Brendan Thorndike’s Missing Heirs
“Don’t tell Bess.”
It was George’s voice whispering in Nancy’s ear, as they watched the mysterious silver car disappear into the night. “She’s fallen asleep in the backseat.”
The whole way back to Boston, Nancy and George watched silently for the silver car that was out there, somewhere, still following them.
A couple of times there was a silver car nearby, in one lane or another. But it wasn’t the model they were looking for.
“It’s worse when we can’t see him,” Nancy commented.
Just before they reached the hotel, Nancy motioned to George to make a quick right turn.
“I thought I just saw a car of the same make behind us,” she explained. They circled the hotel three times, just to make sure they were really alone.
“The last thing we need is that guy coming after us in our hotel room!” Nancy whispered to George.
Finally, their car was parked in the hotel garage, and the girls headed up to their room. All three sprawled out on their beds.
“We need answers,” George said, sipping a ginger ale from their own little room refrigerator.
“Yes,” Nancy said. “But you can’t get all the answers until you know all the questions.”
“Okay — here’s a question: Who’s the guy in the silver car, and why did he follow us from the airport?” George said.
“No. The more important question is: Why didn’t he catch us? He could have — but he always hung back,” Nancy said.
Bess and George waited expectantly for Nancy to answer her own question. Nancy thought carefully for a minute to be sure she was right.
“Well, I think he didn’t want to catch us. He just wanted to scare us,” Nancy finally said.
“He did a great job,” Bess replied. She got up from the bed and headed for the bathroom. “Tell you what. After I have a bath in that enormous tub with the gold faucets, I’ll come back and help you guys solve this case. But first, I need a bubble bath!”
When Bess was gone, Nancy turned back to George. “Next question?”
“Okay — who is Markella Smith?” George asked.
“Don’t know,” Nancy said.
“And why did she come such a long way to steal Meredith’s veil?”
“Don’t know,” Nancy said. “Did she steal Meredith’s veil?”
“Don’t know,” George said.
Nancy rolled over and began doodling on a pad that said Ritz-Carlton on the top of every page. Although George’s questions were good ones, Nancy had a bunch of even better ones herself.
Such as: Why was Meredith’s ex-boyfriend, Tony, hanging around outside Cecelia’s place? And why didn’t Rose Strauss seem to care whether or not Nancy found the veil? And why was Meredith’s veil so important to someone in the first place?
Nancy wrote down each question as it popped into her head.
Twenty minutes later, Bess came out of the bathroom with clean hair and a fresh attitude.
“Okay — let’s get to work and figure this mystery out,” she said. “Where do we start, Nancy?”
But Bess was a little too late.
“My head’s spinning,” Nancy said. “I think I need to cool out for a little while and forget the case. Is there anything on TV?”
Bess marched over to the television and flipped it on. Then she plopped down on her bed, wrapping up in the silk-covered comforter. Her plan of action was to sit with the remote control in one hand and a bag of sour-cream-and-chive potato chips in the other.
She flipped around the channels.
“Mrs. Clayton Bugle,” a smiling, blue-eyed game-show host was saying to the contestant. “Your category is numbers. For one thousand dollars, tell me how many bristles there are in the average toothbrush.”
Click! went the remote control. The screen flipped to a family sitcom. A handsome blue-eyed father was talking to his handsome blue-eyed teenage son.
“Alan, why do you always fight and argue with your sister?” the father asked.
“Gee, Dad,” said the son. “Isn’t it against the law to shoot her?”
The laugh track thought it was hilarious, but Bess didn’t. So she changed the channel again. This time she came up with the local Boston news. The newscaster had blue eyes.
“… no developments on the mystery all of Boston is watching — the mystery of Brendan Thorndike’s missing heirs,” the TV anchorman said.
“Why does everyone on television have blue eyes?” George wondered out loud.
“Shhh … I want to hear this,” Bess said, munching a chip.
“Everyone is waiting to see if any true heirs of Brendan Thorndike will be found,” the newscaster continued. A picture of a stern, elderly man appeared on the screen, captioned Brendan Thorndike. “For several weeks, the search for a son, daughter, or grandchild has been conducted by Jason Moss, the new head of the Thorndike Companies. So far, although nearly two hundred people have presented themselves claiming to be relatives of Thorndike, Jason Moss says that no legitimate heirs have turned up.
“Recently, however, Channel 8 learned that Jason Moss himself stands to inherit the entire sixty-million-dollar fortune if no other heirs are found. We talked to Mr. Moss this afternoon in his office about his role in the Thorndike empire.”
Suddenly a thin and handsome man of forty came on the screen. His suit jacket was off and his shirt sleeves were rolled up. The name superimposed at the bottom of the screen said: Jason Moss, President, Thorndike Companies.
“Mr. Moss,” asked the Channel 8 reporter, “as executor of Mr. Thorndike’s will, it’s your job to find the Thorndike children and grandchildren, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Jason said with a smile. “If there are any.” He seemed completely at ease in front of the cameras.
“Well, some people believe that you’re deliberately trying not to find an heir,” said the reporter. “After all, if you don’t find any heirs, you personally will inherit the money. Isn’t that true?”
“It’s true that Brendan was kind enough to name me in his will,” Moss said, remaining calm. “But I think you should point out to the public that I worked for Mr. Thorndike for twenty years. I know how much finding his children and grandchildren meant to him. Now that he is dead, it means that much to me.”
Then the TV anchorman came back on the screen. Bess turned down the volume and looked around. Nancy and George were both completely transfixed by the story.
“Turn it back up,” Nancy said quickly.
Bess pressed the remote control.
“… following this story as it develops further. Jennifer?” the anchorman said.
