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Authors: Carolyn Keene

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BOOK: Let’s Talk Terror
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“Oh, it's really stupid,” Marcy said, running her slender fingers through her hair. “You see, Vic was my boyfriend until six months ago. In fact, he was the one who first suggested I create a talk show. But when I did do it, he got jealous, and we broke up. So I went to the Sterns to produce the show, and, well, Vic went nuts. Now he's claiming the show is half
his, and he's suing for fifty percent of the profits!”

“Maybe he's the one who tore up your photo,” Nancy suggested. “He sounds pretty angry.”

“But, Nancy, how could he have gotten in here? Security is so tight,” George said.

“Oh, he could have,” Marcy said reluctantly. “ ‘Southern Star' is taped here in the Media Center, up on the fifth floor. Still, it wasn't him, Nancy. I'm sure of it.”

“What makes you so sure?” Nancy asked.

Marcy gave Nancy a startled look. “Because I know him,” she insisted. “His feelings are hurt now. That's why he's striking out with this stupid lawsuit. But basically he's a good person.”

“It sounds like you think a lot of him,” Nancy observed, making a mental note to check the sign-in sheets in the lobby to see if Vic had been to the Stern Productions offices that morning.

“We've been through a lot together,” Marcy explained. “I know Vic still likes me—deep inside.”

“Marcy, can you think of anyone who might have made these threats?” Nancy asked.

Marcy frowned and glanced at her watch. “Well, I know a certain bad-girl singer who's pretty upset with me,” she said, aiming a
remote control at a TV across the room. “You can see her right now, in fact.”

“Bad girl singer? Do you mean Samantha Savage?” George asked.

“Samantha Savage,” came the announcer's voice from the TV as the picture came on. “How bad can a girl get? We're going to find out today on ‘Jenny's Place'!”

“Jenny's Place” was a show hosted by the overweight, old-fashioned, but still popular Jenny Dean, one of America's first TV talk show hosts.

“Samantha Savage is here today, everyone! So say hello!” Jenny announced as the camera cut to the sultry singer.

“That black leather skirt of Samantha's couldn't be much tighter,” Susan remarked dryly as she came in.

On the screen Samantha had taken a seat and shaken out her flowing bleached blond mane. “It's great to be on a show where you're treated with a little respect, Jenny,” Samantha said, pouting.

“Oh? Have you had a bad time on talk shows before, Samantha?” Jenny asked sympathetically.

“Just one, hosted by Marcy Robbins,” Samantha said. “That Marcy is a real—oops, I guess I can't say that on television.” The TV audience chuckled, more from nervousness, Nancy thought, than agreement.

“Well, why don't you tell us all about it?” Jenny suggested with a syrupy smile.

What followed was a harsh attack on Marcy. “I was on her show two weeks ago, trying to tell her about my new album,
Heartless,
but she was, like, obsessed with talking about my past!”

“Well, what's wrong with that?” Jenny asked. “We're supposed to get to the bottom of things, honey.”

Swinging one ankle of her crossed legs, Samantha frowned. “She accused me of being a Girl Scout, Jenny.”

At that, the audience let out a big laugh. “She said I never had a date till I was nineteen. In fact, her whole show was about my being a good girl!”

“That
is
a horrible insult, I suppose,” Jenny Dean quipped. Then she turned to face the camera. “We're talking with Samantha Savage. How bad can she get? Find out after these messages!”

Marcy clicked off the TV, fuming. “She makes my blood boil!”

“What happened when she was on your show?” Nancy asked, bursting with curiosity.

“I found out the truth about her, that's what happened!” Marcy said hotly. “Her entire bad-girl image is totally bogus. She says she grew up on the streets, poor and abused, and that she's always been a rebel. Well, guess
what? She was raised in a rich suburban town and given every advantage, including singing lessons. In grade school she was big in the Girl Scouts, and in high school she was an honor student.”

“I guess she wasn't too happy when you revealed all that on TV,” George said. “Samantha's built her whole career on her bad-girl image.”

“You got it,” Marcy agreed. “Now she's saying
I'm
the reason her new album isn't selling the way the others have!” She rolled her eyes. “The worst thing is, I have to see her tonight at a benefit for Lake Shore Children's Hospital.”

Susan turned to Nancy and George. “I hope you'll come. It's a celebrity auction.”

“That sounds like fun,” George said.

Marcy let out a sigh. “To tell the truth, I'm not in the mood for it. I think I'll go home and spend some time with my cat before the benefit. At least he and I get along.” Marcy stood up and grabbed a purple satin jacket with the logo of her show on the back, and threw it over her shoulders. “My limo will be at Susan's to pick you up at six forty-five sharp. Be ready, okay?”

“We will,” Susan promised. When Marcy was gone, Susan turned to her friends. “We can go now, too. I'm done with my work.”

“Not me,” Nancy replied. “I want to check
out a few things around here, including the sign-in sheet.”

“Okay,” Susan replied. “I'll take you and George around, in case anybody gives you a hard time.”

“What exactly are we looking for, Nan?” George asked.

Nancy frowned. “Well, for one thing, how about a magenta marker that's low on ink?”

“It
is
an unusual color,” Susan said.

Nancy and the girls checked Marcy's office. There were no magenta markers. “You and Susan check the rest of the offices,” Nancy instructed George. “Meet me here when you're done.”

After they had gone, Nancy figured how much time it would take to enter Marcy's office, write the message, rip up the photo, replace it in the envelope, and sneak away. Not much time at all, Nancy decided. Any Stern employee could have done it.

Then there was Vic Molina. It would have been easy enough for him to get down from the fifth floor, using the fire stairs.

“Four magenta markers between us,” George said, holding them up as she and Susan returned.

“But all of them have plenty of ink,” Susan added, shaking her head.

