Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
In the Jaws of DangerÂ .Â .Â .
Jax crouched and opened the grate away from the wall like a door. Behind the grate was a safe embedded in the wall. “Memorize this combination,” he said to the Hardys. Then he turned and opened the safe and put the tooth in its container inside.
“Just so you guys know,” he said, turning to the Hardys. “In case anything happens to me, this is where I keep the Molar Mike. All the manufacturing schematics, test records, reports, and documentation are in here too.”
“Hey, Jax, what are you talking about?” Frank asked. “What do you mean, in case something happens to you? Have you been threatened?”
“Let's get everyone out of the conference room,” Jax said. “Then we can talk.”
Frank Hardy stopped in front of the Bloody Tower and looked up. A shifty London fog completely obliterated any sign of the moon. In the distance he could hear a bell chime ten o'clock. The damp, musty smell of the swamp surrounding Traitor's Gate wormed its way into Frank's nose and made him sneeze. Two huge ravens scuttled away and disappeared into the blackness.
“This is what I call a vacation,” Joe Hardy said, running his hand through his blond, close-cropped hair. “Tromping around the grounds of the world-famous Tower of London after hours. No tourists, no crowds.”
“Absolutely,” Frank agreed. “We've got the whole place to ourselves.”
“More or less,” came a voice from the fog. “Come on, let's get inside.”
The voice was Jax Brighton's. Jax had lived with the Hardy family for a semester when he went to Bayport College a few years earlier. Frank and Joe had just arrived for a vacation in London and a reunion with their old friend.
The Hardys followed Jax up the steps of an ancient stone building. The Hardys had been to London before, and they knew that the Tower of London was more than just a tower. It was actually a huge complex of buildings on the River Thames and had been both a fort against enemy armies and the home of British kings and queens.
Surrounded by a massive stone wall, the grounds contained castles, prisons, armories, museums, and lawns once used for public executions.
Jax opened the ancient door of the Medieval Palace and poked his head through. “Hello,” he called. “Nick, are you here?”
“Hey, Jax.” A young man with long red hair motioned them inside. “Welcome to the thirteenth century.” He shot his arm out toward Frank. “I'm Nick Rooney. You're Frank, right?” he asked. His handshake was one quick pump, and then he turned to Joe. After a similar shake he bustled off into a narrow hall. “Well, come on, then,” he said.
He led them into a large room with stone walls decorated with colorful banners. Overhead, wood
beams divided a massive domed ceiling into a pattern of diamonds and rectangles. From the center of the geometric dome hung an enormous chandelier. A few tall work lights on poles scattered isolated bright triangles of light, leaving the rest of the space dim and shadowed.
The room was divided in half by a row of short posts and a dark red velvet rope. Behind the rope lifelike statues of men and women in elegant royal costumes sat on thrones or stood in small groups.
“This room seems smaller with all these wax figures in it,” Jax said. “I still think they should have used one of the larger halls for this exhibit.” He put his black bag on a small table. It looked like a cross between a doctor's bag and a bowling bag. He opened a large side pocket and took out a plastic case. Inside the case were several sets of dentures and a few individual teeth.
“They wanted to set up some of the royals here for this special exhibit,” Nick said, “so tourists could see the kings and queens in the actual houses they lived in. I voted against it, but who pays any attention to me? I'm just the historical restorer, that's all. What do
Frank could tell that even though Nick was joking about it, he wasn't happy about being voted down. “It's cool being here when there are no crowds to deal with,” Frank said, changing the subject.
“You can really get a close look at everything.”
“I can't get over how real these figures look,” Joe added.
“Go ahead,” Nick said, unhooking one of the velvet rope swags. “Get as close as you want. That's Edward I, and his queen, Eleanor. They lived in this palace over seven hundred years ago.”
Frank and Joe walked around the wax figures. They were amazingly lifelikeâlike real people frozen in position.
“Looks like this one ended up out on the Tower Green,” Joe said, standing next to a headless statue of a woman. “Isn't that where some of the kings and queens were beheaded?”
“Yes, but not that one,” Nick said with a grin. “Right, Jax?”
“For that queen, it is a temporary condition,” Jax agreed. He reached deep into his bag and pulled out a woman's head, perfectly created out of wax, real hair, glass eyes, and false teeth.
Nick examined the mouth carefully. “Your usual masterful work,” he said, clapping Jax on the shoulder. “My friend, you are the best in the business. I'm sure you're a good orthodontist, but you need to stop wasting your time on all those living patients of yours and stick with doing the teeth for wax models.” He examined the head again. “What a great job,” he murmured, pointing to the corners of the mouth. “It must be all your taxidermy experience.”
“Taxidermy?” Joe said, looking closely at the detached head. “Hey, Jax, I knew your dad was a taxidermist, but you never told us you were too.”
“He did those ravens,” Nick said, nodding toward two large black birds standing on the stone floor near the wall.
Frank stooped to examine the stuffed birds. They were at least two feet tall and seemed to be looking right into his eyes. “These look so real, it's weird,” he observed.
