Very deadly yours, p.1

Very Deadly Yours, page 1

 

Very Deadly Yours


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Very Deadly Yours


  Chapter

  One

  NOW THIS IS the way to spend the day,” Nancy Drew said with a contented sigh as she put down her cup of hot chocolate. She leaned back on the sofa and smiled at her friends.

  It was a damp, cold Sunday afternoon. Rain splattered the windowpanes, and wind howled around the corners of the house, but inside Nancy’s living room it was warm and cozy. A fire crackled merrily in the grate, and a bowl of red tulips on the mantel made a cheery contrast to the grayness outside.

  Nancy and her best friends, Bess Marvin and George Fayne, were just finishing a late brunch and reading the Sunday River Heights Morning Record. George was curled up at the other end of the sofa reading about a tennis tournament. In the easy chair closest to the fire, Bess was absent-mindedly munching grapes and twisting a lock of her long blond hair as she pored over the Personals column.

  “Any news out in the real world, Nan?” asked George, not really expecting an answer.

  “Not much, at least not in River Heights. There’s a front-page article about a bird’s nest in the lobby of City Hall. It’s been a slow weekend, I guess—kind of nice for a change.”

  “You can have the Personals when I’m done,” Bess said. “There are all kinds of great things in here. I don’t know why you read anything else. To me, the paper is the Personals column.”

  Nancy shook her head. “I never let myself read the good sections until I finish the news. It would be like having dessert before the rest of the meal.”

  “Speaking of dessert,” Bess said, “is there any of that coffeecake left?”

  George peered over the top of the sports section. “You seem to be putting those grapes away pretty fast,” she said.

  Bess snorted. “Health food! If I have to start a diet tomorrow, I might as well have a good time today.”

  Nancy grinned as she pushed the last piece of coffeecake in Bess’s direction. “Well, since you start a new diet every day, you might as well eat this and get temptation out of your way.”

  “Oh, don’t make fun of me,” Bess said. “If I had a figure like yours, I’d be nicer to all the poor girls who have to think about their weight.”

  There was nothing wrong with Bess’s figure, but Nancy didn’t bother arguing with her. She knew it was hopeless. In all the time she had known Bess and Bess’s cousin, George, Bess never stopped complaining about her weight. But she had never managed to stick to a diet for more than a couple of hours.

  “I see Emerson won its basketball game yesterday, Nan,” George said. “Ned must feel great—it says here he scored forty-three points.”

  “He does feel great,” Nancy said. “He called last night to tell me about it.” Her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, was one of Emerson College’s star athletes. “And he’ll be here tomorrow to tell me about it in person. His last final is over, and he’s got three whole weeks of intersession before next term starts. I can’t wait!”

  “And I bet he’s glad you’re not involved in a case at the moment,” Bess chimed in. “How many vacations of his have you actually been able to spend with him?”

  Nancy sighed. “Not many.” It always bothered her that her work as a private detective took her away from Ned so often. She knew that he understood—most of the time—but it was still hard when her job came between them. She decided to change the subject. “So what’s going on in the Personals today, Bess?” she asked. “Have you run across Mr. Right yet?”

  Bess giggled. “Not exactly. These ads are the greatest, though. Listen to this guy: ‘Sensitive, wealthy executive seeks dream woman to share my exciting life. If you’re as perfect as I am, let’s talk.’ Oh, and here’s an athlete for you, George. He says all he wants is a tennis partner—oh, no, I take it all back. He’s looking for someone in her fifties. And here’s one who starts out sounding wonderful—until he mentions the cats.”

  “What’s the problem with that?” George asked. “You like cats.”

  “I know, but this guy has fifteen of them! It’s nice of him to warn us, anyway. No, I guess this won’t be the week I fall in love through the Personals.”

  “Then how about giving the rest of us a chance to read them?” George asked. “I’m done with the sports section.”

  “Hey, no way! I’m not finished,” said Bess. “You’re the jock. Nancy’s the detective. And it’s my job to keep us informed about the world of romance.” She cast a regretful look at her empty plate and bent her head over the paper again.

