a quick kiss. “See you tomorrow, babe. I’m staying at Jupe’s tonight.”

Jupe, however, was looking at the new patient’s chart. “Hey — what are you doing?” Pete asked.

“Just satisfying my curiosity,” Jupe answered. “The doctor left before telling us who she is. Who’s Juliet Coop?”

Pete looked at Jupe and shrugged. The name didn’t set off any bells. So they said good-bye to Kelly and left.

But a minute later both Pete and Jupe knew exactly who Juliet Coop was, because as they headed toward the elevator a huge man came rushing out of it and went straight to the nurses’ station. He leaned over the desk so that his worried face was close to the nurse with the copper-colored hair. “Where’s my daughter?” he asked. “Where is she?”

“That’s Big Barney Coop!” Jupe said, recognizing the man instantly.

“Right. The Chicken King!” Pete exclaimed.

It had to be. He was wearing the familiar red, white, and blue jogging suit, just like the one he wore on TV. And everyone in Southern California knew Big Barney Coop’s face. You couldn’t flip the TV channels without seeing him in a commercial for Chicken Coop fast-food restaurants.

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