“I always worked with my dad in the summers when I was in school. When he died a couple of years ago, I inherited his shop and some of his clients. But I never considered making taxidermy a career. It's just sort of a hobby.”
Jax put the queen's head down on a table and crouched next to Frank. “Modern-day taxidermists actually use the same stuff to make molds of animals that dentists use to make molds of teeth,” Jax said. “I used that material to make a new leg for this raven. His real one had been injured.”
He ran his hand over the silky black feathers. Then he stood and went back to the queen's head. “I'm not really into taxidermy much. But it's fun combining my two skills once in a while for a special historical re-creation like this.”
“I remember some story about ravens and the Tower of London,” Joe said.
“Right,” Frank said. “There's a legend about King
Charles II. Someone warned him that if the ravens left the Tower of London, the monarchy would fall. So he ruled that there would always be ravens living here.”
“And they've been here ever since,” Nick said. “We keep them happy with lodging and food. Have you told your friends, Jax, that you're about to take on another career?” he added. “One that will probably make you rich and famous?”
“Not yet,” Jax said. “Let's make sure this lady has a head on her shoulders first. We can talk about that later.”
The Hardys watched as Jax and Nick attached the head to the wax body. Nick pulled and shaped the model's hair and tugged at the costume until no one could see that the figure had ever been anything but one solid piece. Then he stepped back for a final look.
“No head is perfect without a set of your teeth,” Nick said, smiling.
After a few more adjustments to the figure, Nick took a last look around. Then he ushered the others out. Leaving the work lights on, he pulled the door shut and locked it.
“Anybody hungry?” Nick asked. “I could use a little pick-me-up. I've got sandwich stuff in my little flat in the work section.”
“I can always eat,” Joe said, though he didn't want to leave this enormous place. The fog had lifted a
little, and more of the grounds and buildings were visible in the pale glow of the moon.
An odd assortment of buildings ringed the greensâhouses made of wood and stucco, stone towers with slits for soldiers' weapons, plain brick buildings, fancy carved palacesâall stood side-by-side within the ancient wall.
“You three head toward that building at the end of this lane,” Nick said. “I have to check in with the guard and tell him we've left the Palace.”
By the time the Hardys and Jax had reached the building Nick had pointed to, he was waiting for them. “I circled around the back and took the shortcut,” he explained. He led them inside the employees' building, unlocked a door on the third floor, and flipped on the overhead light.
Nick's quarters were part workroom, part shop, part lab, and part library. And they were all messy. Pieces of wood and stone, scraps of fabric and paper, photos, drawings, open books, and tools covered every surface. Shelves were jammed with paints, dyes, jewels, glues, pastes, and powders. He seemed to have everything he needed to restore, repair, and re-create the Tower of London.
“Whoa, what's this?” Joe asked. “Looks like Nick's gone overboard with re-creating the history of the Tower of London. He had
On a table against the wall was an almost perfect model of Nick's head. It was perched on a pedestal
and looked so real, it was a little spooky.
“More of Jax's influence,” Nick called from the little kitchen in the corner. “He's taught me a lot. Until I met him, the only way I knew how to make models was with papier mÃ¢chÃ©. He showed me how to use burlap and plaster. He added that great set of teeth himself. They're better than my real ones! That head is my third try. I think I'm getting better.”
“Definitely,” Jax agreed, examining the head.
Somehow, in all the chaos and disorder of the room, Nick managed to put together a tray of roast beef sandwiches, chocolate cookies, and cold sodas. He cleared a table and four chairs in the corner, and motioned the Hardys and Jax to sit and dig in.
“Man, this is good,” Joe said, taking a big bite of his sandwich. “I didn't realize how hungry I was. My stomach's still on American time.”
Frank nodded in agreement as he gulped some soda. Then he turned to Jax. “So what's this about a new career?” he asked.
“Not really a career,” Jax said. “It's just a sort of additional project. It all goes along with working with teeth.”
“You're too modest,” Nick said. “Gentlemen, he's adding âinventor' to his credentials. Revolutionary inventor. Real space-age stuff.”
“It's a false tooth,” Jax said, “but one with a
microreceiver in it. I call it the Molar Mike.”
“Wow!” Frank said. “I've read about people hearing radio and TV programs that their tooth fillings pick up.”
“But this tooth has an
in it,” Nick prompted. “So the message won't be random.”
“And it can be two-way transmission,” Jax said. “The person with the tooth can talk back.”
“And no one can hear the messages but the guy with the tooth?” Joe said. “Whoa, that's incredible.” He slid a cookie onto his plate and reached for another, but his hand stopped in midair. “Wait a minute,” he said. “This would require a major trip to the dentist. You need to get a tooth hollowed out for the receiver, right?”
“Or you can have a tooth pulled and have a bridge inserted with the false tooth receiver,” Nick offered with chuckle.
“People have that kind of dental work done all the time,” Frank pointed out, “without having the receiver added. I can see how this could be really valuable to some peopleâand worth the dental work. Where would the signals come from?”
“The receiver could be rigged to take messages from a cell phone or a hand-held data device, or even directly from a computer,” Jax answered.