He turned to the co-anchorwoman sitting next to him.
“Chuck, I think we should remind our viewers why Brendan Thorndike’s heirs are being sought this way,” she said.
“Sure, Jennifer. As you’ll recall, Brendan Thorndike’s wife, Rebecca, divorced him forty years ago, taking their children with her out of the country. She swore he would never see his children again.”
“And Thorndike never did find her,” Jennifer added.
“That’s right,” Chuck said. “At the time, they had a two-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son. They’d be about forty-two and forty-three years old now, if they’re still alive.”
“And what about Rebecca Thorndike?” Jennifer asked Chuck.
“She wasn’t named in the will,” Chuck replied. “And now for the weather we’ll turn to Diane Luckey.”
Nancy got up and clicked off the TV set.
“Pretty interesting,” Nancy murmured to herself. Then to her friends she said, “Can you imagine that? I mean, turning your back on millions of dollars? Rebecca Thorndike must have really hated his guts.”
“Yeah, well, he did look pretty repulsive, George said. “But I’ll tell you who I don’t like — Jason Moss. I don’t trust him.”
“Why not?” Nancy asked.
“I don’t like people who smile when you call them a liar,” George said. Then she turned to Bess. “What do you think, cousin? Am I right?”
“Don’t call me cousin. Maybe we’re not related,” Bess said to George. “Maybe I was kidnapped as a baby! Maybe I was adopted and I’m really the long-lost granddaughter of Brendan Thorndike!”
Bess dissolved in laughter and fell back on the bed, hugging her pillow. “You guys had better be nice to me,” she added. “I’m going to inherit sixty million dollars!”
Just before the sun came up the next morning, Nancy’s internal alarm clock woke her up. Quietly she slipped out of bed and carried the phone, with its long cord, into the bathroom. She dialed a number.
“Hello,” a young man mumbled into the phone. His voice was sleepy and angry about the early morning call.
“Tony Fiske?” Nancy asked.
“Yeah. Who is this?” he said.
“You don’t know me,” Nancy said. “But I promised Meredith Brody that I’d get her wedding veil back.”
“Well, well,” Tony said. He didn’t sound surprised and he didn’t sound scared. “You think I’ve got it?” He laughed a little.
“You’re the first person I’d call,” Nancy said. Two can play at this tough-guy game, she thought.
“Okay, let’s talk about it,” Tony said. “But you can’t come over. We’ll have to meet somewhere, and it has to be soon. How about the Boston Tea Party ship? Be there at nine o’clock. I’ll be wearing —”
But Nancy didn’t let him finish. “I know what you look like. I’ll find you,” she said.
“Hey, miss,” Tony said. “I don’t like people pushing me too hard. Just ask Meredith Brody.”
The line went dead.
It was only 7 A.M., so Nancy got dressed quickly for a run. After her conversation with Tony Fiske, the early morning air felt clean and fresh. The Boston Common, across from the hotel, was perfect for running, and it looked beautiful. For a moment, though, Nancy hesitated. Maybe this wasn’t the best time to go out running alone. But then she noticed that there were other early morning runners already out, so she went on.
When she got back after her run, George and Bess were still sleeping. She showered, changed, and left them a note saying she had gone to the Boston Tea Party ship to meet with Tony.
She decided to take a cab the short distance, and soon found herself boarding the popular tourist attraction. Even at nine in the morning, it was fairly crowded, mostly with kids and their parents. Nancy scanned the faces for Tony, as teenagers took snapshots of each other and a few kids tried to climb the masts.
People lined up to toss wooden tea chests overboard, just as the American rebels had done two centuries before. Nancy smiled when she realized that the chests were tied to ropes so that they could be pulled back on board for the next person in line.
By nine-thirty Tony still wasn’t there, and Nancy was beginning to think he wouldn’t come.
Then she heard a woman saying, “Don’t push — you’ll get your turn.” Nancy turned around and saw Tony crowding an old man and woman. He was carrying a green tote bag and holding onto it tightly. Was the veil inside?
Nancy picked up a wooden tea chest and gave it a toss. She waited for the splash and then walked over to Tony.
“Good morning,” she said. “As I mentioned on the phone earlier, I’m looking for Meredith’s stolen veil.”
“Right, my heart bleeds for Meredith,” Tony said. His dark looks matched his attitude. “You a friend of hers?”
“I’m the person you’re going to give the veil to. Is that it?” Nancy said, pointing at the green tote bag.
“Could we talk softly? I don’t want to be overheard.”
“Are you afraid of something?” Nancy said.
Tony didn’t answer right away. It was as though he wanted to say something but then changed his mind. “Afraid? Afraid of what?”
“Never mind,” Nancy said. “I just want to ask you some questions. Like why were you waiting outside Cecelia Bancroft’s house yesterday morning?”
“It’s a free country, remember? Anyway, I didn’t come here to be quizzed. You mentioned you wanted the veil. Are you willing to pay? ‘Cause it’s going to cost you. It’s going to cost you a lot.”
“What are you talking about?” Nancy asked.
“I figure this veil is worth ten bills to me.” He enjoyed it so much he said it again. “Ten thousand dollars.”
Nancy’s mouth fell open.
“The veil isn’t worth ten thousand dollars, Tony,” Nancy said evenly. “It just has sentimental value to Meredith. If you have it, I wish you’d please just give it to me now.”
“I don’t have it,” Tony interrupted. “But I could get it for you — for the right price. Ten bills. Yes or no?”
“Has someone else offered you money for the veil?” Nancy had to be sure she was hearing right. “Who?” She grabbed the green bag.