“Oh, well,” Nancy said. “I guess we'd better get going, huh?”

Susan checked her watch and nodded. The girls headed back down the corridor to the front office, where the receptionist was just preparing to leave.

“Ginger,” Susan asked, “did Vic Molina come by today? Or anyone who doesn't work here?”

“Not when I was here,” the receptionist told her. “But I took a long lunch and couldn't find anyone to cover for me.”

Susan gave the girl a stern look. “You could have called me. Relieving you is part of my job.”

Ginger bit her lip. “Sorry, I forgot.”

“Ginger,” Nancy said, “could you be extra alert about who comes into the offices from now on? It's important.”

“Okay,” the receptionist agreed, but Nancy wasn't convinced she'd follow through.

“I hope we have better luck with the guard in the lobby,” Nancy said as the girls passed through the double doors. Nancy quickly approached the guard and asked, “Would you mind if we take a look at today's sign-in sheets?”

“Fine with me,” he said, passing the clipboard to Nancy.

“How many pages should be here?” Nancy asked, riffling through the pages.

“Oh, by this time at least ten,” he replied. “This is a busy building.”

“Were you ever away?” Nancy asked, handing him back the clipboard.

“Not really,” he said. “I might have left for a minute or two to use the men's room.”

“There are only four pages here. One from early this morning and three for the past hour and a half,” Nancy told him. “Unless I miss my guess, somebody stole the rest.”

“Look,” said the guard, “I work alone from nine to five, okay? I got to take a short break now and then. I can't—”

Just then Nancy let out a gasp. A cleaning lady had emerged from the Stern offices, pushing a bin of trash in front of her. Before she disappeared through another door marked Staff Only, Nancy noticed something on top of the pile of trash. A magenta marker!

“Where does that door go?” Nancy quickly asked the guard.

“Huh? Oh, to the trash compacter, that's all. Hey! Where are you going?”

Nancy was already halfway across the lobby. She reached the heavy steel door just before it slammed shut. Throwing it open, she raced through. Ahead of her at the far end of the dimly lit room stood the cleaning lady, opening the huge compacter door.

“No, wait!” Nancy screamed.

It was too late. The woman was already tilting her load of trash into the compacter!

Chapter

Four

F
ORTUNATELY
N
ANCY'S
scream startled the cleaning lady, causing her to jump just as she tilted the trash. The magenta marker slid off the pile and clattered to the floor at Nancy's feet.

After pulling a tissue from her pocket, Nancy picked it up. “Thanks,” she murmured as the cleaning woman watched with a confused expression. “Everything's fine,” Nancy assured her, backing away slowly.

“What was that all about?” George asked as Nancy reappeared at the security desk.

Nancy held up the marker to show them. “Let's try it out,” she said, and scribbled on a piece of blank paper lying on the guard's desk. The marker was just about dry. “I knew it. People don't throw out markers when they're
still working.” A grin spread over Nancy's face. “I think this is clue number one.”

The girls made their way through the lobby to the front door. After the valet brought Nancy's car around, she and George followed Susan's car out of the downtown area to a neighborhood of town houses and storefronts, where they turned onto a quiet side street and parked. “Like my neighborhood?” Susan asked proudly as she joined them as they unloaded their bags. “It's called Old Town, and it's really cool—lots of art galleries and clubs and antique shops.”

They followed Susan into an old brick building, and she led them up to her second-floor apartment. “It isn't big, but it's mine,” she said, unlocking the door and ushering them inside.

Susan's decorating skills were what made the place seem cheerful and welcoming, Nancy thought. “I really like these chairs,” she told Susan. “Are they antiques?”

Susan laughed. “Nope. I painted them to look old. Come on, I'll show you the rest of the place. We have to get changed, but it's a very short tour.”

Off the living room were a small terrace, where Susan stored her bike, a kitchenette, a bathroom, and a tiny bedroom. “This pulls out into a futon bed,” Susan said, pointing to the sofa in the living room. “I'll open it up for you
later tonight. And that, I think, is the whole tour. So now we can get changed.” Susan checked her watch and said, “Uh-oh. Marcy's limo will be here in twenty minutes. Can you be ready in time?”

“No problem,” Nancy said with a grin. “George and I are a regular Rapid Deployment Force.”

• • •

“This place is fabulous,” Nancy said as Marcy's limo pulled up to the Harms Wood Country Club, located in posh suburban Evanston, north of the city.

“I love old stone buildings,” George said, admiring the facade.

Exquisitely dressed men and women were streaming into the building, and an air of wealth hung over the entire premises.

“Wow,” George murmured as a doorman in maroon coat and white gloves pulled a carved oak door open for their group.

“Pretty classy, huh?” Marcy said as she led the way into the large foyer with polished wood paneling and beams that arched gracefully overhead.

Susan reached into her handbag and took out three dark red cards with gold-leaf writing, which she handed to the hostess standing at the entrance to the ballroom, where the auction was to be held.

“You're at table fourteen,” the hostess said with a smile.

Stepping into the ballroom, Nancy was taken with the immense crystal chandeliers hanging over each of the fifty or so large round tables.

“I'd better tell the people running this benefit that I'm here,” Marcy said, walking away in the direction of the stage, which was curtained in rich wine-colored velvet.

All of Chicago was there, it seemed to Nancy, as she walked past a table with several members of the city's baseball teams.

“I see number fourteen,” George said, pointing to a table along the left wall, not far from the stage.

“Drew, Fayne, Ling—that's us,” Nancy said, checking the place cards. Then she put her small sequined clutch bag on the table by her setting and walked around the table. “Let's see who else is sitting with us. Mr. and Mrs. Ringer, Mr. Appleby, Ms. Fox—”

BOOK: Let’s Talk Terror
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