The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon - West Nick - Страница 1
The Three Investigators
The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon
Introduction by Alfred Hitchcock
This introduction is solely for the purpose of acquainting latecomers with The Three Investigators. If you have met them before, you are under no obligation to read it.
The Three Investigators are an enterprising firm of youthful detectives, amateurs perhaps, but remarkably effective in achieving their goal, namely, solving-mysteries.
By his own admission, Jupiter Jones is the leader-in-residence and the brains of the trio. Pete Chenshaw, the most athletic member, assists on missions that call for his kind of contribution. Bob Andrews is in charge of Records and Research. All together, a lively team.
The boys reside in Rocky Beach, a small town some miles from Hollywood, close to the Pacific Ocean. Their headquarters is a converted mobile home trailer located in the Jones Salvage Yard, which is run by Jupiter’s aunt and uncle. The trailer has a small office, a lab, a darkroom and equipment which the boys rebuilt from junk in the yard. It can be entered by, certain secret passages that are best negotiated by youthful individuals.
Now that you know all that is needed, I shall remove myself from the premises so that you may get on with the real entertainment.
“I wonder,” Jupiter Jones said one morning, “how we would go about attempting the biggest robbery ever seen in this area.”
His two companions reacted with surprise. Bob Andrews dropped the stack of small cards he was feeding into their old printing press. Pete Chenshaw, who was mending an old radio, jerked and saw his screwdriver glance off in an erratic arc.
“What was that you said?” Pete asked, trying to smooth out the jagged scratch he’d made on the wooden back of the radio.
“I said I wonder how we would go about attempting the biggest robbery ever tried in this area,” Jupiter repeated. “That is, if we were master criminals.”
“While you’re wondering,” Pete said, “try to find out what happens to us after we get caught. I heard somewhere that crime doesn’t pay.”
Bob Andrews picked up the scattered cards he had dropped. “I don’t think we’d be good at being master criminals. I can’t even master putting cards into this printing press.”
“It was merely a thought,” said Jupiter. “After all, we are investigators. It occurs to me that if we could imagine a well-planned crime, we’d be ahead when it came to solving it. All we need to do is reverse our thinking and assume the anti-social mind of a mastermind criminal.”
Pete nodded. “That’s a neat idea, Jupe. But first I’ve got to reverse the thinking of the last owner of this radio. He tried to mend it himself and got the wires all twisted. After that, I’ll be willing to play mastermind games with you.”
The three boys, who called themselves The Three Investigators, were in Jupiter’s workshop section of the Jones Salvage Yard. Secluded here, under a six-foot roof extending from the junk yard’s high fence, they worked on repairing junk that Jupiter’s Uncle Titus bought. They used part of the profits for pocket money and part for such luxuries as the telephone in their secret headquarters.
Pete finished tightening a screw on the radio and held it up proudly for Jupiter’s inspection. “This job ought to be worth at least three dollars to your uncle,” he said. “Now he can sell it as a working radio instead of the piece of busted junk it was when it came in here.”
Jupiter smiled. “Uncle Titus isn’t given to throwing his money about carelessly. I suggest you try it first and see if it works.”
Pete shrugged and snapped a small dial. “It works, all right,” he said. “Listen.”
The radio hummed, spluttered and came to life. An announcer’s voice was heard, apparently well into his news broadcast. “Authorities continue to be stumped,” he said, “over the mysterious happenings in Seaside. Within the past week, five dogs have been reported missing. The pet owners are puzzled over the disappearance of their animals… Now, for news overseas, we take you to — ”
“Turn it off, Pete,” Jupiter said.
Pete switched the dial to off. “How about that?” he said. “Five missing dogs. Evidently there’s a mad dognapper on the loose.”
“I think we’ve got the master criminal Jupe was talking about,” Bob said, grinning. “He’s going to steal all the dogs he can and corner the market. Then, when people are willing to meet his price, he’ll unload and make a fortune.”
Jupiter sat pinching his lower lip, a sign that his mental machinery was moving into high gear. “Odd,” he said finally.
“What’s odd?” Bob asked. “You mean the number of dogs stolen? Five is a good odd number, all right.”
Jupiter shook his head, frowning. “No, I was referring to the dogs reported missing within the week. Usually when pets disappear, it happens at irregular intervals, rather than within the short span of one week.”
“Well, it must be like I said,” Bob answered. “There’s this master criminal loose with this mad plan of getting control of the doggie market. Maybe he intends knocking down the price of hamburger meat, in addition to selling the stolen dogs at a handsome profit.”
Jupiter smiled thinly. “Nice try. But it doesn’t answer the question. Why five missing dogs in one week? Another question is, why haven’t we been contacted to investigate these mysterious disappearances?”
“Perhaps they’re not so mysterious,” Pete said. “Sometimes dogs roam away from home and it takes them longer to get back. That’s my guess.”
“I agree with Pete,” Bob said. “The report didn’t mention the dogs being valuable. Just five missing dogs.”
Jupiter nodded slowly and reluctantly. “Perhaps you two are right,” he admitted. “It may be just a freak coincidence, much as I dislike making such an assumption.”
The other two boys smiled. It was Jupiter’s habit of using long words whenever possible, apart from his keen deductive abilities as an investigator, that endeared him to them and made him the acknowledged leader of the three.
“I wonder,” said Jupe, “how we can solve the mystery without being asked to by any of the pet owners.”
Bob and Pete looked at each other blankly. “What mystery?” Pete demanded. “I thought we agreed it was just a freak happening, not a mystery.”
“Perhaps,” Jupiter said. “But we are investigators, and Seaside is south of here, not too far away. Apparently our fame as investigators is less than we imagined. We should do something about it.”
Bob motioned to the stack of cards he had placed in the old printing press. “That’s just what I’m doing, Jupe,” he said. “Printing new business cards. A fresh batch.”
“A good idea, Bob,” Jupiter said. “But I was thinking of something else. We will have to be better known, so that when strange things happen, people will think immediately of The Three Investigators of Rocky Beach, California,”
Bob threw up his hands. “Well gosh, Jupe, how do you propose doing that? We can’t afford to take a TV commercial or hire sky writers.”
“I know,” Jupiter said. “I suggest we go immediately to Headquarters and have a meeting to discuss ways and means of getting the name of The Three Investigators known to more people.”
He got up immediately without waiting for an answer. Bob and Pete exchanged looks, shrugged and followed.
“What I like about you, Jupe,” Pete said, smiling, “is the democratic way you run things. I mean, the way we always take a vote before deciding on anything.”