“I’m not crazy enough to tell you that, “ he said, pulling the bag away from Nancy. “Now what do you say — yes or no?”
“No. I don’t have that kind of money,” Nancy said. “And anyway, I wouldn’t pay you for something that rightfully belongs to Meredith.”
“Then just stay out of my way, and don’t ruin this for me!” Tony said. “’Cause if you’re not careful, you’ll get hurt.”
“You’re threatening the wrong person,” Nancy said angrily.
“I mean it,” Tony said. Then he quickly left the boat, pushing people as he went.
Nancy started to chase him but she couldn’t. Two strong hands had clamped down on her shoulders from behind! She craned her neck, desperately struggling to see who was trying to stop her. But it was no use. The attacker had the grip of a giant.
In an instant, the hands lifted Nancy slightly and pushed her forward over the edge of the ship — headfirst into the icy water below!
The Boston Tea Party
Nancy hit the water hard, and sank quickly. The water was freezing. For one terrifying second she was disoriented: She lost track of which way was up. Worse yet, her clothes were becoming heavy with water, dragging, her farther down.
And she was running out of air.
She tried to swim, but her leg hurt when she kicked and she went in the wrong direction. I’ve got to take a breath soon, Nancy thought. I’ve got to figure out which way is up!
Deliberately, Nancy steadied herself and looked around. Sunlight was pouring down through the water. That’s the surface, she thought as she pointed herself in that direction and kicked again. In seconds she broke through the water and took a deep breath of air.
A lot of voices were shouting down to her from above. Bobbing in the water, Nancy could see that the ship’s deck was lined with people who were watching her or taking pictures.
“Are you all right?” shouted someone who worked on the ship. He was dressed in an Indian costume, just as the American rebels had been for the Boston Tea Party.
Nancy treaded water, took another deep breath of air, and then waved. It was a small gesture, but the people above broke into a round of applause and cheers. With tired arms, she swam to the side of the dock where a crowd had formed to greet her. A Tea Party Museum employee pulled her out of the water.
Gratefully she took a beach towel from a young couple who happened to be carrying one, and dried her hair.
“Did you slip?” asked the employee from the Boston Tea Party Ship Museum.
“She didn’t slip, that’s for sure,” said a voice in the crowd.
Nancy looked up, surprised and pleased that someone had witnessed her fall. The man who spoke up was a tall, muscular man wearing a tan, rumpled suit and a brown, wide-brimmed hat. He moved toward her through the crowd.
“What did you see?” Nancy asked, wiping strands of hair out of her face. “Did you see who pushed me?”
Pushed? The crowd chattered with surprise — except the man in the suit.
“Yeah, I saw plenty,” he said. His voice was firm but flat and unemotional as he pulled a small spiral notebook out of his inside jacket pocket. He flipped a few pages, and started reading. “Six-feet-four male, early thirties, a hundred-eighty pounds. He had platinum blond hair, wore an earring in his left ear, and smoked thin brown cigarettes.”
“Wow,” said Nancy with wide eyes.
“He’s not a pro, either,” the man said, putting his notebook away. “He didn’t beat it out of here. He stayed to watch you hit the water.”
“Wait a minute,” Nancy said slowly. The description had rung a bell. “Wait … did the guy have a cap on?”
The man got out his notebook again. “Oh, yeah, I forgot. A Patriots cap. You know him?”
Nancy shuddered. “I saw him late last night at a gas station in Salem,” she said. Then she eyed the man in the brown suit. “Why were you watching him so carefully?” she asked.
“That’s what I do, when I’m not enjoying the sights,” the man said. He handed Nancy a business card.
It read: Harry Knox, Private Investigator.
“I could find this louse for you,” Harry Knox said. “It wouldn’t be any trouble. I don’t like guys who push young women off national monuments.”
“Thanks, Mr. Knox, but no thanks,” Nancy said, returning his business card. “I don’t have to find him. He’s been following me. Next time, I’ll be ready.”
Harry Knox extended a large, meaty hand, which Nancy took and pulled herself up. “You have a lot of spirit, but not a lot of muscle,” he said. He put his business card in Nancy’s hand again and closed her hand into a fist. “If you need any help — I’m at the other end of the telephone.”
“And then he gave me his card,” Nancy said later in her hotel room. She showed Bess and George the wrinkled business card.
“Oh wow!” Bess said. She fell on her bed and laughed. “He sounds like something out of an old movie.”
“He looked it, too,” Nancy said. “But when he opened his notebook and started reading the description of the guy who pushed me, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He knew everything but the guy’s dental records.”
George shuddered. “You actually saw this blond guy in the gas station last night?” she said.
“He walked this close to me,” Nancy said.
A knock on the door made her jump. Nancy laughed at herself for being nervous, but her hand fumbled with the chain on the door. Could someone have followed her back to the hotel?
“Who is it?” Nancy asked through the door.
“Room service,” answered a polite voice. “I’ve got your lunch.”
Nancy opened the door, relieved to see the familiar room service waiter. And the food smelled delicious.
Soon she and her friends were sitting around the dining table in their room, trying bites of each other’s lunch and talking loudly.
“Well, while you were off swimming and having fun,” George teased, “I was running up our phone bill. I’ve called just about every Smith in Denver. Mary, Morgan, Michelle, Margaret, Margie, and Maxine — I found them all. But I came up with zip looking for Markella.”
Nancy ate the strips of cheese off her chef’s salad and thought out loud. “A woman loses part of an airplane ticket in a church in Boston. It’s a round-trip ticket — Denver to Boston and back to Denver,” she said. “But, she never takes the flight from Denver to Boston, and she’s not even scheduled on the return flight. In fact, she doesn’t even live in Denver. Does any of this make sense?”
