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Authors: Carolyn Keene

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BOOK: Let’s Talk Terror
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“Pardon the mess,” Karen said with a small laugh as she took a seat behind her paper-strewn desk. “Now, first you tell me where you heard I was replacing Marcy Robbins.” She gave them another big smile.

“Good reporters never divulge their sources, Ms. Kristoff,” Nancy interrupted. “And any information you give us will be held confidential until you say it's okay to print it.”

Karen gave Nancy a nod. “You're quite the reporter, aren't you?”

“Now, about the big offer?” Nancy prompted her.

“As I said, I can't confirm any offer because so far I haven't been given any firm deal.”

“We heard Marcy was extremely upset,” George said, beginning the interview as she brought out her tape recorder. “May I turn this on?”

Karen hesitated before nodding. “I do feel awful about Marcy,” Karen said, shaking her head. “After the bomb threat, she was just too great a security risk. At least, that's what everyone said. In any case, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Marcy wasn't cut out for TV. She was much more effective as a print journalist, if you ask me.”

“You went to the same high school as Marcy, didn't you?” Nancy asked, suppressing the urge to argue with Karen.

“Well, yes,” Karen said. “You've done your research. I'm impressed.”

“It must be exciting to go from editor to TV journalist,” George said enthusiastically. “Have you ever been on TV before?”

“Actually, I've been a guest on a number of talk shows, and I briefly had a radio talk show. Still, this will be a wonderful opportunity for growth.”

“What will you call the show?” George asked.

“Now, that would be getting way ahead of myself,” Karen said. Checking her watch, she added, “I really am pressed this morning, girls. Why don't you call me tomorrow. I should know more by then.” Karen got up and indicated the door, leaving no doubt that the interview was over.

As she rose to go, Nancy took in the wall covered with enlarged color photos across the room. Most were of Karen with various celebrities. Something in one of the photos caught Nancy's eye. She stood up quickly. “Ms. Kristoff, can we get a picture to go with the interview?”

“Well, I suppose that wouldn't hurt,” Karen said. When she spotted George's instant camera,
she frowned. “Is that all you brought? It won't take a magazine-quality picture, you know.”

“Yes, w-well,” George stammered, “we're operating on a very low budget.”

Karen gave her a condescending smile. “I understand, dear,” she said. “It's all right.”

“George, take her over here, by this wall, okay?” Nancy said, indicating the wall of photos.

Karen posed for a series of shots while Nancy and George chatted about the new show.

Nancy could barely suppress a triumphant smile as the editor said goodbye. When she and George were outside the building, Nancy said, “Let's take a look at that photo you just snapped. The colors are just coming in now—there. Look at the wall behind Karen. The big color enlargement of her with the stars of ‘Miller's Dream.' ”

“I'm looking,” George said, squinting in the bright morning sunlight. “But I guess I'm not seeing what you are.”

“What's Karen wearing around her neck?” Nancy prompted her friend.

“A paisley scarf,” George replied. “So wh—ohhhh! Is that the one you found?”

“That's the one,” Nancy said. “See the red
and black, with the gold thread pattern around the edges?”

“Uh-huh,” George said. “But, Nan, that means—”

“That's right,” Nancy told her. “We've found our mystery caller. And her name is Karen Kristoff!”

Chapter

Thirteen

W
OW!”
G
EORGE GASPED.
“Fantastic, Nan. We've broken open the case!” Then she paused for a second. “So what do we do now?”

“First things first, George,” Nancy said. “We have to contact Lieutenant Dunne and tell him what we've found.”

Pointing to a pay phone at the corner, Nancy led George to it and called the lieutenant at police headquarters. To Nancy's surprise Dunne didn't seem very impressed.

“So you saw it in a photograph,” he said. “What does that prove? It's circumstantial at best—like that purple marker.”

“Magenta,” Nancy corrected him, barely containing her annoyance. “Have you checked the Stern employees' fingerprints yet?”

“Nancy,” the lieutenant answered impatiently,
“we're doing all we can over here. Without more evidence, I can't fingerprint two dozen people. I'd get my head handed to me on a platter.”

“Can't you question Karen Kristoff, at least?” Nancy prodded him. “Maybe she'd confess under pressure or reveal the name of her partner at Stern Productions, the one who rigged the TelePrompTer and tore up Marcy's picture.”

“Whoa there, you're going too fast, Nancy,” the lieutenant cautioned her. “Look, you're talking about the media here. The
national
media. If I step on anybody's toes, and they turn out to be innocent, I could be kissing my whole career goodbye.”

“Meanwhile, Marcy's career is gone,” Nancy said hotly. “I suppose that's okay with you.”

“Now, now,” Dunne returned, “don't get like that. I'll do another round of questioning in the next day or so, and I'll include Kristoff with the others, all right? It'll all get straightened out sooner or later.”

“And what about Marcy?” Nancy insisted.

“I've still got a guard on her,” Dunne reassured her. “And if Marcy's any good, she'll come back from this. She's young. There'll be plenty of other chances.”

Nancy hung up, steaming. “Ooooh, he makes me so mad!” she burst out. “George,
we're going to have to tackle Karen Kristoff ourselves.”

“What do you mean, Nan?” George asked, taken aback.

“Lieutenant Dunne is obviously more concerned with his own reputation than with solving this case. I think he's hoping that now that the show's canceled, the problem will just go away.”

“Didn't he think the scarf was proof?” George asked.

“The guy seems to want a confession, signed, sealed, and delivered,” Nancy said. “So we're going to give it to him.”

“Huh?”

“I've got a plan,” Nancy said, slinging an arm around her friend's shoulders and leading her back to the Media Center. “Karen said she's going to a meeting at eleven. We're going to send her on a little detour.”

