Chapter Eight – Hotel Hideout
Someone inside the room punches the dude who mentioned the Super S, because he’s smart enough to realize it’s generally best to not openly discuss your evil plans.
“Suppose the Feds pick up where the gumshoe dropped out of the case?” (page 67)
Heh, gumshoe. Still, this villain is clearly unaware he’s in a Hardy Boys book, where the authorities never lift a finger to do anything until the final chapter after the Boys have put the entire case together and now need the fuzz to swoop in and arrest everyone.
The threesome sneak inside the hotel and make it back inside their room, where Fenton explains over a couple of pages how he was finagling his way inside the gang. It doesn’t sound very convincing, but then again, I’ve never had to work my way undercover into a gang. Still, I think typically you need some kind of ‘in’ rather than just bumping into a dude on the elevator.
They decide to continue pretending Fenton is dead. Nothing happens for a few pages and then the desk clerk bangs on the door and tells them that they have to get out, because they need the room! Cliffhanger!!!
I mean, it’s not really a cliffhanger, but when they end the chapter with an exclamation mark it’s a little confusing.
Chapter Nine – A Bug on a Wire
The clerk explains there was a mixup with the reservations, so they have to vacate because the hotel is full up and there’s no open rooms. The Boys agree to be out by noon and discuss plans with Fenton.
They head next door and knock on the door. No one answers, so Fenton picks the lock and then finds his bug in the room. They’re about to leave when Frank spots a copy of the Bayport Times sitting on there, which is odd, since why would someone from Baltimore need a copy of the Bayport Times? Fenton picks it up so they can catch up on the news and they leave. Brilliant idea, guys. Steal something left out in the open so it has a decent chance of tipping off the gang that someone was in their room.
They head up to the roof and peruse the newspaper. In the radio and TV section, someone has circled something in red pencil.
“That’s the local kilocycle number for Bayport radio,” Frank said. “The station plays hit tunes nearly round the clock as you can see from the program.” (page 79)
The disc jockey for that “kilocycle number” is Teddy Blaze, who is fairly new to the network. File that one under “obvious foreshadowing”.
Time passes. The gang shows up so the Hardys dangle their bug outside the window. There’s a random mention of heisting the empties, which in no way will become significant later. Eventually a gang member mentions the Bombay Boomerang, and then…a breeze kicks up and swings the bug over where it clanks against the window. Naturally, this is noticed immediately and the gang gets over to the window, opens it, and looks up before the Hardys have time to pull up their bug and duck out of sight, which sounds very likely. The entire gang heads for the roof.
The Boys tear a TV antenna off the roof and use it to block the door, so add wanton property damage to the list of the Boys’ achievements. They realize it won’t hold the gangsters long, so they only have one choice…leap across the alley to the building next door. Fenton jumps first, and then Frank. Finally Joe goes, but as his foot hits the edge he slips.
Below him lay a solid six-story drop and the hard pavement of the alley! (page 82)
Chapter Ten – The Disc Jockey’s Dog
Joe throws himself forward and manages to just catch the edge of the roof. Frank and Fenton grab his arms and haul him up.
“Thanks,” Joe panted. “I hope that’s my last cliff-hanger!” (page 83)
You and me both Joe, but I’m not hopeful.
They climb through a skylight door, jump into the elevator, and make their way outside, where who should they spot but Jack Wayne getting out of his car and walking into their hotel. The Hardys run across the street and climb in the backseat. After a bit, Jack comes back out and they whisper at him to actual casual and head for the airport.
When they arrive Fenton talks to the local police chief, who agrees to put the hotel under surveillance, and also spread the word to the news that Fenton Hardy has disappeared mysteriously. Then the trio jet back home.
The next day, the Boys hook up with their friends and ask them about that disc jockey, Teddy Blaze.
“He’s considered a groovy character,” Biff related. “Puts on platters with a real beat.” (page 88)
This is the problem with throwing a lot of slang into your writing. It becomes dated very, very quickly.
Chet mentions Blaze likes to talk to his dog Balto while on the air and it’s kind of weird. Frank finds this curious, so the Boys head in to see the disc jockey, who has orders that all his fans are to be admitted. This makes me suspect he doesn’t have that many fans.
The boys found Blaze in top form, or as Joe put it, “flip and insufferable!”
“You fellows look like refugees from the Bach brigade,” he gibed. “Are you beginning to see the light? Does my music provide you with spiritual sustenance?”
Frank was nonplused. “That’s not the kind of patter I expected,” he thought. “Hardly the lingo of the hep generation.” (page 89)
Some Googling of “Bach brigade” reveals no definitions that look remotely connected to what Blaze is talking about, but I guess it’s some kind of comment directed at people who aren’t fans of popular modern music. And apparently “hep” is slang for “hip” although I’m not sure why you need to change a letter to get slang.
