Authors: Carolyn Keene
!” George Fayne shouted, batting the ball.
“Hey, George, not so hard!” Bess Marvin yelled back. “We all
you're a natural athlete. You don't have to prove it with every shot!”
George, lean and tanned in her white bikini, grinned teasingly at Bess. “Do you think you could try to
the volleyball, instead of worrying about breaking a fingernail?”
On the other side of the net, Ned Nickerson laughed. “I thought you guys were going to beat me, hands down. So what's happened to your game?”
Nancy leaned back onto the beach blanket, her new blue bikini bright against the pale green cloth. The lake was calm, the sun warm, and she felt very lazy. She took another sip of root beer as her eyes followed the volleyball back and forth across the net. They'd
been playing until a few minutes ago, when Ned had challenged George and Bess to a game and was now wiping them out because Bess had dropped every other ball.
Nancy smoothed suntan lotion on her arms, smiling to herself. They'd driven up from River Heights just last night, Thursday night, but already it promised to be a great weekend. They were staying in a borrowed lakefront vacation house just a stone's throw from the beach, and there was going to be plenty of time for relaxing. In the last few months she'd had one tough case after another, as word of her talent for solving impossible mysteries was rapidly spreading. But the last case,
Recipe for Murder,
had been one of the toughest, for she'd been up against clever, international spies. After that, Nancy was glad to take a breather from detective workâand from volleyballâeven if it was just a short one.
Bess cupped her hands and called, “Hey, Nancy, why don't you come on back to the game? If we had you, we could beat the Incredible Hunk.” She flipped her blond hair over her shoulder and brushed the sand off her green swimsuit. It looked great, and she swore she felt
five pounds slimmer in itâwhich was vitally important to Bess, since she was always worried about being five pounds overweight.
Nancy shook her head and lay down, pushing her red-gold hair out of her eyes and adjusting her sunglasses. “Nope, I'm on vacation,” she said, reaching for her novel.
vacation, she'd decided, she wasn't going to read a single mystery or work a single crossword puzzle. She was going to give her overworked brain a rest. “
could tempt me to stir from this blanket.”
Nancy blinked and sat up. Standing beside her was a man in a brown uniform with “Crown Courier” on the pocket. He had a letter in his hand.
“Yes, I'm Nancy Drew.” Nancy glanced up toward the house. The delivery truck was parked in the driveway.
The courier handed her the letter. “I was going to leave this at the house, but then I saw you down here.” He shoved his clipboard at her. “Sign, please.”
With a resigned sigh, Nancy signed. The brown envelope had her name and the words “Urgent” and “Extremely Confidential” written on it. Without saying anything more, the courier trudged up the hill toward the road.
Nancy turned the letter over in her hand. There was an uneasy feeling in her stomach that
told her it had to mean trouble. For a moment, she was tempted to stick the letter in her beach bag and forget about it until next week. But the only way to banish the worried feeling was to read the letter right away.
all about? Who was the guy in the uniform?” Ned Nickerson dropped down beside Nancy, drying his brown hair with a towel, his bronzed shoulders glistening with sweat.
“A courier,” Nancy said. “He brought this letter.” Intently, she read it through. “Nancy Drew,” it said, “you are urgently needed to work on a
important and confidential case. Without your help, someone you know may be in serious trouble. It is imperative that you meet me at the HiPoint Drive-in Theater, at ten tonight. Come alone.” Without a word, she held out the letter to Ned.
Ned whistled softly when he'd finished reading it. “Someone you know?” He looked at Bess and George, now horsing around at the edge of the lake. “You don't supposeÂ .Â .Â .”
Nancy shook her head, her mouth set in a grim line. In the years she'd worked as a detective, there had been dozens of threats to her lifeâ
to the lives of her friends. It was something she never took lightly. “I don't know,” she said. “Maybe it's nothing. But I've got to find out.”
Frowning, Ned looked down at the letter. “I guess this means you'll want to go back into River Heights tonight. But what about our vacation?”
Nancy made her voice light. “I'll just have to take a few hours off.” She turned over onto her stomach. “Could you put some lotion on my back?” she asked in a muffled voice.
Ned poured some lotion into his hand and began to smooth it gently on her bare shoulders. After a minute he bent forward and kissed the tip of her ear. “How about if I drive you into River Heights tonight?” His voice was as soft and gentle as his fingertips.
Nancy sat up and leaned forward to kiss him back. “Thanks, Ned,” she said, grateful for his help and his deep, enduring friendship. Things weren't always this comfortable between them. Ned sometimes felt that Nancy's detective work got in the way, and more than once he'd said that he just couldn't put up with it any longer. But she knew how terribly sad and empty her life would be without him and she hoped they would always be able to work out their differences, just as they had in the past.
