Part Three

Chapter Thirteen – Aboard the Indian Freighter

The Boys realize the mercury flasks must have been empty all along, which explains that phrase ‘heisting the empties’ they overheard. Joe exposits that the mercury must have been stolen earlier and that the thieves only stole the flasks to throw the authorities off the track. Now, that’s actually not that bad of a plan. The only flaw I see is people never noticing…you know, that the flasks are empty? Sure, they use machinery for most of this stuff, but the book states there’s fifty flasks per pallet. We’re talking a weight difference of about 6,700 pounds, which is kind of noticeable.

The Boys head to the dockyard to investigate the freighter, where they’re welcomed aboard. A huge bale of jute falls, but they dodge out of the way and narrowly avoid being crushed to death, so it was probably just an accident.

They meet up with the chief officer, Jal, who promised to investigate the ‘accident’, and then shows them around the ship. The Boys notice a suspicious-looking guy who is doing a poor job of following them. They stand next to the hold looking down into the ship, and Joe stands on some rope. Then someone jerks the other end of the rope, which sends Joe flying down into the hold!

Joe seems to be spending a lot of time falling in this book.

Chapter Fourteen – Down the Hatch

But Joe snags a cable on the way down and is completely unharmed. Whew! For a minute there I was worried that one of the Boys was actually in danger of being injured, or, god forbid, killed.

Jal is not happy:

“This is an outrage!” he declared, and there were both anger and fear in his voice. “I intend to find out at once who pulled the rope that tripped this boy! If it was deliberate, he is a murderer!” (page 122)

Not to split hairs or anything, but actually that would make him an attempted murderer. Also, that should be “was both anger and fear.”

Jal can’t find the suspicious-looking dude though, so the Boys head back to their hotel room to discuss things. Soon there’s a thump outside the door: someone has left them a cask lid…the same one Fenton was stuffed inside. There’s a message painted on it:


It’s like this gang is a bunch of schoolyard bullies. And they want to make the Boys eat grasshoppers or something.

Suddenly Phil Cohen and Tony Prito show up, otherwise known as the Jew and the Italian of the Boys’ friends. Evidently they have nothing better to do than drive off to Baltimore to help them on another of their wacky adventures.

“Seems as if we’re going to get a piece of real good action!” Phil declared (page 126).

That’s what she said.

Frank and Joe go to place a phone call, because there isn’t a phone inside the hotel room, because this is 1970. As they’re heading back, they see a guy climbing the fire escape towards their room. So Joe runs inside, grabs the lobby phone, and warns Phil and Tony…by calling the phone in their room. Okay. Meanwhile, Frank climbs up the fire escape. The guy gets inside the room, where he fights Phil and Tony, eventually breaks free, and climbs out onto the fire escape, where he’s promptly tackled by Frank.

Clutched in deadly embrace the two rolled toward the edge of the landing, and toward nine stories of empty space beneath them! (page 128)

I’m pretty sure fire escapes have railings. Also, Vincent, you do realize that just because you have to end each chapter on a cliffhanger, that doesn’t necessarily mean they actually have to be about to fall off something and die.

Chapter Fifteen – Sailor Suspect

Frank grabs a bar and stops them. Whew! Close one. Then he knocks the other guy out with a couple punches, probably fracturing a few metacarpals in the process.

They haul the man inside the room and frisk him, relieving him of a dagger from the Orient. The Boys recognize him as one of the sailors from the freighter. After a few minutes he wakes up, and introduces himself as Nathoo, which reminds me of Kipling for some reason.

Nathoo explains he came there to murder the shit out of the Hardys because they committed sacrilege by defacing a statue of Krishna. Now, I’m not exactly an expert on Krishna, so I have no idea of Krishna’s followers are into murdering people who deface statues of their god so I can’t really comment on that.

The Boys point out that they haven’t defaced anything [except for the TV antenna on that one building] and question Nathoo, who explains that some random dude told him he saw the Boys defacing the statue. Nathoo’s description of the man matches the suspicious looking dude on the freighter.

“You mean he is an enemy of yours?” Nathoo asked in amazement. “He insisted that he had no interest in you personally. He was concerned, he said, about nothing except punishing you for the sacrilege you committed.”

“Why didn’t he punish us himself?” Joe inquired.

“He told me he was not a Hindu.”

“Then why does he want to avenge a Hindu god?”

Nathoo Keeka looked troubled. He folded his hands across his chest. “I see that I have been grossly deceived.” (page 132)

Curse your unassailable white American logic! If only I wasn’t a poor uneducated foreigner I could have seen through these ridiculously stupid lies!

Nathoo apologizes and says he will not resist if they want to call the cops, but the Boys decide to let him go because what’s a little accidental attempted murder? Nathoo agrees to help them. Frank asks about the Bombay Boomerang, and Nathoo asks if he maybe is referring to the Bombay Batarang…which is another freighter scheduled to dock that afternoon!

