The Mystery of the Nervous Lion

Тема

Alfred Hitchcock

and

The Three Investigators

in

Text by

Nick West

Based on characters created by

Robert Arthur

Illustrated by Harry Kane

I imagine that you have already met The Three Investigators and know that they are Jupiter Jones, Bob Andrews, and Pete Crenshaw, all of Rocky Beach, California, a small community on the shores of the Pacific not far from Hollywood. But just in case this is your first meeting with the three, let me add that they make their Headquarters in a mobile home trailer cleverly hidden from sight in The Jones Salvage Yard. This fabulous junkyard is owned by Jupiter’s aunt and uncle, for whom the trio works to earn spending money when they are not busy with their investigations.

Enough of introductions. On with the case! Our lion is growing nervous!

ALFRED HITCHCOCK

Jupiter Jones turned his head at the sound of a horn and groaned. “Oh, no! Here comes my Uncle Titus with a lorryload for the yard. You know what that means — work!”

Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews followed Jupiter’s despairing look. Coming through the big iron gates of The Jones Salvage Yard was a small lorry. Konrad, one of the two Bavarian yard helpers, was driving. Titus Jones, a small man with an enormous moustache, sat beside him.

As the lorry stopped, Mr. Jones hopped off. Jupiter and his friends could see that the truck was filled with a lot of rusty pipes and other odds and ends. Some of the junk appeared to be broken cages.

Jupiter’s Aunt Mathilda, who had been sitting in her wrought-iron garden chair outside the office cabin, leaped to her feet.

“Titus Jones!” she yelled. “Have you gone out of your senses? How do you expect to sell a lorryload of pipes and iron bars?”

“No problem, my dear,” Titus Jones said, unruffled. He knew from past experience that almost everything that interested him eventually sold to a buyer. And usually at a tidy profit. “Some of these bars come with cages.”

“Cages?” his wife repeated. She came closer, squinting into the lorry. “You’d need some especially large canaries for those cages, Titus Jones.”

“These are animal cages, woman,” her husband declared. “Or rather, they used to be. I’ll leave it to Jupiter and his friends here. Take a look, Jupiter. Could we put them to some use?”

Jupiter looked over the lot. “Well,” he answered slowly, “they could be repaired, I suppose. New bars added, roofs put on, the cage floors mended, everything painted. We could do it, all right, but then what?”

“Then what?” his uncle roared. “Why then we’d have animal cages ready for them when they need them, wouldn’t we?”

“When who needs them, Uncle Titus?” asked Jupiter.

“Why, the circus, my boy,” his uncle replied. “Circus comes to town every year, don’t it? Well, then, next time they come, we’ll be ready in case they need some good solid cages for their brutes.”

Jupe shrugged. “I guess so,” he said doubtfully.

“You guess so!” his uncle roared. “Don’t forget I spent my early years travelling with a circus. I guess I ought to know what they’d be looking for, wouldn’t you say?”

Jupiter smiled. “Yes, Uncle Titus.” He had forgotten how proud his uncle was of his past association with the big top.

“Fine!” Titus said. “Hans! Konrad! Get this stuff off the lorry. Stack the cages separately so that we can get to work on them soon.”

Konrad’s brother, Hans, appeared from the back of the yard, and the Bavarian helpers began unloading the lorry. Uncle Titus got his pipe out, searched his pockets for a match, and slowly began puffing.

“Those cages,” he began. “Got ’em for a song out in the valley. Found them with a lot of old junked cars. Feller didn’t see much need for cages and such, so I bought the lot cheap. I’ll be heading back in a while to try again. Just might be another load there.”

He walked away puffing contentedly on his briar. Jupiter and his friends idly watched him go. Mrs. Jones had a better idea of how the boys should pass their time.

“Jupiter!” she called. “Those iron bars and railings on the lorry should be stacked together. Perhaps we can sell them at a bargain price for the lot.”

“Right, Aunt Mathilda,” Jupe said. The stocky boy scrambled awkwardly up into the lorry with Pete and Bob. “Okay, fellows,” he said. “You heard the order.”

Pete Crenshaw stared down at the pile of rusty rails and bars. “It sure beats me, Jupe, where your uncle ever finds this junk. But what puzzles me even more is how he ever manages to sell it.”

Jupiter grinned. “Uncle Titus has always been lucky that way, Pete. He’s brought in stuff you’d swear nobody in the world would ever want, and sells it the very next day. So if he says he can sell these pipes, I believe it.”

Bob put in, “Well, anyway, we get paid for working. And we can use the money. We need some new equipment for Headquarters.”

Headquarters was a damaged mobile home trailer that Mr. Jones had given to Jupiter to use as a meeting place for his friends. It was over at one side of the salvage yard, hidden by junk the boys had piled round it. Close by was Jupe’s workshop section, fitted out with various tools and a printing press.

Inside Headquarters, the boys had equipped a tiny office with telephone, desk, tape recorder, and filing cabinets. There was also a small lab and a darkroom for developing pictures. Most of the equipment had been rebuilt by Jupe and his friends from junk that had come into The Jones Salvage Yard.

Bob, Pete, and Jupiter had started a puzzle-solving club originally, which they later turned into a junior detective firm called The Three Investigators. Although they had started the club in fun, they had solved several genuine mysteries that had come their way and had decided to pursue detective work more seriously.

Peter Crenshaw, the strongest member of the trio, now looked unhappily at the large pile of pipes remaining after the two big Bavarian helpers had unloaded the cages. “Okay,” he said reluctantly, “might as well get started.” He dragged out several long bars and hoisted them to his shoulder. “Where do you want them stacked, Jupe?” he asked, staggering under the heavy load.

Jupe pointed out an area near a shed. “We’ll stack them in a pile there, Pete.”

Pete grunted and backed off with his load. Jupe and Bob then took turns feeding the bars to Pete on return trips. Work progressed rapidly and soon the pile in the lorry was down to one.

Rubbing his hands, Pete stepped up. “All right, Jupe,” he said, “I’ll take that last little one now.”

Jupe leaned forward to hand the bar over, and hesitated. He felt the weight of the bar again. “We’d better set this aside. It’s just the size I’ve been looking for.”

Bob looked puzzled. “For what? You starting your own junkyard now?”

“It just happens to be shorter than the rest,” said Jupe. “We can use it for a slide bolt inside our headquarters door. For security reasons.”

“Security?” Bob asked.

Jupe reddened. “I’m getting tired of crawling through our tunnel into Headquarters. There’s got to be an easier way of doing things. I thought we might unlock the door.”

Pete and Bob smiled at this roundabout explanation. The truth was that Jupiter was a little too fat to enjoy using their secret tunnel all the time.

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