Blaze casually asks the Boys what their famous father is up to, so the Boys casually say that their father has vanished under mysterious circumstances with no leads. But it’s no big deal:
“Perhaps we’ll have news of him later. I don’t really want to talk about it. Let’s get to the music!” (page 90)
Of course the Boys would much rather talk about some music (and pretend they’re interested because they have to write a paper for school about it) than the disappearance and possible death of their father. Yeah, there’s no possible way that would make anyone even slightly suspicious.
Joe asks Blaze if he uses intuition to pick what platters to play.
“Not entirely,” Blaze replied smugly. “Intelligence might be a better word. Look here. This is a list of the disks that are selling best around the country. I know what my millions of fans are going for each week, and I give it to them.” (page 90)
Wow. So he looks at what songs are the most popular and then he plays those songs? The man’s a fucking genius.
Frank chats Blaze up while Joe wanders around. He spots some fingerprints, so he pulls out his envelope of fingerprint powder that he always carries and dusts the print, then pulls out his miniature camera that he always carries and takes a picture of it. I’m not sure Joe understands the concept of ‘due process’.
They bid Blaze farewell and head by the police station to drop the picture of Blaze’s fingerprints. On the way home they turn on his show. Blaze rambles for awhile and mentions a message to his dog Balto:
“The next number is Flatfoot and the Flunkies. You don’t believe it? How suspicious can you get? Plenty. Sock it to’em. Right up here in Bayport. That’s the ticket!” (page 92)
Suspicious lack of cliffhanger.
Chapter Eleven – Patter in Code
I wonder what this chapter is about.
Frank realizes that what Blake said actually sounds like code. “Balto” could be “Baltimore” and “Flatfoot and the Flunkies” must be Fenton Hardy and the Boys, or possibly just a great name for a garage band. And “sock it to’em in Bayport” must be an order to deal with the Boys. Wow. That’s….possibly one of the greatest plans I’ve ever heard in my life. Why not communicate instructions for illegal activities to your gang by broadcasting them using easily deciphered code for EVERYONE TO LISTEN TO. Instead of…I dunno, picking up a fucking phone? Sending a goddamn bike courier? A gosh-darned telegraph?
The Hardys call their friends and ask them to listen to Blaze and try and figure out his coded messages. Suddenly Chet Morton’s car pulls up outside, but it turns out it’s not Chet and the gangster who stole Chet’s car tear-gases them, threatens them, and takes off. Isn’t it nice how much respect these criminals have for human life? Other gangs, sure, they’d just mow the Boys down with an AK-47, but not these guys.
They fly to Pittsburgh and meet up with Admiral Rodgers, who explains that all of the incredible investigative powers of the United States government has turned up exactly jack shit. But there’s a connection with India, so instead of sending a couple undercover FBI agents, the Admiral wants the Boys to check out a freighter from India that’s docking in Baltimore the next day.
The next day they start driving to Baltimore and listen to Teddy Blaze, who is playing a popular song. Fenton comments about how he doesn’t enjoy the music. Ah, those old fogeys! Finally the song ends.
Blaze came on with his breezy patter. At first everything seemed in order. He was talking the jargon of the trade, using the slang of the new generation to hold the attention of his audience (pages 100-101).
…right. I have no idea what the fuck this means…oh wait, the author of this book was 51 when he wrote this? Okay, that makes more sense.
Then Blaze mentions Balto, stealing, and the word “precious”. It’s very confusing for about half a page and then Fenton sits bolt upright because he remembered there’s a company in Baltimore named Precious Metals. Maybe the thieves are planning on stealing mercury! Maybe Fenton Hardy is actually Encyclopedia fucking Brown!
Chapter Twelve – Cemetary Search
Turns out in yet another stunning coincidence, Fenton happens to be friends with a dude who has an office in the building right across the street from Precious Metals, and his friend is totally willing to let the Hardys use his office. They buy a telescope and get situated. After awhile a suspicious truck comes in and parks, so the Hardys call the cops, confident in the fact that it takes a long time to steal flasks of mercury that weigh 135 pounds each – oh wait, the truck takes off a few minutes later. And the flasks are gone. Because they were actually sitting out in broad daylight. Seems like an odd place to store your valuable mercury, but what do I know?
Fenton Hardy has to take off for some reason or another, so the Boys investigate with the cops and Frank notices the footprints the gang left were very shallow, so they couldn’t have been carrying 135-pound flasks of mercury, which, okay, first actual bit of deductive reasoning we’ve had so far in this entire book.
The cops notice one of the tire treads looks extremely worn with a gash in it that might lead to a blowout, so they start calling service stations and eventually track the truck down to a cemetery. They walk around the cemetery for a bit and find the pile of flasks – completely empty. The mercury is gone!
Cliff – okay I’m getting bored with this.