THE CASE OF THE VANISHING VOLUMES

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Encyclopedia Brown

As the sun shone brightly on Rover Avenue one beautiful Saturday morning, Leroy Brown, known to his friends as “Encyclopedia” galloped down the stairs and ran behind his mom to hug her as she flipped hotcakes on the griddle.

“Morning, Mom, morning, Dad!” Encyclopedia plopped down at the breakfast table and finished his orange juice in one gulp, spitting out a lone seed into his palm.

“Whoa, son, I know it’s a big day, but calm down or you’ll bust a gasket.” Idaville’s Chief of Police just happened to be Encyclopedia’s father, and he raised his newspaper back to hide his face, tut-tutting at the state of the world.

“Make it quick, Mom, ‘cause I have to get to the Majestic Hotel by nine o’clock.”

“First you’re going to sit and have a nourishing breakfast, Leroy,” said his mom as she piled a huge stack of hotcakes and four juicy link sausages onto his plate. “You’re not running off to solve one of your cases this time.”

“No, mom, this is even better! I get to meet the Hardy Boys!”

Chief Brown chuckled over his coffee. “Isn’t that just like our son, Martha? Professor Friedman is about to honor the town’s sharpest detective – under the age of 12, that is – and all he can get excited about is meeting the Hardy Boys!”

“Come on, dad,” cried Encyclopedia, his mouth full of hotcakes, “you know that Frank and Joe are the heroes of Bayport. It’s an honor to be honored with them.”

The young detective made short work of his breakfast, kissed his mom and dad goodbye, saying he’d see them at the ceremony, and dashed out the front door. Then he pulled to an abrupt stop. Leaning against the Brown’s mailbox with his arms folded was Encyclopedia’s arch-nemesis, Bugs Meany!

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“Slow down, Brown,” sneered the bully. “You ain’t got nowhere important to go.”

“I don’t have anywhere important to go,” corrected the bright lad. “But you’re wrong, Bugs! Professor Friedman is about to honor me at the Majestic Hotel, and I can’t be late.” Then the boy smacked his forehead. “Oops, I almost forgot!” He raced around the front of the house to the garage, zoomed in through the side door and rummaged through some boxes stacked in the corner behind his dad’s police car. He found a carton, checked the contents, and then balanced it in both arms and raced out of the garage and down the sidewalk, just sidestepping Bugs’ leg as it shot out in an attempt to trip Encyclopedia.

Main Street was bustling with weekend shoppers, and Encyclopedia waved hello to Mrs. Kimball and Sally, Pablo Pizarro, and the Turner brothers, Billy and Jody. But he didn’t slow down till he had pushed through the revolving door of the Majestic Hotel and run up to the front desk. An attractive middle-aged woman with flaming red hair tucked into a neat bun greeted him.

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“Hello, Encyclopedia! The big day is here at last, eh?”

“That’s right, Miss Graham.” Encyclopedia knew Miss Graham well, having solved “The Case of the Haunted Elevator” at the hotel only last June.

“Well, the festivities don’t begin till ten in the ballroom. I don’t think they’ve even finished setting up!”

“That’s okay.” Encyclopedia whispered in an awestruck voice, “I – I wondered if you could . . . t-tell me what room the – the Hardy Boys are staying in.”

Miss Graham smiled widely. “Why, they’re in room 602, young man. Top floor.” She gazed into the boy’s hopeful eyes. “You go right on up.”

The elevator whisked Encyclopedia to the top floor. He got out and faced a hallway with six doors. He walked nervously to Room 602 and fumbled with balancing the box so that he could free one arm. Then he knocked tentatively on the door.

It flew open, and an athletic boy of about sixteen with short blond hair looked at the visitor. His eyes widened in pleasure.

“No! It couldn’t be! You’re Encyclopedia Brown, aren’t you?”

“Um – yes, I am,” the sleuth gulped. The boy shot out an arm and shook Encyclopedia’s hand vigorously.

“Joe Hardy! It’s a pleasure to meet you. Come on in.” He ushered the boy in and quickly relieved him of the heavy box, which he set on the floor. “Hey, Frank, look who’s here!” A dark-haired lad of about seventeen was sitting at a table with a tall, fussy-looking white-haired woman who sipped a cup of tea through thin lips.

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“Encyclopedia Brown!” Frank walked over and lifted the younger boy up in a bear hug. “It’s nice to meet the sharpest sleuth in Idaville.”