  For a few minutes the room was silent except for the rustle of newsprint or an occasional hiss when a raindrop fell down the chimney. Finally Bess looked up.

  “On the other hand,” she said, “here’s one that does sound interesting. Listen: ‘Where are you? I know you’re out there. I’ve been looking for you for two years. If you’re blond, blue-eyed, medium-tall, and love to wear white, I must meet you immediately. I have a lot to offer, and I can promise you you won’t be sorry. Please, please contact me as soon as possible.’ ”

  Bess put down the paper. “It’s me! This guy’s looking for me!” she said. “I mean, look at this sweater!” She gestured at the fluffy white mohair sweater she was wearing. “I love to wear white! I’m blond and blue-eyed and medium-tall—boy, this is the first time I’ve ever been glad I’m not tall. I’m going to answer this ad the minute I get home.”

  “What are you talking about?” asked George. “You’re going to write to a guy who looks for girls in the Personals, just because you happen to own a white sweater? Get serious.”

  “Oh, you’re no fun,” said Bess. “So what if I don’t wear white all the time? I’m not going to let that stand in the way of a little romance.”

  “Wearing white’s not the point, Bess,” Nancy said. “The point is that you know nothing about this man. George is right. You can’t go out with a complete stranger just because you answer his description of the perfect girl. He could be a total creep—or worse. Don’t waste your time.”

  “You’re both being total sticks-in-the-mud,” Bess said stubbornly. “Lots of nice people meet other nice people in the Personals. It happens every day. I know this guy isn’t a creep. I can just feel it.”

  Nancy shook her head. Bess had a knack for ignoring what she didn’t want to hear. “Well, we can’t stop you,” she said. “But if you do get in touch with this person, at least promise me you’ll meet him in a safe place.”

  “Come on, Nancy! I’m not a complete baby!” Bess protested. “Okay, I promise. If he wants to get together on a deserted bridge at midnight, I won’t go out with him. But I just know nothing like that’s going to happen. This time, there’s love in the air.”

  “So that’s why it’s raining so hard,” George muttered. But Bess just smiled.

  • • •

  Nancy didn’t have time to wonder whether Bess had called her mystery man. On Monday Ned came home for intersession, and she spent every free minute of that week with him. By the next Sunday night they had seen four movies, shared seven pizzas, and talked on the phone for ten hours.

  “My dad always wonders what we find to talk about,” she confided to Ned on Sunday night. They were walking home from George’s. “He says we spend so much time together when you’re home that there can’t possibly be anything left to say on the phone. I can’t explain it to him.”

  “Well, seeing you in person’s even better,” Ned said, squeezing her hand. “Especially when there’s no case to take you away from me.”

  “This time I’m all yours, so you’d better appreciate it.” They were nearing Nancy’s house now. “Want to come in for a little while before you head home?” she asked.

  “I’d better not,” Ned answered. “I don’t know why it is, but my parents want to see me once in a while, too.


  “I guess parents are just strange that way.” Nancy leaned up to kiss him good night. “I’m so glad you’re home,” she whispered.

  “Me, too. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

  When Ned had vanished from sight, Nancy walked dreamily into the house. It was still early, and she felt restless. There was nothing good on television, and she didn’t feel like going to bed. At last she picked up a magazine. She was deep in an article about the dangers of overtanning when the phone rang.

  “You might as well get it, Nancy,” said her father from his study. “It’s not going to be for me.”

  Smiling, Nancy picked up the receiver. “Hi, Ned!” she said happily. “Did you miss me?”

  “N-Nancy, is that you?” asked a shaky voice.

  “Bess! Sorry, I thought you were Ned. What’s up?”

  “Oh, Nan, you’ve got to help me. Remember that Personals ad in the Record?”

  “The one with all the cats?” Nancy asked. She couldn’t wait to hear what was coming.

  But Bess sounded as if she were about to burst into tears. “It’s—it’s not funny. The one I said I was going to answer. Nancy, I did answer it. I met the guy tonight. And I think he wants to kill me!”

