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Authors: Carolyn Keene

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BOOK: Let’s Talk Terror
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She turned to Nancy, pleading again. “We grew up together, she and Jack and I. We all
knew one another and would always talk about what big successes we'd be.” She frowned. “I hate her,” she said softly. “She's ruined my life.”

“You've ruined it yourself,” George put in. “If you hadn't made those threats—”

“I couldn't help it!” Karen shouted. “I was just—so—
angry
.” She shuddered and sighed. “But I never meant to hurt anybody. The phony bomb? That wasn't me—in fact, he wanted to use a real one. He's crazy. Breaking into people's apartments and setting buildings on fire—”

“Who? Who's crazy?” Nancy asked impatiently. “Unless you tell us, Karen, you'll be helping a criminal do more harm.”

Karen hesitated. “He'll kill me if I say,” she whimpered.

“Just tell me if I guess right,” Nancy said soothingly. “It had to be someone with access to Marcy and the studio,” she reasoned. “Someone Marcy thought of as a friend, who could change the message on the TelePrompTer and plant a phony bomb. Someone athletic enough to climb to Susan Ling's terrace and crazy enough to set that fire. Someone you've known for years. It's Jack Cole, isn't it, Karen?”

Slowly Karen nodded. “Yes,” she whispered. “He's always loved Marcy. From the
beginning. More than loved her, he's obsessed by her. Oh, he hid it well, but when she rejected him—”

“Rejected him?” Nancy stopped her. “What do you mean?”

“They went out for a short time, in senior year,” Karen explained. “Marcy told him she just wanted to be friends. So he stayed friends with her. And he never told her how she'd broken his heart.

“That's how Jack is—hidden. But he cried on my shoulder plenty of times. And when Marcy broke
my
heart, just like she broke his—”

Karen stopped for a second. Nancy nodded, encouraging her to go on. Then Karen said, “I knew people would start snooping around. That's why I pulled those files about us all growing up together in Cicero. I was afraid someone would connect me with Jack Cole. When Laura Salvo told me she was looking for the files, I had to get rid of her. I thought that would be the end of it. It would have been, too, except then Jack heard the police lieutenant say you were a detective.

“From that moment on, Jack flipped out totally. I told him that you'd contacted Laura, and that got him even crazier. He told me he wanted you dead. He got paranoid that you'd find out what we were up to.

“See, all I wanted was for Marcy to be taken off the show so I'd get her job. But Jack felt that if Marcy's career were totally lost, she'd go to him, and he could get her to love him the way he loves her. He's crazy, I'm telling you. That's why I made that warning call. I knew he was going to try to kill somebody. I—”

“I understand,” Nancy told her. “You've done yourself a lot of good by being honest. Now we're going to Marcy's. If I'm right, we've got no time to lose. Do you know where she lives?”

“Of course I do,” Karen said flatly. All the life seemed to have gone out of her. Nancy turned the key in the ignition and the engine roared. “Marcy and I used to be best friends.”

Following Karen's directions, Nancy drove them to the Near North Side, and Marcy's town house, a graceful old building on a tree-lined street.

“I want to make sure she's okay,” Nancy explained, unbuckling her seat belt. “You stay in the car with George while I go check. Is that okay with you, George?” Nancy asked.

“Sure,” George replied. “I'll just move up front.”

Nancy left them in the car and advanced on the front door. Fear rose in her heart. Was the police guard who had been assigned to Marcy
inside? Jack Cole had said he was coming to see Marcy. Was he still here?

The door opened at Nancy's touch—a bad sign. Nancy walked into the living room and gasped. A woman was lying on the floor, bound and gagged.

It was Susan Ling!

Chapter

Fourteen

E
VEN AS
N
ANCY
cried out in surprise, she was on her knees untying the ropes. A huge sob burst from Susan as Nancy pulled the gag out of her mouth.

