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DANGER ON VAMPIRE TRAIL
AN assignment from their famous detective father to track down a ring of credit-card counterfeiters takes Frank and Joe Hardy on an exciting camping trip to the Rocky Mountains.
The cross-country trek with their pals Chet Morton and Biff Hooper is jinxed from the very first day. Trouble with their tent trailer is compounded by vicious harassments all the way to Colorado. Here their enemies strike at Biff's lovable bloodhound in another attempt to scare the teen-age detectives off the case. In Denver a skein of clues confuses the Hardys. How many gangs are out to get themâone, two, or three?
Strange happenings on a nearly impassable moun. tain lure Frank, Joe, Chet, and Biff to almost certain death before they discover the sinister reason for the danger on Vampire Trail.
Frank saw the robed figure of a man
Copyright Â©1971 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
Published by Grosset & Dunlap, Inc., a member of The Putnam & Grosset
Group, New York. Published simultaneously in Canada. S.A.
THE HARDY BOYSÂ® is a registered trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
GROSSET & DUNLAP is a trademark of Grosset & Dunlap, Inc.
eISBN : 978-1-101-07663-7
“Do you boys feel up to tackling a counterfeit case?” Detective Fenton Hardy asked his sons. He looked at eighteen-year-old, dark-haired Frank and then at blond, seventeen-year-old Joe. They were seated in comfortable leather chairs in their famous father's study.
Frank grinned. “Of course, Dad! Well tackle anything from flying fullbacks to dangerous crooks. What's the scoop?”
“A strange one,” Mr. Hardy replied. “A gang is counterfeiting the famous Magnacard.”
“The so-called millionaire's charge card?”
“Yes. No questions asked on purchases or ready cash up to ten thousand dollars.”
“How can we help?” Joe wanted to know.
“By taking over the entire assignment. I've been asked to handle a high-priority case for the government.”
Frank and Joe had assisted their father in solving many cases. The first one was the mystery of
The Tower Treasure,
and in their most recent caper,
The Bombay Boomerang,
the boys had saved Mr. Hardy's life.
The responsibility of a sleuthing job always gave Frank and Joe a tingling of excitement.
“Well?” Fenton Hardy said, his lips curling into a slow smile. “Anyone interested?”
Joe blurted, “You know we are!”
“When do we start?” Frank said.
“In a few days. But it'll involve a camping trip.”
“Camping! That's right up our alley, Dad.” Joe got up and paced around. “Chet's been bugging us to go on a camping trip for a long time.”
“He sure has,” Frank agreed. “Chet wants to get a trailer tent, but he's short of cash.”
Mr. Hardy said, “We might work something out. Expense money, perhaps. Then there's a possibility of the reward.”
“What reward?” Frank asked.
Mr. Hardy explained that a very rich man, who had been duped by the counterfeiters, had posted a reward of two thousand dollars for their capture and conviction.
“Wow!” said Joe, grinning.
Realizing the importance of the exciting mission, the boys became serious. “Tell us all about the case, Dad,” Frank urged. “What's the M.O. in this new racket?”
The modus operandi was one of the first lessons in criminal psychology Mr. Hardy had taught his sons. Habit, the boys knew, had been the downfall of many thieves, who plied their nefarious trade in the same manner every time they committed a crime.
Mr. Hardy said, “The swindlers apparently got hold of Magnacard's master file-important data on all the clients, including copies of their signa tures. They duplicated the credit cards perfectly, then forged identification papersâdrivers' licenses and the like. They purchase goods which are then billed to the owner of the charge card.”
“A lot of rich men must be pulling their hair out, getting all these bills!”
“To say the least. It's up to you to keep them from getting absolutely bald!”
Joe asked, “But why the camping trip? How does that come into the picture?”
“I've been waiting for you to ask that,” Mr. Hardy replied. He lifted a sheaf of papers from his desk drawer. “The counterfeiters have been operating mostly in the Rocky Mountains area, although there have been some incidents in the Midwest, and the East, too.”
The detective sat back, fingers locked behind his head, while his sons examined the dossier. Then a quick look of enlightenment crossed Frank's face. “Hey, Joe. I see it! These guys have been using the Magnacards to buy sporting equipment.”
“Exactly,” Mr. Hardy said. “They purchase motorboats, motorcycles, tentsâyou name it. Then they sell the merchandise lower than the retail price.”
Joe remarked, “To suckers who are unaware they're getting hot goods. Or to dishonest, greedy people who are more interested in buying something cheap, regardless of whether the deal is on the level or not.”
The detective nodded and pulled a small photograph from his pocket. “Here's a prime suspect,” he said. The boys leaned over the desk to look at it.
“Pretty fuzzy picture,” Joe remarked.
Frank said, “Probably a blowup from a small negative. Right, Dad?”
“That's it. An amateur photographer took it by chance after one of the swindlers had borrowed five thousand dollars from a bank and was coming out the front door.”
The young detectives studied every detail of the photograph. The face was round, with a low, black hairline. The eyes were far apart. The mouth was small and turned up at the comers in a puckish grin. The general appearance was that of a short man in his thirties.
At that moment the trio were startled by a scream from downstairs.
“It's Aunt Gertrude!” Frank exclaimed. He bounded from the room, with Joe at his heels. They scrambled down the stairs and rushed into the kitchen. Their aunt was pointing a shaking hand at the window. Her jaws moved, but no words passed her lips.
Instantly Frank and Joe, as well as Fenton Hardy, who had followed them, saw the cause of the woman's fright. A huge hound dog was look ing through the window screen. Aunt Gertrude, after recovering from her shock, told them that she had been seated at the kitchen table, deep in thought. Turning her head, she suddenly had looked straight into the sad droopy eyes of the Peeping Tom dog.
Joe started to chuckle. “It's Biff Hooper's bloodhound, Auntie! He wouldn't hurt a flea.”
“Don't laugh!” she scolded.
“I'm not laughing,” Joe said. “But it was so funnyâ”
“Not funny, either!” snorted Miss Hardy.
Frank turned his head away, knowing that Aunt Gertrude's wrath would be further aroused if she detected the faintest trace of a grin on his face.
Mr. Hardy said, “Well, that crisis is over,” and went upstairs to his study.
His sister had come to live with Mr. and Mrs. Hardy and their two sons several years ago. Beneath her stem manner, she was extremely fond of the boys. Gertrude Hardy had never approved of her brother's daring exploits when he was a detective in the New York City Police Department, nor was she outwardly impressed by the international reputation he had acquired as a private investigator.
“Too dangerous, too risky,” she always said.
When her nephews followed in their father's footsteps, Aunt Gertrude was even more forceful in her warnings.
Frank and Joe realized that their safety was her chief concern, and that her heart was really soft as the fluffy meringue on top of her famous lemon pies.
Meanwhile, the dog had padded around to the kitchen door. A voice called:
“Sherlock! Come here!” Biff Hooper, a tall blond boy, appeared, bent down and snapped a leather leash on the hound's collar. He looped the end over the outside doorknob and entered.
“Hiya, guys,” he said breezily. “Just taking old Sherlock on a training exercise and he got away from me. Headed right for the Hardy home. Are you baking pie today, Aunt Gertrude?”
“I was going to,” Miss Hardy replied, “until that beast frightened me!”
“Don't mind him,” Biff said and straddled a kitchen chair. “He's harmless.”
Biff Hooper was a six-foot, broad-shouldered athleteâbig and powerful as a football lineman, fast and hard-hitting as a boxer. But his usual good-natured smile was missing now, and the Hardys sensed that he had a problem.