The following is number 3,752 in the popular Hardlee Boys series.
"What's this?" asked Bob Hardlee.
"Holy Cow!" said his brother Rob. "It's some kind of letter! Open it up and read it."
The Hardlee Boys had been in the middle of a fine pancake breakfast when the letter arrived. It looked innocent enough, until you noticed that the letter was closed with a wax seal bearing a picture of a mad cobra with blood dripping from its fangs.
"Read that letter!" Rob said, urgently. "Better hurry up!"
"It says something about a secret clue."
"Holy cow! A secret clue! We better get going." The boys knew something important was going on. Secret clue was their code phrase for secret clue. The boys raced out the door and took off in their fast convertible. Bob put the pedal to the floor and they sped off. As the car raced down the street an elderly woman shrieked and barely got out of the way in time.
"Careful!" Rob cautioned his brother. "Remember that lawsuit?"
"I'll say! Our father nearly went into bankruptcy court over it."
"Yeah. He got so mad, he hit me over the head with a wine bottle."
They slowed down at a stop sign. The sky was a dark color. Clouds had blown in for the first time all week. The overcast sky suggested it might be rain soon. Bob spoke. "Now that things are slowing down, I think we should establish a few things. Which one of us is the blond and which one has dark hair?"
Rob looked at his brother for a moment. "You are the blonde."
"Okay! Boy, it's a good to be sixteen years old, isn't it?"
"Yes, and thank God we live in an affluent time period. Kids in fifty years are going to be screwed."
"Yes, they sure are."
"Do we like girls?"
"Not sure yet."
"We certainly don't hate them."
"Oh, certainly not."
A strange shape was coming into view in the sky overhead. It was making a strange sound. "Look!" Bob said. "An airplane. And it's flying in a strange pattern, like it's having some kind of trouble. It could be some kind of a clue."
The plane went down with a sudden violent motion and exploded. In the distance they could hear the faint sound of a scream. "Oh well," Rob said, "I guess it wasn't a clue."
"Poor guy. Hope he didn't have any children."
"There's a road I've never noticed before. It looks pretty old. Let's drive on it and see what we find." They drove for a while as the road got rougher and rougher until the pavement disappeared and the road became all dirt and gravel. Eventually they had to stop because there was no road left.
They poked around in the bushes until they noticed something. It was a faint trail, one that looked like it hadn't been walked on in a long time. They followed it a few hundred feet until they came to a little old building. The building was overgrown with weeds and ivy, so that all that could really be made out was the wooden door in the front.
Bob pushed some weeds to the side so they could get a better look at it. There was some sort of strange symbol painted upon it. It was a rusty color that probably had been bright red at one time. "It must be Chinese," Bob said.
"Yes, that sounds about right. They're always doing something very mysterious and sinister. Where the Chinese are, something bad is about to happen."
"Let's not be too quick to rush in. We should proceed with caution. Do you remember The Mystery of the Vanishing Bum?"
"Yeah. I'll never get that close to a bum again." Bob said this with a horrified shudder.
The door slowly opened with a groan, and they walked in. There was a lot of junk inside. The only really interesting thing was an old suit of armor. "What a waste of time," Bob concluded. "Even the suit of armor is boring."
"Yeah. How many times have we seen one of those?" He gave it a swift kick.
"Maybe three hundred."
"I wasn't really asking for a specific answer."
Suddenly Rob became excited. "I know what we can do! We'll go to town and get an answer! You know that old Chinese guy?"
"The one who runs the Laundromat? He'll be able to decipher that symbol for us! He'll tell us what it means!"
"Probably something sinister! Death or mystery or sinister something."
"And even if he doesn't know, he'll give us some great fortune cookies!"
"That'll be exciting!"
The Chinese Laundromat was empty except for Wong Fong Lee, the proprietor. The Hardlee Boys went inside, and Fong Lee looked immediately upset. "Oh no, not the Hardlee Boys again! You get out of Laundromat!"
"Is there a law against going to the laundry?" Bob asked. "You're acting awfully suspicious."
"Yeah," Rob piped up, "what are you hiding? Maybe you did it. That would explain the symbol on the old wooden door, since you are the only person in town who can speak Chinese."
"Did what? What I do?"
"Well, we're not sure yet."
"Oh? You not sure yet! Then come back when you are sure! I am so sick of you and your damn mysteries! Every time a murder committed, let's ask old Wong Lee, he is Chinese, he must know something. Well, I know it is time for you brats to leave." With that he grabbed the boys by their scrawny Caucasian arms and roughly pushed them out the door.
"Wow, that was rude," Bob said, brushing off his shoulders.
"I think we should keep an eye on that guy. He is awfully suspicious."
"Hey, look at that! Someone's running down the street!" A sinister looking man was running in the distance. He looked to be at least forty years old, and he was dressed in a dark jacket which made him look all the more suspicious. "Let's chase him!"
They chased the man, but was far ahead of them, and very fast. In the middle of the chase, Rob turned to Bob. "Hey, Bob," he said, "Do you ever notice there are no black people in our town?"
He ran around the corner, out of sight. The two boys had to stop, because they got ran out of energy very fast. "Let's stop," Bob said.
"Good idea," Rob agreed.
"Woo, I get winded really fast these days."
"Too many hamburgers."
" And stealing our mom's cigarettes doesn't help."
"I don't know about you, but this mystery is getting very boring. I don't have the patience for this sort of convoluted nonsense."
"You're right. I hear there's a swinging jazz combo playing in town tonight."
"A jazz combo! That sounds swell. We can talk to other guys there. Some of them will be characters we already know."
"Yeah, who cares about another stupid mystery? Haven't we had enough of them. Just one day, I'd like to wake up and not have to face another bloody mystery."
"Hey! Let's set off some bottle rockets!"
"Bottle rockets! That'd be cool!"
The boys concluded their day by setting off bottle rockets. Some other boys came along and helped them. Everyone agreed that it had been a great day, and that bottle rockets were very cool.
Be sure to come back for the next exciting Hardlee Boys Mystery, which will hopefully be better than this one.