“Not to me,” answered George. “I also called Rose Strauss in Maine and asked her about the wedding guest list. Markella Smith wasn’t invited. In fact, Rose has never heard of her.”
Nancy tried to sort out all of this information. But suddenly she pictured the blond guy in the Salem gas station and felt herself falling into Boston Harbor again. Her eyes glazed over.
After a silence, George slapped the table with her palm. “I think we deserve to have some fun. The case of the missing veil can wait a little longer, can’t it?”
Nancy hesitated for just a moment.
“Good idea,” she finally said. Then she pulled a map of Boston from her purse and blindly stuck a finger on the map. It landed on the words Freedom Trail.
“Uh-oh.” Nancy laughed when she saw what she had picked. “Get ready for major league sore feet.”
The Freedom Trail was a walking tour of sixteen landmarks from American revolutionary times. Even without stopping at each landmark on the tour, it took Nancy and her friends three hours to cover the territory. Nancy loved seeing all the old buildings, but her mind kept returning to the mystery of the missing veil.
“Anyone have the energy for more shopping?” Bess asked when they reached the end of the trail.
Nancy and George groaned.
But back near their hotel, the three friends window-shopped on fashionable Newbury Street until even Bess was ready to drop. Finally they went back to their room.
After showering, they dressed up for dinner and went to a wharf-side restaurant. Nancy hoped that they’d have a view of the water, and the maître d’ seemed to read her mind. He led them to a big table right in the middle of a window facing the bay. But soon Bess and George were complaining that Nancy’s mind had wandered again.
“It’s hard to forget about the case,” Nancy apologized, “even for lobster tails.”
They left the restaurant at seven and went to the Beckhurst Theatre to see a new murder mystery play which had just opened there.
“I love it,” Bess said. “We’re really early. People are just getting here. Now we’ve got time to see what everyone is wearing.”
Their seats were eight rows from the stage. They were perfect seats for seeing the play, but not the best seats for people-watching. Bess and Nancy decided to stand up and turn around to watch the audience stream in.
“Blue stockings with a pink dress? Give me a break,” Bess said, describing one of the theater-goers. “Ooh — now there’s a gorgeous dress… Hey, get a look at this guy. He looks like he might be the murderer in tonight’s play!”
Nancy laughed. But then suddenly she sat down and grabbed Bess’s arm, pulling her into her seat, too. “Psst — Bess,” Nancy whispered. “You’ll never guess who just walked in.”
Bess and George casually turned toward the center aisle in time to see who Nancy was talking about. There was Cecelia Bancroft.
“So?” Bess said.
“So look who she’s with! “ Nancy said softly.
All three girls studied Cecelia — the wave of her shiny blond hair, the pressure of her arm locked in that of a thin, handsome, smiling man. Cecelia’s evening gown sparkled. She and the man talked to each other all the way to their third-row-center seats.
“I give up,” Bess said. “Who is it?”
“It’s Jason Moss,” Nancy whispered, just as the curtain came up on the play. “You know — the man who controls Brendan Thorndike’s sixty million dollars!”
At the Laugh Riot
“Nancy, you’re staring,” George whispered in the dark. “In the wrong direction!”
The play was starting now but Nancy couldn’t really concentrate on it. So many ideas were running through her head. Was Cecelia somehow involved with the missing veil? And why wasn’t she out with her husband? Why was she here with Jason Moss? Did this mean the veil was somehow connected to the Thorndike affair?
BANG! A gunshot!
It came from the stage and immediately grabbed Nancy’s attention. The questions in her head would have to wait — the play was getting interesting!
At intermission, the lobby of the theater was like a very large and very crowded elevator. As soon as the theater’s front doors were opened, people spilled out into the street for air.
Nancy, Bess, and George squeezed through the crowded lobby, and finally found a little breathing room outside.
“I don’t see Cecelia,” Nancy said. “Do you?”
“There they are,” George said softly. “Are you going to go up to her?”
Before Nancy could answer, Cecelia turned around and spotted all three girls.
“Aha!” she said, pulling Jason’s arm. “These are the junior detectives I told you about, Jason. I can’t remember their names, but I’m sure they do. And this is my husband, Jason Moss.”
Husband! Cecelia had said that she was married, but Nancy never guessed that she had kept her own last name.
“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Moss,” Nancy said. “I’m Nancy Drew.”
“I’ll bet all of Boston would like to meet you,” George said.
“Half of Boston already has,” Jason said with a laugh. “And the other half is still lined up outside my office.” He had a way of making someone feel as though he or she were the most interesting person he’d ever met.
“I thought you ladies would be on your way to Vail, Colorado,” said Cecelia.
“You mean Denver,” corrected Nancy. “We were looking for a veil. We haven’t found it yet.”
“Well, you’d know better than I would,” Cecelia said.
“Cecelia told me about a red-haired woman and a lost airline ticket,” Jason said. “It sounds very mysterious.”
“Yes — it is mysterious,” Nancy said. “We waited at the airport, but the woman didn’t take that flight to Denver. In fact, she probably doesn’t even live there.”
“But we’ll find her,” George chimed in.
“I suspect that you are a very determined young woman,” Jason said to Nancy. “You won’t give up until you find what you’re looking for, will you?”
“No,” said Nancy.
“Good for you,” Jason said. “Then I guess you and I have something in common.”
Bells began ringing softly in the theater. Ushers walked through the crowd asking people to return to their seats for Act Two.
“What do you think of the play?” Cecelia asked Nancy as they re-entered the theater.
“I know who did it,” Nancy said with a sly smile.