“I’m glad to meet the greatest detectives from Bayport,” said Encyclopedia.

“What’s in the box?” asked Joe.

Encyclopedia blushed. “Well . . . I brought all 58 adventures that Franklin W. Dixon wrote about you. I was hoping you could sign them.” Frank and Joe looked at each other and burst out laughing.

“Well, alright, “ said Frank. “We’ll autograph your copies if you’ll sign these!” And he went to the side table between the twin beds and carried over a stack of 29 slim volumes, all bearing the authorial name, Donald J. Sobol and featuring Encyclopedia’s name in each title.

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All three boys laughed until the elderly lady cleared her throat and hushed them.

“This is our Aunt Gertrude, Encyclopedia,” said Joe. “She’s chaperoning us on this trip.”

“It’s nice to meet you, young man,” Aunt Gertrude sniffed. “But I suggest you boys curtail your mutual admiration society, sign each other’s books quickly and get downstairs. The celebration is about to start!”

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Joe (blond) and Frank (brunet)Hardy

Quickly, all three boys sat down and autographed furiously for a quarter of an hour. Then they jumped up and turned to go. Frank politely held the door open for his aunt. She preceded the trio of crime-solvers to the elevator and pushed the button.

“Nice town you’ve got here,” said Joe, in a slightly more impulsive tone than his brother. “ It reminds me of the hotel we stayed at in Mexico City when we solved The Mystery of the Aztec Warrior.”

“Gosh, that’s one of my favorite cases of yours.”

“Ours, too,” said Frank, “although we nearly lost our best friend, Chet Morton, during that one!”

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Wendy Carn

The elevator door opened, and a pretty girl of about sixteen with long brown hair gathered in a ponytail stood in front of them. She smiled and walked past them and then turned around and purred, “Hello, Joe.” Then she pulled a long key out of her purse, opened the door to the room next to the Hardys’ room, and walked in.

The boys followed Aunt Gertrude into the elevator, Joe’s face blushing a bright red all the way up to the roots of his blond hair.

Frank grinned. “That’s Wendy Carn. She’s in town visiting some friends. She seems to have developed an interest in Joe.”

Joe gave his brother’s arm a push. “Aw, Frank . . . c’mon.”

When they walked into the ballroom, people sitting in row after row of seats all turned to see who had come in. Then the crowd rose as one and burst into applause. A small, distinguished-looking man with greying hair hurried over to the guests of honor from the lectern at the front of the room. He shook hands with all three and bowed graciously to Aunt Gertrude, who simpered.

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Professor Brad Friedman

“Frank, Joe, this is Professor Friedman from Idaville University,” said Encyclopedia. “He teaches Children’s Literature and is also the President of the Tuesday Club Bloggers.”

“Not President, my boy,” scoffed the Professor modestly. “We are an egalitarian group of scholars dedicated to the study of classic criminal fiction. Although I will say that it was my idea to make this month’s topic a study of children in crime fiction.”

“Well, Professor,” said Frank mildly, “I don’t think Joe and I would consider ourselves children anymore. I’m seventeen.”

“Don’t contradict your elders, Frank Hardy,” sniffed Aunt Gertrude. “Besides, you’ll always be little boys to me,” she added with unaccustomed sentimentality.

“You have both thwarted more criminals than men twice your age,” said the Professor gallantly. He turned his attention to Encyclopedia. “And this one here –“ His eyes brimmed with emotion. “I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed his exploits. I used to send away for each new volume of Encyclopedia’s latest cases, and I would jump with joy when they appeared in the mail.” He clapped his hand on the boy’s shoulder, and a wave of understanding passed between them. Encyclopedia had met the Professor when he solved “The Case of the Purloined Thesis” two semesters ago, and they had remained fast friends.

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“Now it’s time to sit down and be honored, gentlemen,” said Professor Friedman. He returned to the lectern and gathered his notes.

Encyclopedia saw his mom and dad waving him over to the front row. He sat in the seat his parents had saved between them. The Hardy Boys and their aunt sat just a few seats away.

Professor Friedman began his lecture. He talked about the exploits of both Encyclopedia and the Hardys, how reading their published adventures had begun the learned man’s own love affair with mystery fiction. He sited some of his favorite adventures, such as the time Encyclopedia helped the blind violinist, Rafino de Verona keep his instrument by deducing how Hans Braun had slipped past him in a pitch-black room, opened a locked safe and replaced an empty glass with fresh ginger ale. Or the beginnings of the Hardy Boys adventures as detectives with the solving of a jewel robbery at Bayport’s Tower Mansion in 1927.