“But we're going the wrong way, Nan,” George protested. “Karen's office is back there.”

“We've got almost an hour,” Nancy explained, “and I want to stop off at the Stern offices first. Now, here's what we're going to do. . . .”

• • •

The mood at the Stern offices was glum. From the security guard, who recognized
them, to Ginger and Dee and Brenda—everyone was wearing a long face.

Susan was at her desk, gathering up her personal stuff. The Sterns were nowhere in sight, and neither was Marcy. “She just couldn't bear to come in today,” Susan explained when Nancy asked. “She called me this morning after you left. She said to thank you both for trying to help.”

“That's awful!” George exclaimed. “Poor Marcy.”

“Susan,” Nancy said, handing her the snapshot. “Could you do me a favor and deliver this to Lieutenant Dunne—in person?”

Susan glanced at the photo and shrugged. “Sure, Nancy. I'll be done here in a few minutes, and I've got the whole day free after that.”

“We all do,” said Jack Cole, who was coming down the corridor toward them. “And all day tomorrow and the day after that.” Jack was obviously depressed, too. “Poor Marcy,” he said, shaking his head. “I wonder how she is. Have any of you spoken to her?”

“I have,” Susan said, and she told him what Marcy had said about not coming in to clean out her stuff.

Jack seemed troubled. “Gee,” he said, “I wonder why she didn't call me?” Nancy could see the hurt in his eyes. “Hmm,” he went on
thoughtfully. “I guess I should go visit her to cheer her up.”

“I don't know if she's ready for that,” Susan said cautiously.

Jack stared at her. “You don't know her like I do,” he said before turning and walking away, his walkie-talkie bouncing in its holster. Nancy noticed the muscles on his arms. Athletic, she said to herself.

“Weird guy,” Susan remarked, taking the photo from Nancy and putting it in an envelope before placing it in her shoulder bag. “He sure cares about Marcy, though.”

There was caring and then there was caring, Nancy thought to herself, but she didn't say anything. She was getting an uneasy feeling about Jack Cole and wondered what his real feelings were toward Marcy. He didn't seem to have any reason to harm her, but . . .

Nancy took comfort in the knowledge that Marcy had a police officer guarding her at all times. “I guess we're done here,” she told Susan. “George and I have to go someplace, Susan. I don't know when we'll be done, but where can we reach you?”

“At home, I guess,” Susan said. “Or at Marcy's. If she's ready to talk, I want to be there for her. She's not just my boss, she's my friend, too. And I can't stand to see this happen to her.” Susan angrily wiped a stray tear from her cheek.

“Neither can we,” Nancy told her. “And we're not going to let it happen.”

“But it already has, Nancy!” Susan protested. “They're replacing her with Karen Kristoff, aren't they?”

“Not if George and I can help it,” Nancy replied.

• • •

Nancy and George stood in the corner of the lobby of the
Teen Talk
building, reading newspapers that they held up high to hide their faces. When Karen Kristoff emerged from the elevator and headed for the revolving doors, the two girls were right behind her.

Karen walked about three blocks, then turned left. “Look!” George whispered to Nancy when the girls turned the corner after her. “It's Pepe's Garage! She's going in, Nan!”

Sure enough, Karen Kristoff was already heading down the ramp. Nancy started running with George following. Pepe was nowhere in sight as the girls went inside. On the first level down, they saw Karen opening her car door.

“Now, George!” Nancy whispered, breaking into a run. Karen Kristoff was just pulling the door to her gold car closed. “Karen, wait!” Nancy yelled, flying over and holding the door open. “We need to talk to you,
right now
!”

Karen flinched, her face dead white. “Why
are you following me around?” she asked. “I met with you, didn't I? I told you, I have to get to a meeting!” She yanked violently on the door, trying to close it, but Nancy held firm.

“We know about the meeting,” Nancy told her. “And we also know what you've done to Marcy.” Nancy stared at her until the editor's lip began to tremble.

“You're not reporters, are you?” she said, her voice breaking. “I knew something was off about you two.”

“That's right, Karen,” Nancy said coolly. “I'm a detective working for Marcy Robbins.”

Karen's hand moved and turned on the ignition. As she did, George ran in front of the car. Nancy saw Karen hesitate and knew she wouldn't run George down. George knew it, too.

“We've already given the police concrete evidence against you,” Nancy warned Karen. “They've got the scarf you lost when you made that threatening phone call, and it's been identified as yours. It won't be long before they come for you.” Karen's face was crumbling now. She leaned back in the driver's seat, and turned the ignition off. “Look, Karen, why don't we climb in there with you. We can talk more privately. Maybe we can even help.”

Karen nodded and scooted over to the passenger side. Nancy got behind the wheel, and
George sat in back. “There,” Nancy said when they had closed the doors, and she heard the click of the tape recorder being turned on by George. “That's better. Now, Karen, if you'll tell us how it happened, and who's working with you, I promise we'll put in a good word with the police on your behalf.”

“I—I don't—know if—” Karen could barely get the words out.

“It'll be all right,” Nancy said soothingly. “After all, you did call to warn Marcy about your accomplice. Didn't you?”

Karen nodded slowly. “Yes,” she said, barely whispering. “I made all the phone threats. But that's all I did. Honestly!” Her voice was rising now, as she pleaded with them for understanding. “I never meant it to get out of hand, I swear! I just wanted her to quit the show, so they'd give it to me.”

“What made you think they'd give Marcy's job to you?” Nancy wanted to know.

“Because they almost offered it to me the first time, that's why!” Karen cried. “It should have been mine to begin with, not hers! I'm older than she is—I gave her her first big break, for goodness sake. And then, she takes the job I've wanted all my life!”

BOOK: Let’s Talk Terror
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