The Mystery of the Headless Horse

Тема

Alfred Hitchcock

and

The Three Investigators

in

Text by

William Arden

Based on the characters created by

Robert Arthur

Illustrated by Jack Hearne

What could be more remarkable than to solve a mystery dating back to the Mexican War? A mystery that involves a headless horse, a legendary jewelled sword, and a trio of long-forgotten scoundrels whose devious trail must somehow be followed after more than 130 years! And what could be more instructive than to discover that dusty old historical documents do not always tell the truth? At the very least, one must learn to read between the lines!

Such is the nature of the challenging mystery that our young detectives unravel on the following pages. Their efforts are prompted by most praiseworthy motives — an unselfish desire to help the proud and honourable Alvaro family, descendants of the first citizens of California, and a natural thirst for excitement and adventure. In tackling this latest case, the boys again demonstrate the ingenuity and bravery that have made them famous with mystery lovers around the world.

What! You say that you have never even heard of The Three Investigators? Then you must meet them at once! The leader of the trio is the annoyingly clever Jupiter Jones, whose mental powers are exceeded only by his weight. His companions are Pete Crenshaw, a muscular and merry lad who is inclined to be nervous, and the steady and studious Bob Andrews. All three boys live in the coastal town of Rocky Beach, California, not far from Hollywood. They make their headquarters in an old mobile home trailer hidden in the fabulous Jones Salvage Yard.

So, you are introduced. Now turn the page and follow The Three Investigators into mystery and danger — if you dare!

ALFRED HITCHCOCK

“I didn’t know you knew Alvaro,” Bob said to Jupiter.

“I don’t really,” Jupiter replied. “He’s in the California History Club with me, but he always keeps pretty much to himself. What does he want, Pete?”

“I don’t know. He just asked if you’d meet him at the gate of the athletic field after school — if you could spare the time. He acted like it was pretty important.”

“Perhaps he needs the services of The Three Investigators,” Jupe said hopefully. Jupiter, Pete and Bob were members of a junior detective team, and they hadn’t had a case in quite a while.

Pete shrugged. “Maybe. But it’s you he wants to see.”

“We’ll all go and meet him,” ordered Jupe.

Pete and Bob nodded and fell into step with their overweight friend. They were used to doing what Jupiter wanted. As the brainy leader of The Three Investigators, Jupe made most of the decisions for the group. Sometimes the other two boys objected. Pete, a tall, athletic boy, hated Jupe’s habit of boldly walking into danger while on a case. Bob, a slight, studious youth, admired Jupe’s quick intelligence but occasionally flared at his high-handed ways. Still, life was never dull when Jupiter was around. He had an uncanny ability to scent a mystery and find excitement. Most of the time the three boys were the best of friends.

Jupiter now led the way around the corner of the school to a quiet, tree-lined side street. Far down the block was a gate to the school’s athletic field. The boys hunched into their jackets. It was a Thursday afternoon in November, and although the day was sunny, a chill breeze was blowing up the street.

“I don’t see Diego,” Bob said, peering through his glasses as the trio neared the gate.

“But look who else is here!” said Pete with a groan.

Just beyond the gate a small, open truck was parked. Half pick-up truck and half car, it was one of those vehicles called ranch wagons. A broad, burly man in a cowboy hat, denim jacket, blue jeans, and western boots sat on the front bumper. Next to him lounged a tall, skinny boy with a long nose. On the truck’s door, some elegant gold lettering read “Norris Ranch.”

“Skinny Norris!” Bob scowled. “What’s he doing —?”

Before Bob could finish what he was saying, the tall boy spotted them and called out:

“Well, if it isn’t Fatso Sherlock Holmes and the two dumb bloodhounds!” Skinny laughed nastily.

Skinny — E. Skinner Norris — was an old enemy of The Three Investigators. The spoiled son of a well-to-do businessman, Skinny was always showing off and trying to prove that he was smarter than Jupiter. He always failed, but he managed to make a good deal of trouble for the detectives. He had one advantage over them — he was a few years older and he already had his driver’s licence and his own sports car. The Investigators envied his mobility as much as they resented his bullying.

Jupiter couldn’t ignore Skinny’s latest insult. Halting just short of the gate, he blandly said:

“Did you hear someone speak, Bob?”

“I sure don’t see anyone,” Bob replied.

“But I sure smell someone.” Pete sniffed. “Or something.”

The burly cowboy on the truck bumper laughed and looked at Skinny. The tall boy reddened. He stepped menacingly towards the Investigators, his fists clenched. He was about to answer when a new voice called out:

“Jupiter Jones! I’m sorry I am late. I would like very much to ask you a favour.”

A slim boy with dark hair and dark eyes came out through the gate. He stood so straight that he seemed taller than he was. He wore narrow old jeans, low riding boots, and a loose white shirt sewn with colourful stitching. He spoke without an accent, but his formal manner suggested his ties to old Spanish customs.

“What kind of favour, Diego?” Jupiter asked.

Skinny Norris laughed. “Hey, you’re a buddy of wetbacks now, Fatso? That figures. Why don’t you help send him back to Mexico? Do us all a favour.”

Diego Alvaro whirled. He moved so swiftly and smoothly that he was standing in front of Skinny before the tall boy had stopped laughing.

“You will take that back,” Diego said. “You will apologize.”

A head shorter, younger, and far below Skinny’s weight, Diego stood firmly in front of the bigger boy. He looked as dignified as a Spanish don.

“Nuts,” Skinny said. “I don’t apologize to Mexicans.”

Without a word, Diego slapped Skinny’s sneering face.

“Why you little —!”

Skinny knocked the smaller boy down. Diego bounced up instantly and tried to hit Skinny. The big boy knocked him down again. Diego got up, went down, and got up again. Skinny stopped grinning. He pushed Diego away from him, out into the street, and looked around as if he wanted someone to stop the uneven fight.

“Hey, someone get this little punk —”

Jupiter and Pete started towards them. The burly cowboy, laughing, jumped off the truck bumper.

“Okay, Alvaro,” the cowboy said. “Cut it out. You’ll get hurt.”

“NO!”

Everyone froze. The sharp command came from a man who seemed to appear from nowhere. He looked like an older version of Diego. Though much taller, he had the same slim, compact build and the same dark hair and eyes. He, too, wore old riding jeans, scuffed western boots and a decorated shirt — a faded black one with red and yellow stitching. On his head was a black sombrero banded with conchos — circular pieces of silver. His face was haughty, and his eyes were cold and hard.

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