By the end of his testimonial, the Professor was weeping openly, and even Aunt Gertrude wiped a tear from her eye with a small lilac-scented lace handkerchief. The boys sat, all three of them, heads bowed in becoming humility. And then Mayor Wiggins himself stepped to the lectern and invited the three heroes up to receive keys to the city.

Professor Friedman whispered into Frank’s ear, “Say something to the crowd, young man.”

Modestly, Frank stepped forward and opened his mouth to thank the Mayor for this great honor. Suddenly, the double doors to the ballroom burst open. A bellhop entered and hurried over to Frank, a silver salver in his hand. On top of it was an unopened telegram!

Frank thanked the bellhop and made sure to give him a nickel tip. Then he tore open the telegram and pored over its contents. He looked up alertly towards his brother.

“It’s from Dad!”

“Gosh,” cried Joe impulsively. He looked over his brother’s shoulder and read the contents of the telegram. “Oh my goodness, Frank! What are we going to do?”

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Frank leaned over and spoke into the microphone. “Folks, I think I’d better read this to you all. Our father, the noted detective Fenton Hardy, has learned of a plot against the Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown.

The assembled audience gasped as one. Chief Brown jumped up and hurried over to his son, putting his arm around Encyclopedia’s shoulder protectively.

“May I?” He held out his hand and Frank handed the telegram over to the Chief. The guardian of the law read quickly and then leaned over to recite the contents into the microphone.

“Brace yourselves, boys, stop. Have received tip from underworld sources that you are targeted by unknown enemy, stop. Guard yourselves and your possessions with your lives, stop. Will call or telegram as further information received, stop. Note that Encyclopedia Brown’s name also mentioned, stop. Will call his father for assistance. Love, Dad.”

Chief Brown patted his son’s head reassuringly. “Let’s get you boys upstairs to wait this out.”

“Aw, dad – “Encyclopedia began.

“With all due respect, Chief – “ said dark-haired Frank and blond-haired Joe together.

“You will listen to the Chief,” said Aunt Gertrude sternly. “You will go upstairs and not play detective until we know what danger you are facing!”

The Chief ushered the three boys and Aunt Gertrude out of the ballroom as a nervous Professor Friedman tried to quell the rising concerns of the crowd. They headed past the front desk where Miss Graham looked up from sorting the mail with a raised eyebrow.

“Everything okay, Chief?” she asked.

“I hope so, Anne,” said Chief Brown. “We’re just going to head upstairs.” And the entourage turned toward the elevator.

“Oh, dear,” cried the hotel manager. “I’m afraid you can’t use the elevator just yet. It stopped working when the boys came down a half hour ago. Jonas is waiting for a part to come from Kimball’s and he’ll have it fixed right up.”

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“Then let’s get to solving this mystery,” cried Joe.

“Come on, dad,” said Encyclopedia.

Chief Brown looked at the three eager young men and then turned to Miss Graham.

“Are there stairs we can use?”

Miss Graham nodded. “The entrance to the staircase is over there. It’s locked but I’ll open it for you.” She scurried over to a small door, and Chief Brown and Aunt Gertrude pushed the reluctant detectives forward. Miss Graham opened the door and stepped aside for them.

“We don’t encourage use of the staircase, so I always keep the lobby door locked. I don’t think people take the stairs much from the upper floors anyway. As you can see, it’s quite dusty.”

Sure enough, a thick layer of dust lay undisturbed over the floor and steps, as well as on the railing. The boys began to trudge upstairs. Chief Brown turned to Aunt Gertrude.
“Wouldn’t you be more comfortable waiting in the ballroom, ma’am?”

“If you’re insinuating that I’m too old to climb a few stairs, young man – “ The spinster’s voice was tart. Chief Brown doffed his hat and urged the lady forward. Aunt Gertrude’s lips pursed in distaste as she grasped the railing and pulled back, her hands dark with grime. They all trudged in single file up to the sixth floor and walked down the hall to Room 602. They stopped abruptly.

The door to their room was ajar!!!!!

Chief Brown put his finger to his lips, pulled a small revolver from his holster and silently pushed the door open wide. He disappeared into the room, then came back a moment later and said, “The coast is clear.”