  Chapter

  Two

  WHAT?” NANCY SAID. “Hang on a minute. Where are you now?”

  “I-I’m at home. I just got here. Oh, Nancy, it was the most awful thing! All I could think about was how stupid I’d been! I was so—”

  “Bess. Bess,” Nancy said patiently. “If you could calm down a little, it would be easier for me to understand what’s going on. Now take a deep breath and start at the beginning. Okay?”

  But Bess’s voice was quavering again. “Nancy, I hate to invite myself over, but would it be all right if I spent the night at your house? No one’s home, and it’s giving me the creeps being alone here. I promise I’ll tell you all about it if you’ll just come and get me away from here.”

  “Where’s your car?” Nancy asked.

  “No! No! I’m not driving! You know how, in all those scary movies, the heroine gets into her car and there’s someone in the back seat, and suddenly she feels hands on her throat, and—”

  “All right. All right. I’ll come and get you,” Nancy said, cutting in. She couldn’t tell whether Bess was just being Bess or whether there really was something the matter.

  When Nancy rang Bess’s bell a few minutes later, there was no answer. A little worried, she rang again—and again. “Bess!” she called, jiggling the door handle. “Are you in there?”

  Silence. Then Nancy saw the curtain in the living-room window rustle slightly. In a second the door opened a crack, and Bess peered out nervously. “Are you alone?” she whispered.

  “Yes, of course I’m alone!” said Nancy. “Bess, what on earth is the matter with you?”

  “I’m sorry. I—I just got scared, that’s all. I started to wonder whether anyone had heard me make that call and was just pretending to be you at the door.”

  “Bess Marvin, you’re driving me crazy. Now come out, get in the car, and calm down.”

  • • •

  “My goodness, girls! What are you doing up so late?” asked Hannah Gruen, the Drews’ housekeeper, when Nancy and Bess came in a few minutes later. “Bess! What’s happened? You look as though you’ve seen a ghost.”

  “I wish that were all I’d seen,” Bess said. “Nancy’s letting me spend the night here, Hannah. I hope that’s all right.”

  “Of course it is,” said Hannah. “I’ll go and make up the spare bed now.”

  “Oh, and do you have any hot chocolate?” Bess asked Nancy in a tiny voice. “I think I deserve some tonight.”

  “Good idea,” Nancy said. “Let’s go make a pot.”

  Over mugs of steaming hot chocolate—Bess’s wearing a huge cap of whipped cream—they settled down on the sofa in the living room. “Now,” said Nancy, “I want it all. From the beginning.”

  Bess took a sip and sighed. “Well, the first thing I have to say is that I’ll never break a promise to you again.”

  “That’s good to hear. What promise did you break, anyway?” Nancy asked.

  “The one where I told you I’d meet that guy from the Personals in a safe, busy place. But let me start at the beginning.” Bess took another sip before continuing.

  “I wrote him a note with my phone number on it in care of the newspaper. That was last Monday. He must have gotten it right away, because he called me Wednesday night. Nan, he sounded so great! Polite, interesting, cute—”

  “You could tell all that over the phone?” Nancy said, interrupting.

  “I thought so, anyway. We talked for a little while—just about our interests and stuff like that—and then he asked when we could get together. Well, I did remember what you’d said. I suggested the Pizza Palace, but he sounded really disappointed. He said that was no place for a first date and that he’d had someplace more romantic in mind. All I could think was how great it was to meet someone who actually used the word ‘romantic.’ I said okay, and he said to meet him at a little restaurant called Bel Canto, at Eightieth and Main, tonight at seven.”

  Nancy could vaguely remember seeing Bel Canto, a pretty little place on the outskirts of town. “So you said you would?” she asked, prompting Bess.

  “Yes. But when I got there, I started to get the creeps. The place was in the middle of nowhere and the parking lot was so dark and deserted that I almost changed my mind right there. Could you pour me another cup of hot chocolate? Thanks.