“I'm worried about this meeting,” Ned said thoughtfully, still rubbing Nancy's shoulders. “HiPoint Drive-in has been abandoned for years. It's not a good place to be, even
mysterious stranger stalking around. Why do you suppose somebody would want to meet you there, of all places?”
“I don't know,” Nancy said. “I might not take the risk if the letter didn't sound so threatening. If George or Bess is in dangerâ”
“Yeah, I know,” Ned said. He dropped a kiss onto her shoulder. “Tell you what. I'll take you in to pick up your car, then follow you as far as HiPoint Road. When you're finished talking to whoever this is, you could meet me.”
Nancy rolled over and touched Ned's face lightly. “Thanks, partner,” she whispered. “I really appreciate the help.”
“No charge,” Ned said, gently brushing her lips with his.
“Hey, you two, you know the rules. No kissing in public!” George pulled a red beach towel out of her bag and sat down. She shook her curly dark hair vigorously, showering Nancy and Ned with a spray of water.
Bess plopped down on the sand. “Speaking of kissing in public”âshe laughedâ“you'll never guess who I ran into yesterday.”
Nancy hurriedly shoved the letter into her beach bag. There was no point in alarming Bess and George until she knew the details of the threat. “Who?” she asked lazily, putting her sunglasses back on.
“Why, none other than ace reporter Brenda
Carlton, that's who,” Bess said sarcastically. She reached for the suntan lotion.
“Kissing in public?” George hooted. “Whoever the guy is, somebody ought to cue him in to Brenda. She's an accident waiting to happen.”
Nancy laughed. George had described Brenda Carlton to a
She was always tooting her own horn about being the best investigative reporter at
the award-winning newspaper owned by her father, Frazier Carlton. But Brenda's “investigations” always caused trouble.
“I don't know how you can laugh about it, Nan,” Ned said, frowning. “She deliberately blew your cover when you were investigating that espionage case at Bedford High. And she managed to get you arrested on suspicion of murdering Mick Swanson, at
“Remember? How could I ever forget
Brenda?” Nancy murmured, recalling the time Brenda challenged her to a detective duel to solve the Harrington case. Before it was over, she'd nearly gotten them both killed with her clumsy bungling.
“So what's this about Brenda kissing somebody in public?” George asked, lying back on the towel and pulling her straw hat over her face. “I want to hear more.”
“Last night I went over to Charlie's,” Bess told her, “that new place on the south side. They've
got this great guitarist, just in from out of town. But Brenda got there first and staked her claim on himâand believe me, she was making the best of it. She was practically sitting in his lap.” She sighed. “Too bad. He's really a hunk. A
“Oh, yeah?” George asked, cocking up her hat. “Who
“Somebody named Mike McKeever.”
Ned glanced out at the lake. “Hey, isn't it just about time for a swim?” he asked.
Bess nodded. “Yeah. Talking about Brenda Carlton makes me anxious. A swim would help me work it off.”
Nancy jumped to her feet. Whatever the ominous letter meant, there was nothing she could do about it until tonight. “Well, we can't have Bess suffering from anxiety.” She laughed. “Come on, Ned, let's race them!” With Ned close behind, she ran toward the water, leaving the letter behind.
Still, try as she might, she couldn't push the questions out of her mind.
was in trouble? Was it one of her friends? And what kind of danger was she walking into tonight? She shivered in spite of the warm sun. There were dozens of things she'd rather be doing this evening than meeting an anonymous letter-writer after dark in a deserted drive-in movie.
â¢Â â¢Â â¢
Nancy parked under the single, feeble light at the drive-in theater and turned off the ignition. It was reassuring to know that Ned was parked only a few blocks away, waiting for her and worrying about her safety. “Be careful,” he'd said when he took her to pick up her Mustang. “This could be dangerous.”
Dangerous or not, the deserted theater was certainly spooky. It seemed to echo with the soundtracks of all the old horror movies she had ever seen. The place looked empty, and Nancy didn't see the other carâa sleek black Lincoln parked in the shadows of the tumbled-down concession standâuntil she had scanned the lot carefully. She studied the car, frowning. Where had she seen it before? If it belonged to the person who had written the letter, why wasn't there any sign of life?
As she waited, goose bumps began to rise on her arms, and a shiver went across the back of her neck. Wow, this place
gives me the creeps, she thought. Maybe I'd better make sure I'm locked in. Without taking her eyes off the empty Lincoln, she reached over to lock the passenger door.
But it was too late. The door was already opening. A tall, shadowy figure slid into the seat beside her and wrapped one strong, black-gloved hand around her forearm. A man's rough, gravelly voice broke the silence.
“I assume that you've come alone, Nancy Drew. I wouldn't want anyone to see us together.”
The gloved grip tightened. Then, softly, the mysterious stranger laughedâa harsh, frightening laugh.