Everyone piled into the room and began to search. Aunt Gertrude made straight for the telephone and dialed the front desk. She demanded that as soon as the elevator was repaired room service was to bring up a pot of strong black tea, plenty of sugar, and five cups.

The Hardy Boys opened every drawer and in the room, went through the closet, and searched each piece of luggage. Aunt Gertrude hurried through the connecting door to Room 603 to examine her own luggage.

“Nothing seems to be missing,” said Frank, scratching his well-groomed dark hair in puzzlement.

“That’s very strange,” said Joe. “Who was in here then —–and why?!?!?”

“Hey, fellas – “ said Encyclopedia, staring at the bedside table.

“Just a minute, son,” said Chief Brown. “Did you boys bring anything valuable with you?” Frank and Joe shook their heads. “What about your aunt?”

Aunt Gertrude came into the room clutching a small reticule. “All of my cameos are intact, thank the Lord.” She sat down in weary relief.

“Uh, dad – “ Encyclopedia began again.

“Just a minute, Leroy,” said the Chief. He walked to the phone and dialed “O.”

“Leroy?!?” cried Joe, with a mischievous grin. Encyclopedia gave him a scornful look.

“Hello, Anne,” said the Chief. “Can you get me an outside line? I want to speak to Fenton Hardy in Bayport.” Encyclopedia stared at his father, still pointing to the bedside table. Chief Brown winked at his son and held up a finger. “Hello, Mr. Hardy? This is Chief Brown from Idaville.” He paused for a moment as a voice sounded over the receiver. He glanced at his son with a smile. “Yes, we’re very proud of him. You must feel the same way about your fine boys.”

Frank looked at Encyclopedia and then glanced over at the bedside table. His eyes became fixed.

“Well, we’re concerned about it, too, Fenton. As a matter of fact, we think someone broke into the boys’ hotel room. No, it doesn’t look like anything was taken.”

“Dad – “ cried Encyclopedia. Chief Brown held up his hand again.

“Chief!” Frank Hardy called out sharply. The police officer looked at Frank, and his face changed.

“Hold on a minute, Fenton.” He pressed the receiver to his chest and looked expectantly at the older Hardy brother.

“I think you should listen to your son, sir.” Frank gestured to Encyclopedia, who looked fit to burst.

“Dad, someone has stolen something from this room!”

Chief Brown’s thick eyebrows rose. “What was stolen, son?”

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“Our books!”

Joe jumped up from the table where he had been comforting Aunt Gertrude and strode to the bedside table. “Holy cow, he’s right!”

“What books?” asked the Chief.

“The complete set of Encyclopedia Brown stories and Hardy Boy adventures that we just autographed for each other!” said Encyclopedia with a gulp.

Chief Brown stared at his son and then slowly raised the receiver to his ear. “Did you hear that, Fenton?” The voice over the line squawked. Chief Brown nodded. “Uh huh.” He listened some more and nodded again. “That’s how I figured it. Sure, autographed first editions. They might be worth a pretty penny. Any idea who’s behind it?” He listened a moment, and his face looked troubled. “Well, yes, I do know someone, but – “ He glanced at Encyclopedia and then turned away, speaking quietly into the phone. After a few moments of hushed conversation, he hung up the receiver and stared into space, clearly unhappy about something.

All three boys burst into speech, peppering the Chief with questions until Aunt Gertrude rose to her full height and shushed them with an eye that said she meant it.

There was a quiet knock at the door. Frank went to answer it and admitted Miss Graham, who carried a tray with a tea service and a plate of cookies.

“I brought this up myself so that I could let you know that the elevator is working again.” She set the tea things on the round table where Aunt Gertrude sat. The spinster began to pour.

“Anne,” said the Chief. “Who else has a room on this floor?”

“Besides the Hardy boys and their aunt?” Miss Graham gazed thoughtfully into space and ticked off on her fingers. “In 601 next door, we have a young lady, Miss Carn, who’s in town for some sort of reunion.” Frank nudged Joe playfully. The blond boy blushed. “Professor Friedman has 604 across the hall. The guest in 605 is a Mr. Stratemeyer. Edward Stratemeyer. I believe he writes or publishes books.”

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The Chief looked sharply at his son and at the Hardy Boys. Then he turned gently to the hotel manager. “What about 606?”

