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Authors: Carolyn Keene

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BOOK: Let’s Talk Terror
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“Marcy Robbins steps all over people. She doesn't care who she hurts.”

At those words, Marcy leaned forward, shaking her head, dumbfounded.

“Marcy stepped all over
you
?” Dr. Helen asked, gently challenging the caller. “And now you want to get even? Is that it?”

“Yes, but like I said, I'm not the one she should be scared of,” the voice replied, its strange pitch rising.

“What you are saying is very serious,” Dr. Helen said. “I can tell you're carrying around a heavy load. Won't you feel better if you reveal yourself and this other person? Why should you burden yourself with all this?”

“I've said what I have to say,” the voice shouted now. “You can't make me say more.”

With that the caller banged the receiver down. Lieutenant Dunne poked his head back
in and nodded gratefully to Dr. Helen. Marcy sat up. “It was the same person who left me the message,” she said to Lieutenant Dunne.

“We'll start taping again as soon as you're ready, Marcy,” Nancy heard Brenda say to the host. “Take your time, but remember, we do have other callers waiting on the lines.” Then she turned to the audience. “Thanks for your cooperation, folks. Let's not let that call ruin our show.”

Nancy tugged on George's sleeve and stood up. “Let's go find Lieutenant Dunne,” she said, passing to the aisle with George close behind.

Nancy and George made their way behind the set to where the studio connected with the Stern offices. Because of the police presence, Nancy guessed, the door was open. They found the lieutenant and a couple of his staff in Mr. Stern's office, which now looked like a police command center.

Nancy and George were about to step inside when they heard the lieutenant say, “The call came from the lobby of a building right next door.”

He wasted no time hurrying out the door. “Girls!” he said, surprised to see them in the corridor.

“We heard what you said,” Nancy told him as he passed by her. “Can I come?”

“Sure,” he said, without stopping. “I know you'll take care of yourself.”

“Stay here and keep an eye on things, George,” Nancy said, hurrying after him. “I'll be right back.”

“It's probably too late, but you never know,” the lieutenant said over his shoulder as they passed through the lobby to the street exit.

Threading past pedestrians on the busy sidewalk, they entered the lobby next door. There they quickly spotted a bank of phones across from a newspaper and candy stand. Nancy was disappointed to see that all the phones were free. They had arrived too late.

“Excuse me,” the lieutenant said to the dark-skinned man stacking candy under the newsstand. “Did you see anyone at any of those phones a few minutes ago?”

“Sorry,” the man answered. “I didn't pay attention.”

“I saw someone,” the woman behind the counter answered. She, too, had dark skin and long smooth black hair. The Indian sari she wore was a deep rose color. “At the last phone.”

“Yes?” the lieutenant asked eagerly. “Man or woman?”

“It was a woman, but I didn't see her face,” the concessionaire told him. “She wore a paisley
scarf, very beautiful, black and red, with gold thread woven in.”

“Was she tall, short, fat, thin?” The lieutenant pressed for more description.

The woman looked confused. “Medium, I guess. I really didn't pay much attention,” she said with a regretful shrug. “She made a call, and then she was gone.”

“A black and red scarf with gold thread, huh?” Lieutenant Dunne repeated.

“Yes, she covered her head with it,” the woman said.

“Which way did she go when she left?” Nancy asked.

“Let's see,” the woman said, obviously trying to remember. “That way, I think.” She pointed to the far side of the phone bank, where the building's service entrance was.

“ ‘Employees Only,' ” the lieutenant read the words printed on the door. “ ‘All Others—Keep Out.' ” He turned to Nancy and reached for the doorknob. “Come on, Nancy.”

“Hey! No one's allowed in there!” came a shout. Turning, Nancy saw the building's uniformed security man approaching rapidly.

Reaching into his jacket pocket, Lieutenant Dunne pulled out a bronze badge. “Chicago PD,” he said, flashing it.

“What's going on?” the security man asked, frowning.

“Police business,” the lieutenant said. “Did you happen to notice anyone on those phones in the last five minutes?”

“I was out front,” the guard replied.

“Where does this door lead?” Nancy asked him.

“Out back to the parking lot. See for yourself.” With that he opened the door leading to a ten-foot-long corridor ending in a freight exit. The door was slightly ajar, revealing a slice of the lot behind the building.

“There's how she got away,” Nancy said, frustrated.

“Don't let anybody near that last phone,” the lieutenant told the guard. “I'm going to send someone to check it for prints. But first, I want to have a quick look out back.”

After following the lieutenant down the short corridor, Nancy stepped outside. Next to the door were three large trash and recycling containers, which she peered into.

“Nothing in there,” the lieutenant said.

But a glint of gold from behind one of the containers caught Nancy's eye. “Fantastic!” she said, reaching down and pulling up the paisley scarf. “Somebody was in a hurry, I guess.”

“Good work, Nancy!” the lieutenant said, taking the scarf from her and checking out the label. “‘One hundred percent rayon. Cold wash only,' ” he read. “We'll run a check on this.”

Nancy looked across the parking lot at the black granite building across the way. It sent a shock of recognition through her. It was the building that housed the offices of
Teen Talk.
“I never heard from Laura,” she murmured softly.

“What's that, Nancy?” the lieutenant asked.

“That building is where I was trying to get some background information on Marcy, Vic Molina, and Samantha Savage,” she said.

“Yeah, I heard about those two from Marcy yesterday,” the lieutenant said. “We've checked into them, but they seem to be okay. I don't think either of them could have sneaked into the Stern offices without being recognized.”

“But remember, Lieutenant,” Nancy reminded him, “the caller today said there was somebody else involved. Maybe Vic or Samantha is working with someone at Stern Productions.”