It was easy to solve mysteries in movies or the theater — but real life was different. Tony and Cecelia… Cecelia and Jason Moss… the Thorndike fortune and the veil… It was all too much for Nancy to consider now, especially with Act Two about to begin.
After the play was over, Cecelia and Jason walked out with Nancy, Bess, and George.
“Well — where to next?” Jason asked. “You’re young. You girls should enjoy some of Boston’s nightlife”.
“What would you recommend?” asked Bess.
“Well, I know what I’d do if I weren’t me,” Cecelia said. “There’s a comedy club all the young people like to go to. It’s called the Laugh Riot. I’d go there.”
“That’s a great idea,” Jason said.
Cecelia wrote down the address of the Laugh Riot comedy club and handed it to Nancy.
But when the girls were alone, they couldn’t agree about what to do next.
“I need to think about the case,” Nancy insisted. “It’s getting very complicated.”
“But tonight’s our night off — remember?” George urged. “You said the veil could wait one more day.”
Finally Nancy gave in and agreed that the Laugh Riot sounded great. So they hopped a cab and arrived at the Laugh Riot just in time for the late show. The small dub was located on a quiet side street of Boston, but Cecelia was right about the place being popular. A line of people waiting to get in stretched around the block.
Nancy, Bess, and George got the last table, a small one by the back door. It was fun being in a popular dub, but Nancy wished the room weren’t quite so smoky, loud, and packed with people.
Finally a thin man wearing a black shirt and a gray tie jumped on stage and grabbed the microphone. He was the emcee. The moment the spotlight came on, people began to applaud.
“Thank you, thank you,” said the young man. “Welcome to the Laugh Riot. I’m your host Richard Bellman. Thank you. Please keep clapping. It’s the only way we can get the air to circulate in this dump.”
The audience laughed and applauded even more and Richard went on insulting everyone for the next five minutes. Then he said, “Thank you. You’re a wonderful audience, but right now I’d like to introduce our first comedian — and he’s a little weird, folks, — please welcome Barry Mayonnaise.”
Nancy, Bess, and George joined the applauding audience, and a very tall man wearing sweat pants and a Hawaiian shirt came on the stage. While he adjusted the microphone to reach him, a waiter came over to the girls’ table.
“You girls want something to drink?” he asked.
They ordered soft drinks and the waiter said he’d be right back with them.
“Hi, everyone. My name is Barry Mayonnaise,” said the comedian. “First of all, you’re probably wondering how I got such an unusual name. Well, I’ll be honest with you. I made it up. That’s right. Barry Mayonnaise is not my real name. I changed it. My real name is Sid Mayonnaise.”
The audience groaned and booed at the old joke.
“Thank you, thank you very much,” said Barry. He walked back and forth across the stage, carrying the microphone and flipping the mike cord out of his way.
As Barry kept talking, the waiter worked his way through the maze of tables to bring their drinks. In between laughs they sipped them quickly because the room was hot.
“I come from another planet, where everything is exactly the opposite,” Barry said. “Everyone loves to go to slow food restaurants on my planet. That’s because you can feed your whole family there and it will only cost you a fortune. The all-time favorite sandwich is the Little Mac.”
Nancy started feeling hotter and hotter.
“Something’s wrong with the microphone,” George whispered to Nancy. “I can’t hear him too well.” Her face was wet with perspiration.
Then Bess leaned over to Nancy. Her head was weaving as though her neck were made of rubber. “The whole room is going up and down, up and down,” she said.
Nancy tried to reach across the table for Bess, but she couldn’t move her arm. It was too heavy to lift. “George,” she tried to say, but her mouth wouldn’t move.
Suddenly Bess leaned forward and fell face first onto the table. What’s going on? What’s happening? Nancy thought to herself. That was the last thing Nancy saw before the whole world went black.
The next thing Nancy knew, she was cold and wet. “Why can’t I move? It’s so dark.” It sounded like her own voice, but she felt so far away from it.
Slowly Nancy opened her eyes and tried to look around. She shivered and realized she had been talking to herself. Her heart was pounding. She wanted to move but she couldn’t.
She was outside. A wet breeze blew against her damp forehead, making her even colder. Her head, legs, and arms throbbed with pain, but she suddenly realized that she couldn’t even feel her hands and feet. The numbness confused Nancy until she wriggled, and discovered that her arms and legs were tied up.
Finally she became aware that she was leaning against something, something hard. She tried to turn her head to see behind her. “Bess? George?” Nancy said out loud.
There were mutters, but they sounded foggy. Everything seemed foggy, distant, confused.
The moon came out from behind a cloud and gleamed on a hideous face. Nancy trembled for a second until she realized that the head was only a picture carved into the top of a tombstone. She looked around. On every side of her were tall, ancient tombstones, green with age and decay. Each one had a macabre image. Skeletons dancing… angels with tortured faces and bird bodies…
“I can’t move,” a voice said. It was Bess. Nancy heard it clearly that time. It sounded as though Bess was about ten feet away.
Nancy lifted herself on her elbows.
“Bess, wake up.” Nancy started to inch her way over to Bess. But then she stopped. Suddenly, in the moonlight, she caught a glimpse of something lying motionless at Bess’s feet.
Nancy wanted to warn her friend, but it was too late. Bess was already trying to sit up. Then Bess let out a scream.
“No … oh, no!” Bess cried, her voice filled with panic. “Get it off me! It’s a dead body — lying on my feet!”
Nancy bent her legs and tried to crawl across the cold, wet graveyard. The ropes cut deeply into her wrists and ankles. But it didn’t matter — she had to see the dead body for herself.
In front of a massive gravestone with a cross carved through its center lay a man in ragged clothes, unmoving and unbreathing.