  “So, anyway, I went in, and the restaurant was just about empty. Except that there was one cute guy sitting at a table. He was pretty cute,” she repeated, as if to herself. “He was blond and blue-eyed too. I went up and introduced myself and sat down.”

  “What was his name?” Nancy asked.

  “Oh! Steve. He told me that when I first called him. Steve Beldon. He gave his phone number in the ad. It’s not in the phone book, though—I checked when I got home tonight. So, anyway, I sat down, and the waitress came up to take our orders. He only ordered coffee! At seven at night! I mean, if this was going to be so romantic, you’d think he’d at least have been thinking dinner. So that got my suspicions up.”

  “I should think it would,” Nancy said gravely. Bess darted a look at her, then continued her story.

  “So I couldn’t do anything except order coffee, too, could I? But, Nan, do you know what he said when the waitress had brought the order and gone away?”

  “He asked if you took sugar?”

  “Nancy!” Bess said indignantly. “Will you get serious? He leaned forward and grabbed my wrist—hard—and said, ‘Where’s the money?’ ”

  “What money?” Nancy asked, bewildered.

  “That’s what I said, but he just repeated the question. I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about. He looked at me for a second, in kind of a creepy way, and then he said, ‘All right, if that’s the way you want it. But how could you leave the Glove to die? I thought you loved him!’ ”

  “What?”

  “And he kept saying it, too,” Bess said. “He just kept asking me both questions over and over, in this mean little whisper, until I decided it was time to get out of there. I said, ‘Well, thanks for the coffee,’ and stood up. I couldn’t see the waitress anywhere—she must have been in the back.”

  Bess’s voice was shaky now. “He grabbed my wrist again and just yanked me back into my seat. He said he’d be watching me from now on—and that if I made one false move, he’d—he’d kill me! Then he said he was leaving. He told me not to watch him go and not to tell anyone in the restaurant what had happened. Then I had to wait five minutes after he’d left before I got up myself.”

  Bess looked bleakly at Nancy. “So I did everything he said, and then I drove home and called you—and here I am. Now go ahead and say ‘I told you so.’ ”

  “Oh, Bess. What a night you’ve had,” said Nancy, leaning forward and putting
her hand on Bess’s shoulder. “Especially when you were looking forward to meeting this guy so much.”

  “Do you think he really is watching me?” Bess asked.

  “Oh, no,” Nancy said reassuringly. “Not a chance.” She knew there was no way to be sure of that, but she didn’t want to make Bess even more nervous.

  “Well, could you get your father to sue the paper for my mental anguish?” Bess asked. Nancy’s father, Carson Drew, was one of the best-known lawyers in River Heights.

  Nancy had to laugh. “I’m afraid not. The paper hasn’t done anything illegal. They’re not responsible for what happens to people who answer their ads.” She paused for a moment, thinking.

  “All the same, it wouldn’t hurt to go by the newspaper offices tomorrow and tell them about this creep. I know that some people who advertise in the Personals are weird, but they’re not supposed to be this weird. A responsible paper would want to know about this guy.

  “Now let’s get some sleep,” she continued. “And the first thing in the morning we’ll go over and talk to the person at the paper in charge of these ads.”

  “Yeah,” Bess said more cheerfully. “We’ll tell them it’s just not acceptable to ruin my life like this.”

  • • •

  “You do the talking, Nancy,” Bess said nervously the next day. The two girls had just gotten out of Nancy’s Mustang in the visitors’ parking lot at the Morning Record.

  “No problem,” Nancy answered. Then she stopped for a minute and looked at the building. She knew it all too well—one of her most important cases had involved a Record reporter. Just standing there brought back a flood of memories.

  The building looked ordinary enough. Its right side was covered with scaffolding, though, and a few workmen were sandblasting the facade.

  Nancy glanced quickly at Bess. “What’s the matter?” Bess asked.

  “Nothing,” Nancy said, pulling herself together. “Let’s go.”

  She began walking briskly toward the main entrance, Bess following a couple of paces behind.

 
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