“A traveling salesman occupies that room presently. A fellow by the name of Street. Otto Q. Street.” She smiled and made her exit. Chief Brown crossed to the door and shut it, then stared at the door thoughtfully. Finally, he turned and faced the other occupants of the room.

“Well, boys, we seem to have a dilemma here, one that will certainly require the assistance of three clever detectives.”

“What sort of dilemma, sir?” asked Frank.

“Someone has stolen the books that you signed, correct?” The three boys nodded. Aunt Gertrude’s head bobbed up and down as well as she nibbled on a cookie. “So while you were downstairs, someone must have broken into your room and stolen them. Who could that be?”

“It could be anyone who knew we were here,” cried Joe.

“That’s not exactly true,” said Frank. “Remember that the elevator was out of order from the time we stepped out of it this morning.” Nobody could have used it until it was fixed – and that was after we discovered the burglary of our books!”

“So the only way up and down the floors was through that stairway, which Miss Graham kept locked,” said Encyclopedia.

“That means only people who were above the lobby at the time could travel between floors,” said Joe.

“And the most likely suspects are the people who shared this floor,” said Frank. “They could have seen Encyclopedia come to visit and put two and two together.” Chief Brown nodded in agreement.

“I think you’re right, son. But your father has gotten new information from his underworld sources. It’s a name.”

“A name, dad?” asked Encyclopedia.

The Chief nodded. “A name of someone your father believes is responsible for any wrongdoing that might have occurred here today.” There was a pause.

“Well, out with it, man!” cried Aunt Gertrude. “What is this mysterious name?”

The Chief sighed. Then he said, “The name your father gave me was . . . Anne Graham!”

“Miss Graham?!?” gasped Encyclopedia. “I don’t believe it! Why, we’ve known Miss Graham for years, dad! She’s the nicest, most honest –“

“I know, son, I know.” The Chief frowned. “But there’s no getting around the fact that ‘Anne Graham’ is the name that Fenton Hardy was given.”

Everyone was silent for a moment. Then Frank Hardy spoke politely but firmly.

“I understand what you’re saying, sir. But adding the hotel manager to the list of suspects is not as easy as it sounds.”

The Chief gazed at the dark-haired detective with interest. “Explain yourself.”

Frank cleared his throat. “Well, sir . . . the elevator was broken, and the only way up to our room was the emergency stairs – “

“ – to which Miss Graham has the key,” Joe reminded his older brother.

“That’s true,” nodded Frank. “But remember the condition of the stairs? They had not been used in months. There was dust everywhere. Did we see any footprints on the floor or the steps? Was the dust disturbed on the railing?”

Everyone looked at each other. The Chief turned to Frank with dawning respect.

“That’s true. If Miss Graham took the stairs, how could she get up and down them without leaving some evidence of her journey?” He shook his head.

“Dad, why don’t we question the other occupants of the sixth floor?” said Encyclopedia.

“Good idea, son.”

*          *          *

The door to room 604 opened, and a distinguished man with a dapper moustached started in surprise at the crowd of people facing him from the hall.

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“May I help you?”

“Mr. Edward Stratemeyer?” asked the Chief.

“That’s me,” said the man.

“I’m Chief Brown, and I’m investigating a burglary that occurred across the hall sometime this morning. Did you happen to hear anything unusual?”

“I’m afraid not. I’ve been working in here all morning and nobody has been by except the maid.”

“You sent for the maid?” asked Joe.

“Well . . . no, not exactly. But I realized that I had no clean towels. I was about to call downstairs for some when I heard footsteps outside in the hall. I opened my door, and a maid was walking down the hall with several towels in her arms. I asked her if I could have any of them and she gave me one. Then I came back inside and continued my work.” He stared at Joe for a moment and then smiled. “Aren’t you Joe Hardy, the Bayport detective?”

Joe nodded. “How’d you know that, sir?”

The man’s eyes crinkled. “Why, I’m a publisher, young man. I happen to have published all of your books!”

Frank broke out into a grin. “Why, of course! Edward Stratemeyer!” The Hardy Boys shook hands with the man responsible for their widespread fame.

“If you published our books, then I guess you wouldn’t have any reason to steal them,” said Joe.

Mr. Stratemeyer cocked his head. “I don’t understand.” Chief Brown explained what had occurred. The publisher shook his head but offered to let the boys search his room. They did, but they found none of the missing books.