Bess was about to scream again when something scampered onto her legs and then off again.
“A rat!” Bess said. She tried to kick her legs but the ropes held her too tightly.
“Bess.” Nancy said her friend’s name softly as she scooted toward her. “Please, don’t freak out now. I’ll untie your ropes, if you can just lean forward a little.”
“I’m cold.” It was George’s groggy voice. She was even farther away.
The wet ground had soaked through their clothes. It was obvious that they had been there for a while. Nancy tried not to think about the body.
“We’ll warm up once we start moving,” Nancy called to George. “Hold on for just a few more minutes until Bess and I can get free.”
An owl hooted. Nancy heard more scampering feet. Wings flapped, twigs snapped in the darkness. The cemetery was alive with animals moving in the shadows.
“What are we doing here? And who do you think killed … him?” Bess said, tilting her head toward the body with a shiver.
“Don’t talk, Bess,” Nancy said. “Just hold still so I can work the ropes.”
“I’m trying,” Bess said.
Her fingers ached and her hands were numb from lack of circulation. But still Nancy pulled and plucked at the damp ropes that tied Bess’s hands.
The moon played behind thick summer clouds, making shadows move and sway across the rows of old tombstones.
Then with a jerk and a small cry of pain Bess held her hands up into the air, free from the ropes. Nancy had done it! Then Bess quickly reached to Untie Nancy’s hands and legs. When Bess could move more freely, they both scampered away from the body and untied George.
They stood up and hugged each other for a moment.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” Bess said.
“What about the dead man?” George asked.
A moonbeam fell on the corpse and Nancy leaned closer to look at his face. Just then, the body started to move!
Then the corpse began to snore loudly.
“He’s not dead,” Nancy said with a small laugh. “He’s just asleep.”
“Phew!” Bess said. “Let’s see if we can find our bags and then get out of here before he wakes up!”
Looking around, the girls realized that the cemetery was actually quite small — and it was located in the heart of downtown Boston. They found their purses lying near a tombstone, and then they quickly walked through the cemetery’s creaky iron gates. In no time they were outside on the sidewalk again.
For a while they walked without saying anything. Then at the first telephone booth they found, Nancy called the police. She was surprised but glad when Lieutenant Flood answered the phone. He was on night duty for another officer.
“We were at the Laugh Riot,” Nancy told him, “when all of a sudden we blacked out. Someone must have put knockout drops in our sodas.”
Flood promised Nancy he’d have a squad car pick them up in five minutes. He’d also send an officer to the Laugh Riot in the morning to get to the bottom of what had happened.
“I thought you were just after a car license, Nancy,” the policeman said. “I wish I’d known you were going to get involved in something this dangerous. What’s it all about?”
“I’ll tell you after I eliminate one more suspect,” Nancy said.
Nancy hung up the phone. Bess was yawning and George had dark circles under her eyes from being so tired. “I hope the police get here soon,” Nancy said.
Moments later two officers arrived and took a report from the girls. Then the policemen took them back to the Ritz in the squad car. Inside their room, they found that the hotel maid had turned down the bed sheets and left them each a wrapped chocolate mint on their pillows.
She comes in and does all this and we never see her, Nancy thought to herself as she stretched her tired and bruised body out on the bed. There’s someone else out there we never see. And all he wants to do is hurt us.
Nancy turned out her lamp, then lay awake thinking about the case. She couldn’t stop wondering about Cecelia Bancroft and her role in all that had happened that night. She was the one who’d steered them to the comedy club. Had she set them up to be drugged? And could Cecelia somehow be involved in the disappearance of the veil? If so, Nancy thought, was the veil linked to Jason Moss and the Thorndike heirs? One last question nagged at Nancy before she drifted off to sleep: How was Tony Fiske involved with Cecelia?
Nancy set out early the next morning to follow up an important hunch. Her hunch was that Tony Fiske could tell her whether Cecelia was as innocent as she seemed. Not wanting to wake her friends, Nancy ducked into the bathroom to use the phone. She dialed Tony’s number.
“Hello,” a woman’s voice said. “I’m sorry, but the number you have reached has been disconnected. If you wish an operator to —”
Nancy hung up. But the fact that Tony’s phone had been disconnected didn’t prove anything, she decided. Maybe he hadn’t paid his bill.
Quickly she got dressed, scribbled a note to Bess and George, and drove to Tony’s apartment.
It was a small apartment in an old building. His door was at the end of three flights of stairs. Nancy listened at the door before knocking. A radio blasted out a symphony.
That’s strange music for Tony, Nancy thought as she knocked on the door and waited.
At last the radio was snapped off and the door opened. To Nancy’s surprise, a pleasant-looking woman stood facing her. The woman’s face was paint-splattered, and she had white paint in her black curly hair, too.
“Is Tony Fiske here?” Nancy asked.
The woman laughed and opened the door wide. The apartment was empty except for a ladder, cans of paint, and brushes.
“He’s gone,” the woman said. “Gone. And I love it. He paid me the back rent he owed — five full months. And he told me to get rid of all his stuff, because he’s leaving town for good. Hope he didn’t owe you any money.”
“Did he have a lot?” Nancy asked.
“For Tony, two coins to rub together is a lot,” the woman said. “But, yes, for once he had a lot.”
“Did he say where he was going?” Nancy asked, but she didn’t really expect an answer.
“As a matter of fact, he did. He said he’d never been to Bermuda, and it must be great this time of year.”
Bermuda! That’s where Meredith and Mark were spending their honeymoon!
“I’ve got to call Meredith and warn her,” Nancy said, thinking out loud.
“Who’s Meredith?” the landlady asked.
