An Ear for Danger

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The Three Investigators

Crimebusters #5

Text by

Marc Brandel

Based on characters created by

Robert Arthur

The seventeen-year-old didn’t want to sound conceited in front of his two friends, so he didn’t add that he thought he could have solved it himself at age five.

Pete Crenshaw, who was working on another copy of the same crossword, didn’t think it was so easy. Would a kid of ten know who “Dagwood’s wife” was? The name Dagwood did sound familiar to him, but he couldn’t quite place it.

Bob Andrews propped his long legs up on the desk. He had solved the Dagwood clue. He penciled in the answer and moved on to the next one. “Frivolous or light-headed.” Five letters beginning with G. “Giddy.”

The Three Investigators were sitting in their headquarters in The Jones Salvage Yard in Rocky Beach, California, a small town a few miles up the Coast Highway from Los Angeles.

They were into the second week of their summer vacation. Ordinarily, they would all have been busy outdoors. Their detective firm had no cases right now, but the guys had plenty of other things to do.

Ordinarily Jupe — as Jupiter was known to his friends — would have been swimming in the ocean. A brisk swim every day kept your weight down. He hoped.

Pete would have been surfing or driving his girlfriend, Kelly Madigan, around in the MG convertible he had bought secondhand and spent weeks souping up.

Bob would have been at an outdoor rock concert. Probably with one or two or three of the girls who followed him around like groupies. He worked part-time for a local talent agent and could often get free tickets. Actually Bob’s quiet good looks were far more attractive to his string of female admirers than any freebies.

But for the past three days the TV weatherman had kept forecasting scattered showers. As far as Jupe could see, that meant it would only drizzle as long as you stayed indoors. If you went out in the open, you were in for a good soaking.

He wrote in another two letters and threw his pen down beside the completed crossword puzzle.

“ ‘Opposite of down,’ ” he said contemptuously. “Give me a break! A gerbil could guess these answers.”

“I did get that one.” Pete smiled. “Up.”

“ ‘This contest is open only to male high school students between the ages of fourteen and eighteen,’ ” he read aloud. “ ‘There is no entrance fee.’ ” He looked up. “Where did you get these things, Pete?”

“They were giving them away at the super-market here in town,” Pete explained. “The answers are easy for you, Jupe. You were born with an overgrown brain. But what’s ‘sorrow or misfortune’? Three letters ending in E.”

“Woe,” Bob told him.

Jupe went back to reading the instructions. “ ‘The grand prize is an all-expenses-paid, two-week visit to a beautiful ranch in northern Mexico. Attractions there include horseback riding, fishing in the large fresh-water lake, camping, delicious barbecued steaks — ’ ”

“Stop right there,” Pete put in. “I’ll take it!” He was the most athletic of the teenage detectives and had a healthy appetite.

He looked up at the ceiling of the trailer that served the Investigators as headquarters. Raindrops pinged on the metal roof.

“And maybe the weather’s better in Mexico than it is here,” Pete added. “I don’t mind surfing in the rain. But how can you surf when there’s no waves? The ocean’s as flat as a football field.”

Jupe hadn’t been listening to Pete or the raindrops. He was still absorbed in the instructions on the back of the leaflet.

‘ “No answers should be submitted in writing,’ ” he continued reading aloud. “ ‘They must be recorded on tape. First read the answers to the across clues into your tape recorder — ’ ”

He broke off. His eyes moved rapidly down the rest of the page.

“That’s weird,” he said.

“What’s weird?” Bob asked. The instructions seemed simple enough to him. As simple as the answer to “Not there.”

“Here,” he wrote in before glancing up at Jupe.

“Printing leaflets costs money,” Jupiter mused. “Two weeks on a ranch in Mexico costs money too. Why would anyone put up all that dough for such a dumb contest?”

“Because it’s an advertising gimmick,” Bob told him. The pop music world in which he spent so much of his spare time had taught him to recognize a come-on when he saw one. “They want you to buy a tape recorder. And a blank cassette.”

Jupe nodded. “Makes sense,” he agreed. “Only there’s no mention of a store where you can buy them. No word about any brand names either.”

“They were handing out the leaflets at the super-market,” Pete reminded him. “Maybe they’ve got a sale on stuff like that or something.”

Jupe shook his head. “If you had eyes for anything besides Kelly Madigan,” he told Pete, “you might have noticed they don’t stock any electronic equipment at the Rocky Beach super-market. Not even pocket calculators.”

He looked at the leaflet again.

Jupe, who was short and overweight, did not enjoy moving more than he had to. Two weeks on a ranch in Mexico, riding horses and fishing, was not his idea of a grand prize. But the puzzle contest had stirred his curiosity. Who was putting up the money for it? And why?

“They’ve probably been distributing these leaflets all over the Los Angeles area,” Jupe said. “And the answers are so obvious they’re going to get hundreds of perfect solutions. So they’ll have to pick one. At least there are three of us. Together, we have three times as good a chance of winning.”

Bob looked at him in surprise. “You mean you want to audition for this gig?” he asked.

“Sure. Why not?” Jupe frowned. Bob’s habit of using the slang of musicians sometimes got under his skin. Though Bob had drifted away from the Three Investigators into the fringes of show business, Jupe was as committed to The Team as ever.

Jupe took a tape recorder out of his desk drawer, inserted a blank cassette, and handed it to Pete with his own completed puzzle.

“You go first,” he said. “Start with the horizontal words.”

Pete glanced at the crossword before switching on the recorder. He made a disgusted sound.

An hour later the Three Investigators had three correct, recorded tapes packed into manila envelopes made out to the Santa Monica address printed on the leaflets. They had also included their names and addresses as mentioned in the instructions.

The sound of raindrops on the roof had stopped.

“Might as well go out and mail them,” Bob said, “before it starts pouring again.” He had taken out his contact lenses and was busy cleaning them with his special kit.

“Or we could drive into Santa Monica,” Jupe suggested, “and deliver them by hand.”

“What’s in Santa Monica?” Pete wanted to know. “Besides a lot of wet beach.”

“We could ride around for a while,” Bob told him. “Maybe stop for a pizza. Check out the action. See what shows up.” He put his lenses back into his eyes. Pete nodded. He was hungry. Jupe didn’t say anything. He had sworn off fast food. It was fattening. And he knew what would show up: girls.

Not that Jupe had anything against girls. He was as interested in them as either of his two friends. The trouble was, they didn’t seem interested in him. Especially when Bob was around.

But Jupe did want to go into Santa Monica. He wanted to scout out the address on the crossword puzzle leaflet. A sign on the door might give him some lead as to what the contest was all about. “Okay, let’s go,” he said.

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