“Oh, Na-ancy,” she said, her voice catching, “Jack Cole—he ti-ied me up and took Marcy with him!” She began sobbing again.

“Calm down, Susan,” Nancy said, stroking the young woman's hair and holding her. “It's going to be all right. We're going to save Marcy. But you have to calm down. We don't have much time.”

Susan got the message. With great effort, she managed to catch her breath.

“Susan, Karen Kristoff made the phone threats. She and Jack were working together. George is outside in the car with her.”

“Oh!” Susan put her hand over her mouth in alarm. “The picture—Jack took it. The photo you gave me—”

“Don't worry, Susan,” Nancy reassured her. “We've already got a taped confession. Now, about Jack. Tell me everything.”

Before Susan could begin, though, Nancy heard a siren approaching, then a car screech to a halt in front of Marcy's house. In a matter of seconds, Lieutenant Dunne burst through the front door. He ran over to Nancy. “Everything all right?” he asked, looking from Nancy to Susan. “Somebody called the officer I had assigned here and told him I wanted him to report to headquarters.”

“Marcy's been kidnapped by Jack Cole,” Nancy said quickly. “He's the one who set the fire and made the bomb threat, too. Karen Kristoff made the phone threats, as I told you. She's in the car out front, with George, and we've got a taped confession from her.”

“What?” The lieutenant looked every bit as stunned as he must have felt. “I—well, I—good work, Nancy. Thank you.”

“You're welcome, Lieutenant,” Nancy told him. “We need to work together now. We've got to save Marcy.”

Susan began by telling them what had happened. “When I showed up, Jack was here with Marcy. I don't know what was going on, but when he saw me, he pulled a gun.”

“He's armed and dangerous,” Dunne told one of the officers who had come up behind him and heard the last part of the conversation. “Check to see if Ms. Robbins's car is here. Then get the license number and make of Jack Cole's car right away.”

“It's a dark gray hatchback, Lieutenant,” Susan said. “With a dent in the front right fender.”

“You heard her,” Dunne said to his officers. “Put out an all-points bulletin for Marcy Robbins, traveling with a Caucasian male, thin build, brown hair, light eyes. I want them found—fast! Oh, and see that gold coupe over there? Ms. Karen Kristoff is inside. Take her down to headquarters and book her.”

The officers took off as Dunne turned to the girls. “You were saying?” he asked Susan, pulling out a pad and pencil to make notes.

“He made Marcy get rope and tape for him, and then he tied me up. He said he and Marcy were in love with each other and were going to go away together. She looked terrified.”

Nancy put a comforting hand on Susan's shoulder. “Did he say anything else, Susan?” she asked. “Anything that could help us figure out where he took her?”

Susan concentrated hard, biting her lip. Then she shrugged helplessly. “I don't know. I don't remember his exact words at all.”

“Maybe they'll come back to you later,”
Dunne suggested. “I'll want to get more details later, Miss Ling. Right now, I have to get to work.”

Nancy and Susan said goodbye to the lieutenant and walked out onto the sidewalk, where George approached them. “The police told me what happened. I can't believe it! What are we going to do?”

“You have your car here, right, Susan?” Nancy asked.

“I sure do,” Susan replied.

“Let's all get in it and talk,” Nancy said.

Susan led them to her car. “They wouldn't still be anywhere near here,” Susan said once they settled themselves inside. “He would have taken her far away.”

“Not necessarily,” Nancy said, thinking hard. “But I bet you're right about one thing. They're nowhere near here. Let's think, guys. Jack is in love with Marcy, he's obsessed with her. He thinks if he can get her to leave her show, she'll finally come back to him.”

“Okay, so far so good,” George agreed. “They stop taping the show, and a new host is hired. Marcy's career is in ruins. Now what?”

“Jack hears that Marcy's heartbroken. Now's his chance,” Nancy said, leaning forward eagerly. “He can be the one to console her! So he goes to her and tells her how he feels—how he's felt all along . . .”

