The Secret of the Crooked Cat - Arden William - Страница 1
The Three Investigators
The Secret of the Crooked Cat
A Word from Alfred Hitchcock
Welcome, mystery lovers! It is my pleasure once again to introduce the trio of lads who call themselves The Three Investigators. “We Investigate Anything” is their motto — and so they do, whether invited to or not. That is why, presumably, they started snooping about an accident-prone carnival, poking their noses into other people’s mysterious business, ferreting out the secret of a stuffed cat, eavesdropping — But I am wrong to denigrate their youthful enthusiasm. They are good lads, if a trifle over-curious. In case you are meeting them for the first time, I should tell you that Jupiter Jones, the overweight leader of The Three Investigators, is known for his remarkable brain power. Pete Crenshaw is tall and muscular and excels at athletics. Bob Andrews, the smallest of the three, attends to research and keeps records for the group, but has the courage of a lion when danger threatens.
All three make their home in Rocky Beach, a small municipality in California a few miles from Hollywood, Their Headquarters is a mobile home trailer in The Jones Salvage Yard, a super junkyard owned by Jupiter’s aunt and uncle.
If The Three Investigators had stopped to think that the mysterious crooked cat was leading them into their thirteenth case, they might have been less nosey. Bad luck attended them throughout — but I will say no more I am sure you are anxious to dispense with this preview and proceed to the main feature.
On an afternoon in early September, Jupiter Jones and Pete Crenshaw were busily working in Jupiter’s workshop in The Jones Salvage Yard. To be honest, Jupiter was working while Pete watched, and it was Pete who first saw Uncle Titus Jones staggering up to them carrying two big wooden tubs.
“Boys,” Uncle Titus announced as he plunked down the two tubs in front of them, “I have a job for you. I want these tubs painted in red, white and blue stripes!”
Pete gaped at the tubs. “Stripes on washtubs?”
“You mean right this minute, Uncle Titus?” Jupiter asked.
The stocky boy looked glumly at the array of tiny electronic parts on his workbench.
“Jupe’s building a new thingamajig for The Three Investigators,” Pete explained to Uncle Titus.
“A new invention, eh?” Uncle Titus said, momentarily distracted from his washtubs. “What is it, Pete?”
“Who knows? Gosh, you know Jupiter,” Pete exclaimed. “I’m just the helper. Who tells me anything?”
Jupiter, the First Investigator of the boys’ junior detective firm, liked to keep his inventions secret until he was sure that they would work. He hated to fail. He also hated to stop one of his projects before it was finished.
“Couldn’t we paint the tubs later, Uncle Titus?” he now asked unhappily.
“No, they must be ready for tonight. Of course, if you boys are so busy, I could ask Hans or Konrad to paint them.” Uncle Titus was referring to the big Bavarian brothers who helped in the yard. His eyes twinkled suddenly. “But then they’d deliver the tubs, too. That would be only fair.”
Jupiter became alert. “Is there something special about who bought the tubs, Uncle Titus?”
“I know,” Pete said. “It’s a patriotic laundry!”
“Or holiday boats for midgets!” Jupiter chimed in.
Uncle Titus grinned. “What would you say if I said they were seats for a lion?”
“Oh, sure,” Pete said with a laugh. “Every lion needs a red, white and blue easy chair.”
Jupiter stopped laughing. A sudden light dawned in his eyes. “Of course! Turned upside down and painted, those tubs would be perfect as seats for a lion in a circus!”
“Wow! A circus!” Pete exclaimed. “Maybe they’d show us round if we deliver the tubs.”
Uncle Titus chuckled at the effect of his news. “Well now, boys, it’s not a real circus, just a carnival. But it does have performing shows as well as rides and games. It opened here in Rocky Beach last night. The lion trainer lost the pedestals for his trained lion in a fire or something. When he couldn’t find any pedestals in town, he phoned us, and I thought of the tubs!”
Uncle Titus beamed happily. He always boasted that The Jones Salvage Yard had almost everything in its piles of junk, and nothing pleased him more than to have some seemingly useless item prove valuable to someone.
“A carnival,” Jupiter pronounced, “is a most unique and fascinating organization with ancient origins.”
“I guess you mean it’s fun, Jupe,” Pete said with a groan. The Second Investigator didn’t always understand Jupiter’s way of speaking. “Carson’s Colossal Carnival! I remember now. I saw it being set up on that big piece of ground on the waterfront next to the old amusement park they closed down.”
“Maybe we could go behind the scenes,” Jupiter said.
“Then what are we waiting for, Jupe?” Pete cried. “I’ll get the paint, you get the spray guns.”
The boys went to work with a will, and half an hour later the tubs were painted. While they were drying, Jupiter and Pete went into their secret Headquarters to see how much money they had to spend at the carnival.
Headquarters was an old mobile home trailer, completely hidden behind mounds of junk in a remote corner of the yard. The boys could only enter by secret passages through the junk. By now everyone else had forgotten the trailer was there.
When the tubs were ready, Pete cycled to the Rocky Beach Public Library to tell Bob Andrews about the carnival. Bob, the Records and Research man of The three Investigators, worked part-time at the library during the summer. Bob was as much excited by the plans as Pete and Jupiter, and rushed home as soon as he was off duty. All three boys hurried through their dinners. By seven-thirty they were on their way, with the painted tubs balanced precariously on two of their bicycles.
While they were still some streets away, they could see the sagging towers and crumbling old roller coaster of the abandoned amusement park next to the carnival. The carnival itself was pitched on vacant ground beside the ocean. It wasn’t yet open. Tents and wooden booths lined both sides of two wide pathways inside a temporary fence. Lights blazed in the early twilight, and the music of the carousel played to entice the crowd. The empty Ferris wheel was already turning. Two clowns cavorted along one of the paths. Everyone was warming up for the opening.
The boys located the lion trainer’s tent, emblazoned with a gaudy red banner that proclaimed: The Great Ivan and Rajah — The World’s Greatest Performing Lion!! As they entered, a tall man in a bright blue uniform and gleaming black boots hurried towards them, his fierce moustache bristling.
“So, the tubs! Perfect! Give them to me!”
“The Jones Salvage Yard has what you want,” Jupiter said, announcing Uncle Titus’s slogan for the yard.
The Great Ivan laughed. “That sounds like one of our barkers, young man.”
“What’s a barker, sir?” Pete asked.
“Well, son, suppose you try to guess,” The Great Ivan said.
“I’ll bet Jupe knows,” Bob declared.
Both Bob and Pete had learned that Jupiter usually knew a little about everything, and the stocky leader of the trio wasn’t bashful about telling what he knew.
“A barker,” Jupiter now pronounced, “is a man who stands outside a circus or carnival sideshow and tells people how exciting it is inside. You could say it was an ancient form of advertising.”