*          *          *

Encyclopedia knocked on the door of Room 606. For a long time there was no answer, then the door opened a crack. A beady brown eye glared through the crack at them.

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“Yes?” said a high-pitched reedy voice.

“I’m Chief Brown, and I’m investigating a burglary that occurred on this floor.”

The door opened, and a small, pale man with a nearly bald pate pulled himself up with what dignity he could muster, considering he was wearing a cheap suit and loud tie, and said, “I don’t know about anything like that.”

“Some property of these young men was pilfered from their room,” explained the Chief. “They would like to get their books back.”

“I don’t know anything about missing books,” said the little man curtly. “I trade in silverware.”

“Your name is Otto Q. Street?”

The man’s lip quivered suspiciously. “How do you know that?”

“What’s the Q stand for?” asked Encyclopedia.

Mr. Street glared at Encyclopedia, his nostrils quivering. “It’s just “Q,” young man. I happened to be born on the Q streetcar in Bayport, and my mater gave me that unique middle name.

The Hardy Boys glanced at each other. Mr. Street was from Bayport!

“Mr. Street, may we search your room?” asked the Chief.

“You certainly may not!” The man put his slippered foot against the door to block further entry. “As a member of the police force, you must be aware that you need a warrant to search these premises.”

Chief Brown nodded. “That’s right, sir. Very well, I’ll return later. With a warrant.”

“See that you do,” said the man as he slammed the door in their faces.

“What a nice fellow,” said Frank.

“He reminds me of someone,” said Encyclopedia. They turned and walked down the hall, and then the boy detective snapped his fingers. “Dad! I know who that man reminds me of. He looks exactly like Bugs Meany!” The Chief looked at his son doubtfully. “Well, it’s true. He’s the spitting image of Bugs – without any hair, of course.”

*          *          *

Frank pushed Joe forward and said with a grin, “You should knock on this next door.”

Joe glared at his brother, then he cautiously approached Room 601 and knocked. A musical voice chimed from behind the door.

“Just a minnnn-nnnute!” Presently, the door opened, and Miss Carn stood there wrapped in nothing but a large bath towel. Her skin was damp, and she wore a smaller towel wrapped around her head like a turban.

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“Why, Joe Hardy! Can’t you give a girl some advance warning? I was in the middle of having a bath!”

Joe’s face went crimson. ‘Er, . . . hi, Wendy. Um, . . . sorry to bother you, but –“

Even in her undressed state, Wendy’s perfect skin and wide eyes were enticing. “Well? Out with it, Mr. Hardy!”

Frank stepped forward and explained what had occurred. Wendy’s eyes took in the company with concern.

“That’s terrible. I’d like to help if I can. Come in for a minute and search if you’d like.”

Wendy gestured for the Chief and the boys to enter. Her room looked like a small hurricane had set down only moments ago. Clothes were strewn all about the floor. Every surface was littered with bottles and tubes of women’s necessities. Chief Brown surveyed the room, stepped over a silken negligee to open the closet door and peer in, checked a small trunk that Miss Carn had placed in a corner, nodded and smiled at the young lady.

“We’re sorry to have bothered you, Miss.” He ushered the boys out of the room. It took a little time to maneuver Joe out with the rest. Miss Carn’s eyes twinkled as she blew Joe a kiss goodbye.

Soon they were gathered in the Hardy suite, four detectives and a spinster with a teacup, all lost in thought. Finally, the Chief spoke:

“Here is our dilemma: Fenton Hardy’s source has named Anne Graham as the person responsible for any crime directed against you three boys. Not only have Encyclopedia and I known Miss Graham for years, during which we have come to like and trust her, but it seems impossible for her to have gotten upstairs during the only time the burglary could have been committed. That leaves the three people who share this floor with you.”

“What about Professor Friedman, dad?” asked Encyclopedia.

The Chief shook his head. “The Professor was downstairs all morning and within our sight during the entire time. Besides, the members of the Tuesday Club are all gifted scholars. They study crimes. They don’t commit them.” The Chief scratched his skull. “I have to confess it. I’m stumped.”

“Why don’t you all have a nice cup of tea and think on it for a while? Aunt Gertrude poured out and made sure everyone had a hot cup of tea and a cookie on each saucer. A profound silence descended on the room. Then Encyclopedia began to smile. A moment later, Frank Hardy’s face broke into a grin. A minute after that, Joe Hardy jumped up and cried, “Aw, jeepers!“

The Chief stared at the three grinning boys. “Don’t tell me you all know who the thief is!”