Nancy snapped back to the present.
“Oh, a friend. Thank you — you’ve been a lot of help,” Nancy said and left quickly. She drove back to the hotel, but got a bit delayed in the tangle of Boston traffic.
Dashing into the hotel room, Nancy called hello to Bess and George and went straight to the phone.
“Do we have Meredith’s number in Bermuda?” she asked George, picking up the receiver.
But Bess and George didn’t answer. They had exciting news of their own.
“Nancy,” Bess said, “something arrived —” Nancy put the phone back on the hook — and immediately it rang. She picked it up again. It was Police Lieutenant Flood.
“Morning, Nancy,” he said in his raspy voice. “You want to hear what happened to you at the Laugh Riot last night?”
“Yes,” said Nancy.
Suddenly she noticed what George and Bess were so excited about. There was a large box wrapped in brown paper sitting on her bed.
“The waiter remembers you and your friends real well,” Lieutenant Flood said. “He says he was getting your drinks ready when a guy at the bar stopped him. The guy said that he’d like to pay for your drinks. He told the waiter he was a friend. Later, when you three started feeling the knockout drugs, this guy told the waiter he’d take care of you. He helped you, one by one, through the kitchen, out the back door, and into his car. That’s all anyone at the club saw. You want to hear his description, kid?”
Nancy answered for the lieutenant. “Six-feet-four, one-hundred-and-eighty-pound male with bleached blond hair, earring in the right ear, and wearing a Patriots cap.”
“I don’t believe it. Who told you that?”
“Harry Knox,” Nancy said.
“Harry Knox? He’s a dinosaur,” Lieutenant Flood laughed. “He’d make a good cop except he hates to play by the rules. So how’d he know about this guy at the club?”
“He didn’t,” Nancy said. “I just made a good guess. Harry saw that same guy push me off the Tea Party ship yesterday.”
“Kid, how’d you like me to have a man cover you? This sounds too dangerous.”
Nancy thought about the offer for a minute. It was tempting, but…
“Please, don’t, Lieutenant Flood,” Nancy finally said. “I don’t think I’ll be able to catch this guy if you do. I’ve got to go now.”
“You know there’s an old saying about giving someone enough rope and they’ll hang themselves, kid.”
“I know, Lieutenant, but I’m hoping I can tightrope-walk on it instead,” Nancy said.
“Give my regards to your father,” the policeman said before he hung up.
As soon as Nancy was off the phone, she and Bess and George all started talking at once.
“What’s in that box?” Nancy asked, pointing to the package on the bed.
“It came for you while you were gone,” George said.
“Special delivery by a messenger,” Bess said.
“Let’s open it.”
The label said: To Nancy Drew, C/O The Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
Nancy noticed that there was no return address on the package. She tore away the brown parcel paper. Inside was a large white cardboard box. Nancy lifted the box. It was light weight. Then she set it down and began to lift the lid. All three girls pressed their faces close to see what was inside.
“I don’t believe it,” Bess said. “It’s Meredith’s veil!”
A Veil of Mystery
Nancy took the long, lace veil out of the white box. For the moment, it didn’t matter where it had come from or who had sent it. She was just happy to hold it in her hands and let it billow to the carpeted floor. And George and Bess were so happy they jumped up and began dancing around the hotel room.
Nancy spread the veil across the bed, running her fingers over it, tracing the intricate patterns in the beautiful handmade lace.
“I can’t believe it. Someone sent you the veil,” Bess said.
“Someone who thought you were getting too close to the truth,” George said. “I can’t wait to call Meredith and tell her!”
But Nancy’s face had become more serious.
“Yes — we do have to call Meredith. But I’m afraid we have only bad news.”
That stopped George and Bess cold.
“What are you talking about?” asked Bess.
“George, do you still have Meredith’s engagement picture?” Nancy asked.
George fished through her purse for a newspaper clipping Meredith had sent her. She found it in her address book and diary.
The three girls looked carefully at the newspaper photo of Meredith. Beaming face, glowing smile — all set off by the white wedding dress and veil she wore. Only the front of the veil showed in the picture.
“See — it’s just as I remembered,” Nancy said. “A feathered border.” She ran her finger up and down along the veil in the photo, touching the pattern of fine feathers along the border of Meredith’s veil. Then she picked up the edge of the veil on her bed and ran her finger along the edge.
“Scalloped border,” Bess said. Her heart sank.
“You mean, it’s not Meredith’s veil?” George said.
“It’s not Meredith’s veil,” Nancy repeated, shaking her head. “I wanted it to be so badly that for a minute I thought it was.”
Just to make certain, they called Meredith and Mark in Bermuda. The newlyweds were having a great time, Meredith said, explaining why she hadn’t been in touch.
“I know I said I’d call every day,” Meredith went on happily. “But now that we’re married and out of Boston, I feel so much better. It seems kind of silly to have worried about an astrologer’s prediction. What could go wrong? The world is such a wonderful place!”
Nancy hated to burst the bubble for Meredith, but she had to warn her about Tony.
“There’s something I have to tell you,” Nancy began. “I think Tony Fiske may have gone to Bermuda looking for you.”
Hearing that, Meredith’s voice became tense.
“Why won’t he leave me alone?” Meredith said. It was more a plea than a question.
Then Nancy told Meredith about the veil that had been delivered anonymously to the hotel. When she described it, Meredith confirmed that it was not hers.
“Listen, I hope you’re not going to any trouble,” Meredith said. “I mean, I’d love to have my veil back, but it is only a veil, after all. You and Bess and George aren’t in any danger, are you?”
Nancy hesitated before answering. “We’re always very careful,” she said diplomatically.