“You have a lot of fancy theories, Nancy,” the lieutenant said. “You check them out, okay? I've got a lot of cases I'm working on at the moment. Now if you'll excuse me,” he said, turning to go back into the building, “I've got to call headquarters to send a fingerprint guy over here.”

Nancy ran across the parking lot to go to see Laura at the offices of
Teen Talk.
There was a different receptionist behind the glass partition.

“I'm looking for Laura Salvo,” Nancy said.

“Oh,” said the receptionist, taking off her glasses and staring at Nancy. “Laura's no longer here.”

“What happened to her?” Nancy couldn't hide her surprise.

“Ms. Kristoff let her go. It was kind of sudden,” the girl said. “I'm new here, so I really couldn't tell you.”

“I see.” Nancy checked her watch. “Thank you. Thank you very much.” She headed straight back to the Media Center.

There George was waiting for her by Ginger's desk. “Big news, Nancy,” George said, her face tight with worry. “Taping of ‘Marcy!' has been postponed until further notice.”

“Oh, no,” Nancy said. “Poor Marcy. How is she taking it?”

“She's talking to the Sterns right now,” George told her. “Susan's in on the meeting, too. Apparently, it was something about the show's insurance being canceled. The company said that all the threats were making it too much of a risk. By the way, Susan just handed me this. She said somebody left it in her box, but it has your name on it.”

Nancy quickly opened the envelope and pulled out a sheet of notepaper.

Nancy—I couldn't get those files for you, but I found out something you should know. Meet me at 1331 Western Avenue this afternoon. Go up the stairs. I'll be waiting, and I'll explain everything. It's important that you come alone. Thanks. Laura Salvo.

Nancy handed the note to George. “I've got to follow this up.”

“I'll come with you,” George said after reading the note.

Nancy shook her head. “It says
alone
, George. But I'll tell you what. If you don't hear from me within an hour, come after me, okay? Here are my car keys—I'll cab it.”

“Are you sure, Nan?” George asked. “I smell a rat.”

“You're not the only one,” Nancy agreed. “I was just over at
Teen Talk.
Laura's been fired.”

“Do you think it was because of us?” George asked.

“I don't know,” Nancy said, frowning. “I guess I'll find out from Laura. But in any case, I do think we ought to have a little chat with Karen Kristoff. She might be able to fill in some holes.”

Saying goodbye to George and Ginger, Nancy went back out into the street and hailed a cab. She gave the cabbie the address and leaned back against the seat to think.

The case was confusing, and Nancy's best clues, like the marker and the scarf, were with the police. Two things Nancy was almost sure of: the caller had been telling the truth on that day's show—there was another person involved, and the other person worked at Stern Productions.

Although the sign-in sheets had been stolen and a phony name written in, Nancy decided that only a Stern insider would have had the knowledge to get about quickly backstage, known how to fool with the TelePrompTer, and been able to come in and out without anyone noticing.

As the cab drove on, the neighborhoods grew shabbier and shabbier, and more and more industrial. This part of Western Avenue was full of old warehouses, auto body repair shops, and corner convenience stores. The address 1331 Western was a large, two-story wooden building, with bars on the windows and a sign in front that said America Plus Stage Scenery. After paying the cabbie, Nancy got out and went over to the heavy front door.

She knocked, and after a minute, when nobody answered, she tried the handle. The door was unlocked. Stepping inside, Nancy
found herself in a little vestibule, with a door on the left, which Nancy assumed went to the first-floor warehouse, and a flight of steps on the right.

Nancy remembered that the note had told her to go upstairs. She did so, slowly, her ears alert to any stray noise she might hear. But the building was utterly silent. Too silent.

At the top of the stairs Nancy stopped and looked around. There were several empty rooms that opened on to an empty hallway. No furniture anywhere. The windows were all barred, too. “Laura?” Nancy called out. There was no response. Again she said, “Laura? Are you there? It's me—Nancy Drew.”

Then she heard a door opening downstairs. As Nancy turned to go back down, she heard a liquid being poured and began to smell something that reminded her of gasoline. “Laura?” she called out again as she started down. “What's going—?”

Her words were cut off as a door was slammed and a huge fireball burst up from the bottom of the stairs. Someone had set the building on fire!

Chapter

Ten

N
ANCY HASTILY
retreated back up the stairs as thick smoke rose after her. She ran along the corridor, checking each room. Every window was locked and fastened with vertical iron bars.

Soon she was coughing from the choking smoke, which was getting thicker by the moment. How could she have been so foolish as to walk into a trap! George wouldn't be coming after her for another half hour at least!

Holding a handkerchief over her nose to filter out the smoke, Nancy searched frantically for any means of escape. Finally, in one of the side offices, she saw an ancient and dusty air conditioner fitted into the wall. Racing to it, she gave it a swift karate kick, and to her great relief, it budged. After three or four more
kicks, the old machine caved in a bit, creating a small hole for Nancy to breathe through. She gratefully took a few hurried gulps of air. Around her, the heat of the fire was rising. Horrified, Nancy peered into the hall and saw flames dancing across the floorboards at the top of the steps.

Unless she could knock the air conditioner completely out, she was doomed and she knew it. Flames were even licking at the doorway of the little office she was in. Her only exit was blocked!

“Nancy!” Over the roar of the flames, Nancy heard George's voice from outside—probably from the front of the building. “Nancy, are you in there?”

“Up here, George!” Nancy screamed through the tiny hole. “By an air conditioner!” Below her, in what Nancy assumed to be an alley, she heard footsteps approaching and stop right below her.

BOOK: Let’s Talk Terror
6.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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