The three ace detectives, all of whom had introduced Professor Friedman to mystery fiction with their fabulous exploits, smiled and nodded together.

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Can YOU tell who the thief is? Where did the culprit hide the books, and why? The solution will be published in a few days. Meanwhile, all answers are welcome in the comment section below, and a copy of Franklin W. Dixon’s third Hardy Boy adventure, THE SECRET OF THE OLD MILL, (a used copy in good shape that I grew up with!) will be awarded and mailed to the first person who comes up with the who, where and why of this mystery. Good luck!

 This baffling case was written by Brad Friedman and inspired by the Tuesday Night Bloggers, who are discussing Children in Mysteries throughout the month of September.

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15 thoughts on “THE CASE OF THE VANISHING VOLUMES

  1. Bravo Brad! Sterling mystery indeed! I doubt I can figure out all or any of the questions (sure JJ or Santosh will figure it out) but I’ll have fun and give it a go anyways. As to who, I think it is Professor Brad Friedman (who certainly looks a lot like George Clooney) and the reason why is because who wouldn’t want a complete set of signed books by the Hardy Boys and Encyclopaedia Brown! The where/how is certainly the trickiest part but I think Professor Brad Friedman disguised himself as the maid and hide the books in the towels, hence the reason why the guest was only given one.
    And yes I don’t think I have got the solution right, but I loved reading your story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kate! Do you really think I would make myself the criminal??? Why, it’s as unlikely as trying to get people to believe i look like George Clooney!! I figure Santosh will get it right if he reads this. I wonder if JJ will fall into my trap!

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  2. My money’s on Miss Graham — if the elevator was broken then I can’t believe no-one left the hotel in the entire time the ceremony was on…since if someone had tried to leave they would have had to take the stairs and so they wouldn’t be dust covered; also, how does the tea get up to them? The presence of the tea shows the boys that the elevator was actually working and so Miss Graham was lying about it’s broken-ness.

    I mean, sure, the tea could have been carried up the stairs, but who would carry tea, five cups and saucers and a plate of cookies up five flights of stairs? No-one, that’s who!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed the story, JJ! I figured you’d go right for the impossible crime angle. I won’t tell you yet if you are correct, but I will answer the question of nobody using the elevator during the time in question. Where the heck would somebody need or want to GO in Idaville, USA???

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      1. Why, to the big-deal presentation that was being made downstairs, of course…it’s the only thing to happen there for months, and was always sure to be a massive draw.

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  3. Actually, I think it was Aunt Gertrude. She’s tired of shepherding the Hardy Boys and plans on selling those signed first editions and heading to a Caribbean island for a well-deserved (in her opinion) retirement. She hid the books in her voluminous knitting bag. What knitting bag, you say? Why, the one that all maiden aunts have, of course. (Which is my rather round-about way of saying–I have no idea. I’ll think on it and come back if I have a sudden burst of inspiration.

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    1. I was GONNA make it Aunt Gertrude, Bev, for the very reasons you suggested. Another spinster giving her life up to take care of selfish teenagers! If she HAD done it, I assure you she would have gotten away with it . . . 🙂

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  4. How long do we have to solve this? I’m baffled! You obviously missed your calling to be a kids’ mystery writer. Unless…you ARE…perhaps under a pseudonym?

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  5. Wendy Carn — shameless hussy — disguised as the maid stashed the books in the pile of towels then easily hid them in her disaster of a room. What a messy girl! I think she probably wanted to throw them in the bathtub but resisted. That bath story is all wet. Wendy just whipped off her maid disguise and put on the towels to fool the men and distract them with her near nudity. Always works. She’s seen plenty of Barbara Stanwyck movies. Besides she doesn’t really hate those boys. She just wish they’d *notice* her. Why steal the books? A little ego wounding, bring them back to Earth. Besides she’s just plain fed up with Joe playing detective and wished he’d play doctor. With her!

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  6. Here’s my guess before reading the solution and any other comment. The books where hidden in the elevator. Meaning the hotel manager was lying, when she said, that the elevator was out of order. She simply took the books while everyone else was upstairs. But that means she had to have an accomplice upstairs, who stored the books in the elevator. As to the accomplice, I can only guess. My guess is the young woman/girl, because she seemed the nicest. But I’m sure somewhere a clue was hidden.

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