It isn’t that exciting, but it does end on an exclamation mark, so my pulse is pounding.

Chapter Sixteen – Boomerang or Batarang?

The Boys decide to split forces to investigate the Batarang: Joe, Nathoo, and Phil will go aboard while Frank and Tony patrol the docks, and they’ll meet at dawn.

They go aboard and walk around and a dude named Luckman Kann acts suspicious and then Phil is separated from Joe and Nathoo and gets bashed over the head and knocked unconscious. Head trauma!

Chapter Seventeen – Precious Wreck

Phil wakes up and he’s put to bed in the captain’s room to recover instead of being taken to the hospital.

We jump back to Frank and Tony who watch some guys unload a wreck of a car. Then a series of guys come up holding extremely heavy flasks that they start pouring into the gas tank through a funnel. Frank realizes that the gar must have a modified extra-large gas tank specifically for hauling mercury around. Which is both a brilliant and totally foolproof plan.

The gang finishes and disappears and Frank heads off the call the cops, who arrive and stake out the area. After a while two thugs come to tow the car away and are promptly apprehended, with help from a flying tackle by Tony and assistance from Frank, because cops let teenagers assist them in the takedown of dangerous criminals. And they turn out to be the two hoods (hah, hoods) from Bayport! I don’t know why this is so exciting! You mean the criminals from earlier in the book are still criminals? Holy fuck!

Chapter Eighteen – Joe Leaves a Clue

The criminals are hauled away and Frank explains to the captain that by now, it’s past dawn, and Joe and Nathoo and Phil aren’t back yet, which pretty much means they ran into trouble on the freighter. Naturally, the police captain offers to send his men aboard the freighter. But Frank has a better plan: he and Tony will go aboard alone, and if the cops don’t hear from them in a few hours, the captain sends in the cavalry. The captain immediately agrees, because when there’s evidence that several naïve yet wholesome teenagers who enjoy playing vigilante were brutally murdered at the hands of an international crime syndicate, why not just send in a couple more naïve yet wholesome teenagers who enjoy playing vigilante aboard the ship to get them murdered as well? How could that possibly go wrong?

They board the ship and chat with the captain, who is horrified people have been stealing mercury from under his nose. Phil is still around with a headache, but Joe and Nathoo are gone.

They search the dock and find Joe’s belt pointing towards where a barge was moored, and figure out the barge has gone to a warehouse. Tony and Phil stay outside and Frank sneaks inside the warehouse where he runs into Joe, who explains they were tailing Luckman Kann, who’s dirty as fuck, and Nathoo was captured.

They hear screams and go on to find Nathoo tied to a chair being beaten by his captors. Eventually the gang decides to give Nathoo some cement boots, and then a mastiff shows up out of nowhere and charges the Boys!

Chapter Nineteen – The Nerve-Gas Plot

In keeping with this book’s theme of resolving cliffhangers within the first two sentences of the next chapter, one of the gang members shoots the dog and saves the Boys.

“You fool!” a voice rasped. “Why did you shoot? The watchdog would have killed them for us. Now we’ll have to do the job ourselves!” (page 163)

He kind’ve has a point. That was a really stupid thing to do.

Things are very tense for several tense minutes while the gang finally pulls their heads from their collective asses and starts shooting at the Boys, but they evidently suffer from Stormtrooper Syndrome and can’t hit shit, so the Boys escape and who should show up but a group of policemen who arrest everyone. Nathoo isn’t seriously injured despite being tied to a chair and beaten savagely, and he’s even willing to testify against the criminals! Tony and Phil head home and Frank and Joe peace out to Washington, D.C. with daddy dearest.

Fenton explains that Teddy Blaze has a criminal record and they think he’s the ringleader of a gang of thieves.

They meet the admiral, who is so impressed with all the evidence the Boys have found…hang on, what evidence? They got some criminals arrested who may or may not have been stealing mercury, but there’s no real physical evidence to connect them to the crime, so any competent defense attorney will get them off. And they figured out that Teddy Blaze might be connected to the criminals and using his radio show to communicate, but there’s no evidence connecting him, either. So they really have nothing.

Anyway, all of the evidence has convinced the admiral to tell the Boys all of the national security secrets. Turns out the government is keeping nerve gas stored underground in Colorado. Long complex story, but the executive summary is that the criminals will use the Super S missile to bomb the underground base in Colorado and release the nerve gas!!!

Frank and Joe realize that instead of Bombay Boomerang, it must mean Bomb Bay Boomerang, because the Super S is released from an airplane, which is great except that makes absolutely no fucking sense in any context that the criminals have used it anywhere in this book.