“But she doesn't feel the same about him,” George added.

Susan chimed in. “So he goes crazy and tells her he's going to take her away to their own dark little world. That's when I walked in.”

Nancy gasped, and grabbed Susan's elbow hard. “Susan!” she said, her heart racing. “What you just said—were those Jack's words?
Their own dark little world
.”

“I think so,” Susan murmured.

Nancy's eyes lit up. “I think I know where Jack's taken Marcy!”

“Where?” George asked excitedly.

“To the underground tunnels they used to hang out in when they were growing up,” Nancy said. “He told me about them backstage at the celebrity auction. He said they were in Cicero.”

“Cicero, here we come,” Susan said, revving the engine and pulling the car into the street.

“Of course,” George remarked. “That's exactly where he would take her. To a place they shared. It's romantic but creepy at the same time.”

“With a heavy emphasis on the creepy,” Susan added as she took the ramp for the expressway.

When they reached Cicero, Nancy saw that it was a neighborhood of modest clapboard houses bunched closely together. There didn't
seem to be anything extraordinary about it, as far as Nancy could tell.

Then she saw something she recognized. “The racetrack!” she shouted. “Jack told me a tunnel entrance was there!”

Quickly Susan pointed the car toward the track. Five blocks later they passed a narrow alleyway, and Susan jammed on the brakes. “Look!” she cried, pointing. “That's Jack's car! See the dent?”

They pulled over and ran to the car, which was locked and empty. “Susan, go call the police. Tell Lieutenant Dunne to hurry, okay?”

“Right, Nan,” Susan said.

“George, doesn't that building on the other side of the fence look like a stable?” Nancy said, pointing toward the end of the alley where a chain-link fence ran beside what appeared to be the back end of the racetrack. “Jack told me that the tunnel was near a stable,” she explained, her voice pitched high with excitement.

“We'll need a flashlight,” she said then. “Have you got one in the car, Susan?”

“Aren't you lucky? We gofers carry everything,” Susan said with a grin, popping open the trunk and giving Nancy a sturdy, powerful flashlight. “Good luck, you two,” she said as she got in the driver's seat and drove off to find a phone.

“Come on, George,” Nancy said, heading for the fence, the flashlight in her hand.

“What do the tunnel entrances look like, Nan?” George asked.

“I don't know,” Nancy said, as she squirmed through a gap in the fence. Once inside, she led her friend toward the stable. There were a lot of people at the track, but all their attention was on the race in progress. In the distance, Nancy heard the announcer's voice and the cheers as the horses raced for the finish.

Luckily, there was no one right around them. They peeked in an open doorway. The building was a stable—but an old, unused one. “At least we won't be seen,” Nancy said.

Hay covered the ground around the stable and the dry particles drifted up with the dry dirt. “Ick, Nan, this is disgusting,” George said, brushing at her already dusty clothes.

“George, I have a feeling the tunnels are going to be worse, but they'll be wet probably,” Nancy warned her friend. “Hey, what's that?”

When they rounded the far corner of the stable, Nancy saw a small, fenced-in area about eight feet around. Inside the fence was an iron hatchway. Lifting the lid, they saw a ladder leading down. “Looks like a tunnel entrance to me,” George said. “You go first, Nan.”

“Thanks a lot,” Nancy said cheerfully.
Holding the flashlight in one hand, she descended the ladder into the darkness.

“What's it like down there?” George asked, peering over the edge of the entrance.

“Dark. Musty,” Nancy answered. She didn't mention the rat she saw skittering across the beam of the flashlight.

“I'm coming down, too,” George said, climbing onto the ladder.

Nancy scanned the area around her with her light. The tunnel was large, with huge pipes suspended from the concrete ceiling. It seemed to go far into the distance, meeting up with other tunnels at both ends. “I don't see any other ladders,” Nancy murmured as two more rats behind her let out a squeal and scampered away into the darkness.

BOOK: Let’s Talk Terror
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