A Sleuthing Trip
FRANK and Joe’s first stop was the Hardy garage. Looking in, they saw that only Mrs. Hardy’s car was there. Their father had taken his sedan to the airport and not brought it back.
“Dad’s not home!” Joe cried excitedly. “Now we’ll hear what the surprise is.” Dashing into the kitchen, he called, “Mother!”
“I’m upstairs, dear,” Mrs. Hardy called back.
The boys rushed up the front stairway two steps at a time. Their mother met them at the door of their bedroom. Smiling broadly, she pointed to a packed suitcase on Frank’s bed. The boys looked puzzled.
Next, from her dress pocket, Mrs. Hardy brought out two plane tickets and some dollar bills. She handed a ticket and half the money to each of her sons, saying, “Your father wants you to meet him in New York to help him on the case.”
Frank and Joe were speechless for a moment, then they grabbed their mother in a bear hug. “This is super!” Joe exclaimed. “What a surprise!”
Frank looked affectionately at his mother. “You sure were busy today-getting our plane tickets and money. I wish you were going too.”
Mrs. Hardy laughed. “When I go to New York for a week end I want to have fun with you boys, not trot around to police stations and thieves’ hide-outs!” she teased. “I’ll go some other time. Well, let’s hurry downstairs. There’s a snack ready for you. Then I’ll drive my detective sons to the airport.”
In less than two hours the boys were on the plane to New York City. Upon landing there, they were met by Mr. Hardy. He took them to his hotel, where he had engaged an adjoining room for them. It was not until the doors were closed that he brought up the subject of the mystery.
“The case has taken an interesting turn, and may involve considerable research. That’s why I thought you might help me.”
“Tell us what has happened so far,” Frank requested eagerly.
Mr. Hardy said that immediately upon arriving in the city he had gone to the office of the company which had manufactured the red wig. After sending in his card to the manager he had been admitted readily.
“That’s because the name of Fenton Hardy is known from the Atlantic to the Pacific!” Joe interjected proudly.
The detective gave his son a wink and went on with the story. “ ‘Some of our customers in trouble, Mr. Hardy?’ the manager asked me when I laid the red wig on his desk.
“ ‘Not yet,’ I said. ‘But one of them may be if I can trace the purchaser of this wig.’
“The manager picked it up. He inspected it carefully and frowned. ‘We sell mainly to an exclusive theatrical trade. I hope none of the actors has done anything wrong.’
“ ‘Can you tell me who bought this one?’ I asked.
“ ‘We make wigs only to order,’ the manager said. He pressed a button at the side of his desk. A boy came and departed with a written message. ‘It may be difficult. This wig is not a new one. In fact, I would say it was fashioned about two years ago.’
“ ‘A long time. But still-‘ I encouraged him,” the detective went on. “In a few minutes a bespectacled elderly man shuffled into the office in response to the manager’s summons.
“ ‘Kauffman, here,’ the manager said, ‘is our expert. What he doesn’t know about wigs isn’t worth knowing.’ Then, turning to the old man, he handed him the red wig. ‘Remember it, Kauffman?’
“The old man looked at it doubtfully. Then he gazed at the ceiling. ‘Red wig-red wig-‘ he muttered.
“ ‘About two years old, isn’t it?’ the manager prompted.
“ ‘Not quite. Year’n a half, I’d say. Looks like a comedy-character type. Wait’11 I think. There ain’t been so many of our customers playin’ that kind of a part inside a year and a half. Let’s see. Let’s see.’ The old man paced up and down the office, muttering names under his breath. Suddenly he stopped, snapping his fingers.
“ ‘I have it,’ he said. ‘It must have been Morley who bought that wig. That’s who it was! Harold Morley. He’s playin’ in Shakespearean repertoire with Hamlin’s company. Very fussy about his wigs. Has to have ‘em just so. I remember he bought this one, because he came in here about a month ago and ordered another like it.’
“ ‘Why would he do that?’ I asked him.
“Kauffman shrugged his shoulders. ‘Ain’t none of my business. Lots of actors keep a double set of wigs. Morley’s playin’ down at the Crescent Theater right now. Call him up.’
“ ‘I’ll go and see him,’ I told the men. And that’s just what we’ll do, Frank and Joe, after a bite of supper.”
“You don’t think this actor is the thief, do you?” Frank asked in amazement. “How could he have gone back and forth to Bayport so quickly? And isn’t he playing here in town every night?”
Mr. Hardy admitted that he too was puzzled. He was certain Morley was not the man who had worn the wig on the day the jalopy was stolen, for the Shakespearean company had been playing a three weeks’ run in New York. It was improbable, in any case, that the actor was a thief.