Mr. Hardy spoke up. “Boomerang also makes sense. The whole operation has been planned to make the nerve gas boomerang on the United States. It’s a great code word!” (page 168)

No, that’s a horribly fucking stupid code word. Code words should have NOTHING to do with the actual operation. Name it Operation Lasagna or something.

The admiral orders a car for the Hardys to take them to the airport, but as they drive…they realize the driver and the guy with him are actually criminals! Not again!

Chapter Twenty – Secret in the Air

One of the kidnappers pulls out a pencil gun. They explain that they’re taking the Hardys to a funeral. THEIR OWN FUNERAL.

“I would like to register a protest.” Joe was talking tongue-in-cheek (page 172).

Yeah, I think we get that from the context and the dialogue.

Since it’s the last chapter, the Hardys start quizzing the criminals, who are only too happy to reveal their master plan, since, after all, the Hardys are as good as dead. They exposit that after the nerve gas gets out, everyone will start rioting and the U.S. government will be overthrown. Which seems a little unlikely, but hey, what do I know?

The driver turns on the radio and they all listen to a little Teddy Blaze, who reveals in code that the Super S will be leaving Bayport that night for Colorado. Teddy Blaze being the type of guy who tells everyone in his organization about his master plans to wipe out everyone in the state of Colorado.

Joe slumps down and then suddenly karate-kicks the thug holding the gun into the dashboard. I’m not sure how you karate-kick someone through a glass partition in a limo, but fair enough. Fenton reaches through and grabs the driver’s arm and steers them successfully into a tree. Not wearing any seatbelts, Frank and Joe are of course thrown clear, completely unharmed, but the thugs and Fenton are knocked unconscious.

Moments later a patrol car screams up because the admiral realized they were being kidnapped. And the Hardys fly home. They talk about what they should do and decide to go home and chill out for a bit, then head to the airport at eleven, which will give them plenty of time to stop the take-off at midnight.

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

Let’s recap: they know who the criminals are. They know where the Super S missile is being stored (Teddy Blaze’s garage). They know where the criminals are planning to take off from. They could call in all the artillery they wanted to arrest everyone and be abso-fucking-lutely certain that everything goes off without a hitch and there’s no chance that criminals wipe the state of Colorado clean off the fucking map.

But instead they go home and chill out until Admiral Rodgers calls and says the flight got moved up. OH NO.

Chet shows up with a shitload of boomerangs and they all take off for the airport and drive right out onto the runway because in 1970 that was pretty easy. The plane is already gathering speed for takeoff, so the Boys and Chet grab boomerangs and start firing them at the jet. A few get sucked into the intake and the engine quits and comes to a halt. See, I knew boomerangs would somehow be relevant to the plot!

Teddy Blaze, glowering furiously, shook his fists at the boys through the window (page 178)

Well golly, isn’t he an angry cupcake. Although I don’t think you could actually see that from that far away through a tiny airplane window.

FBI agents arrive and arrest everyone. The Hardys learn that a foreign power was behind it all, but the Admiral can’t say which. And the Hardys will get a recommendation from the Defense Department for their services. Probably even Chet, since his boomerangs saved Colorado from the Hardy’s incompetence.

And that’s the end. Hooray!


  One Response to “Part Three”

  1. Ah, now I understand why even as a young child I could never finish a single Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. (Well, to be fair, you’re not sporking Nancy Drew, but my impression of her is kind of the same thing.) They’re kind of…boring. Even the sporking couldn’t un-boring this book for me. I’m not really sure how one manages to be bored by an operation to steal a missile and bomb the heck out of Colorado, but by golly I…


    Haaaang on a second. So, did the mercury-stealing guys have any link to the missile guys?! (It’s late and, like I say, I was bored, so pardon me if I missed this, but it seems like they were two different people entirely and the mercury guys were shoehorned in there to make the book the required Hardy Boys length.) Good grief. How sloppy do you get?

    And it’s not like I couldn’t appreciate plots like this. Right around the same time as I was trying to read HB/ND because I’d heard about them all my life, I was also devouring the Tintin comics, which always center around some plot like this, and loving every second. Of course, that could have something to do with the fact that Tintin has believable dialogue (seriously, “He’s considered a groovy character”? What? Who uses a phrasing like that?), lovable characters who exist as people and not plot devices (besides Tintin himself, but Hergé created him that way on purpose, and it works better in comic format), and villains who are actually threatening most of the time. True, Tintin probably helped in the popularizing of the Tap On The Head trope, but it also features a lot of cartoonish elements, so it’s somewhat justified.

    Yeah, my point being that it wasn’t the plots of the HB books that I couldn’t get into, because I never read far enough to find out what the plots were. I just got bored by the wooden-ness.

    Thanks for sporking and letting me know that I wasn’t really missing anything.