The three Hardys arrived at Mr. Morley’s dressing room half an hour before curtain time. Mr. Hardy presented his card to a suspicious doorman at the Crescent, but he and his sons were finally admitted backstage and shown down a brilliantly lighted corridor to the dressing room of Harold Morley. It was a snug place, with pictures on the walls, a potted plant in the window overlooking the alleyway, and a rug on the floor.
Seated before a mirror with electric lights at either side was a stout little man, almost totally bald. He was diligently rubbing creamy stage make-up on his face. He did not turn around, but eyed his visitors in the mirror, casually telling them to sit down. Mr. Hardy took the only chair. The boys squatted on the floor.
“Often heard of you, Mr. Hardy,” the actor said in a surprisingly deep voice that had a comical effect in contrast to his diminutive appearance. “Glad to meet you. What kind of call is this? Social -or professional?”
Morley continued rubbing the make-up on his jowls. “Out with it,” he said briefly.
“Ever see this wig before?” Mr. Hardy asked him, laying the hair piece on the make-up table.
Morley turned from the mirror, and an expression of delight crossed his plump countenance. “Well, I’ll say I’ve seen it before!” he declared. “Old Kauffman-the best wigmaker in the country -made this for me about a year and a half ago. Where did you get it? I sure didn’t think I’d ever see this red wig again.”
“Stolen from me. Some low-down sneak got in here and cleaned out my dressing room one night during the performance. Nerviest thing I ever heard of. Came right in here while I was doing my stuff out front, grabbed my watch and money and a diamond ring I had lying by the mirror, took this wig and a couple of others that were around, and beat it. Nobody saw him come or go. Must have got in by that window.”
Morley talked in short, rapid sentences, and there was no mistaking his sincerity.
“All the wigs were red,” he stated. “I didn’t worry so much about the other wigs, because they were for old plays, but this one was being used right along. Kauffman made it specially for me. I had to get him to make another. But say-where did you find it?”
“Oh, my sons located it during some detective work we’re on. The crook left this behind. I was trying to trace him by it.”
Morley did not inquire further. “That’s all the help I can give you,” he said. “The police never did learn who cleaned out my dressing room,”
“Too bad. Well, I’ll probably get him some other way. Give me a list and description of the articles he took from you. Probably I can trace him through that.”
“Glad to,” said Morley. He reached into a drawer and drew out a sheet of paper which he handed to the detective. “That’s the same list I gave the police when I reported the robbery. Number of the watch, and everything. I didn’t bother to mention the wigs. Figured they wouldn’t be in any condition to wear if I did get them back.”
Mr. Hardy folded the list and put it in his pocket. Morley glanced at his watch, lying face up beside the mirror, and gave an exclamation. “Suffering Sebastopol! Curtain in five minutes and I’m not half made up yet. Excuse me, folks, but I’ve got to get on my horse. In this business I’ll be ready in a minute’ doesn’t go.”
He seized a stick of grease paint and feverishly resumed the task of altering his appearance to that of the character he was portraying at that evening’s performance. Mr. Hardy and his sons left. They made their way out to the street.
“Not much luck there,” Frank commented.
“Except through Mr. Morley’s stolen jewelry,” his father reminded him. “If that’s located in a pawnshop, it may lead to the thief. Well, boys, would you like to go into the theater via the front entrance and see the show?”
“Yes, Dad,” the brothers replied, and Joe added, “Tomorrow we’ll try to find out the name and address of the thief through his coat and hat?”
“Right,” the detective said.
The Hardys enjoyed the performance of The Merchant of Venice with Mr. Morley as Launcelot Gobbo, and laughed hilariously at his comedy and gestures.
The next morning the detective and his sons visited the store from which the thief’s jacket and hat had been purchased. They were told that the styles were three years out of date and there was no way to tell who had bought them.
“The articles,” the head of the men’s suit department suggested, “may have been picked up more recently at a secondhand clothing store.” The Hardys thanked him and left.
“All this trip for nothing.” Joe gave a sigh.
His father laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “A good detective,” he said, “never sighs with discouragement nor becomes impatient. It took years of persistence to solve some famous cases.”
He suggested that their next effort be devoted to doing some research in the city’s police files. Since Mr. Hardy had formerly been a member of the New York City detective force, he was permitted to search the records at any time.
Frank and Joe accompanied him to headquarters and the work began. First came a run-down on any known New York criminals who used disguises. Of these men, the Hardys took the reports on the ones who were thin and of medium height.
Next came a check by telephone on the whereabouts of these people. All could be accounted for as working some distance from Bayport at the time of the thefts, with one exception.
“I’ll bet he’s our man!” Frank exclaimed. “But where is he now?”