Later that morning, the three girls lay on the grass in the Boston Common, letting the sun bake away their bruises and aches.
“Well, what now?” George asked.
“I never want to see another comedian. I know that,” Bess said, thinking of the Laugh Riot. “In fact, I’d appreciate it if you two wouldn’t make any jokes until we get home.”
But Nancy wasn’t thinking about the Laugh Riot at all. She was sorting through her mental file of details from three days ago, when Meredith’s veil was stolen.
“Tony Fiske is out of the country,” Nancy said.
“And we may never find out how he fits into this. So we’re going to have to go in a different direction.”
George and Bess waited until Nancy had made her decision.
“I don’t know who the blond-haired man is. But I keep coming back to Cecelia Bancroft,” Nancy went on. “There still could be some connection between Cecelia and the veil.”
“Because she was across the street when it was stolen?” George asked.
Nancy nodded, then added, “And because she steered us to the Laugh Riot, where our drinks were tampered with.”
Bess sat up and lifted her large round sunglasses onto her forehead. “Well, I’m more interested in Cecelia’s connection to Jason Moss.”
Nancy smiled. “Me, too,” she said. “Cecelia and Jason might inherit the entire Thorndike fortune very soon. I don’t know if that has anything to do with anything, but maybe our case is somehow connected to the Thorndikes.”
Suddenly Nancy jumped up with a look of satisfaction on her face.
“We’re going to Cape Cod!” she announced, pulling Bess and George up off the ground.
Cape Cod, Nancy knew, was not only a beautiful seaside resort area. It was also the location of the Thorndike mansion. Perhaps there she could find a clue to help her connect the Thorndike case to the missing veil.
After packing sweaters and picking up a small lunch from a nearby carry-out store, the girls piled into the rental car and drove out of town quickly.
When they finally pulled up to the Thorndike house two hours later, a surge of excitement rippled through Nancy. The beautiful mansion, which sat on a steep bluff overlooking the ocean, drew her like a magnet.
But there was also another quality to the house — a sinister quality — which didn’t escape Nancy’s notice. The massive dark stone walls of the three-story building seemed to boast of a strength that would stand up to anything, even the power of the sea.
By the time Nancy and her friends parked the car it was 4 P.M. They were just in time to take the day’s final tour of the mansion. Already, more than twenty people were holding tickets.
“Hi, everybody. My name is Robert, and welcome to Thorn Hill,” their tour guide said in a friendly voice. He smiled a lot when he talked and made eye contact with everyone. “Before we move into the mansion, there are a couple of rules we’d like you to know about,” he said. “You can’t take pictures. In fact, we don’t want you to take anything. And please watch children carefully. If anything gets broken, it’s my neck.”
The group chuckled and the tour began in the entryway of the house. Robert obviously loved every inch and corner of the mansion. He talked for a long time about every architectural detail — the plaster, the arches, the molding, the leaded glass, the marble floors, and so on. Nancy soaked this information in, but she was looking for something — she wasn’t quite sure how to put it. A less public detail.
On the second floor, the group entered a library. In addition to the hundreds of leatherbound books, the library held dozens of photos of Brendan Thorndike posing with famous people.
“Where are the Thorndike family portraits?” Nancy asked, gazing around the room.
Robert smiled in reply, as if to say that he, too, would like to know Mr. Thorndike better. “Mr. Thorndike removed all of his personal possessions five years ago when he moved out of the mansion,“ Robert Said.
Nancy’s heart sank, but still she combed each room for something — a clue, a tiny shred of information that could connect Cecelia to the missing veil. Everywhere she looked, however, her eyes found only one thing: the Thorndike family crest.
Brendan Thorndike had marked all of his possessions with it. It was on the furniture, on wall hangings and quilts, even on the spines of every leather-bound book in the library.
It was a fascinating, complex pattern of blooming tulips, arranged in a circle or wreath. The flowers’ stems were twisted thickly, tightly together into an abstract configuration in the circle’s center. Nancy couldn’t decide whether the twisted stems looked more like a web or a net.
“Nice place to visit,” George said to Nancy, “but I wouldn’t want to live here.”
“It is pretty gloomy,” Nancy agreed.
“Be careful. This place may be mine someday, when I’m declared the missing heir!” Bess said with a grin.
Then Robert brought them to what he called the loneliest room of the house. It was Thorndike’s private study.
“This is the room where Mr. Thorndike kept his records of his attempts to find his children and wife,” Robert explained. “He used to keep all their photos in this room as well. But when he moved out, he ordered that every photo of his wife, his son, and his daughter be removed from the house.”
“It’s so sad. Why did his wife leave?” Bess asked the tour guide.
“Mr. Thorndike never said,” Robert answered. “All I know is that after five years of marriage and two children, Mrs. Rebecca Thorndike just left. It broke his heart.”
“Not at first,” Nancy interrupted. “Only when he was an old man.”
For a moment, Robert and Nancy stared at each other. She could see that he didn’t like anyone making a negative comment about Thorndike.
“Why do you say that?” Robert asked.
“You can see it in the photos of Thorndike,” Nancy said. “His eyes are as cold as steel, even after his wife took their children away. His work is what counted to him.” Nancy pointed to a photo of Thorndike as an old man sitting in his library. “In his later years, his eyes grew softer,” Nancy said. “Maybe he finally realized how much he missed them.”
“You’re very observant,” said a woman in a flowered hat, looking over Nancy’s shoulder at the photo.
“Well, there’s a lot more to see, folks,” Robert said, changing the subject quickly. “Let’s go into the master bedroom.”
The bedroom was large, with closets full of clothes. The chests of drawers were of dark, hand-carved mahogany. On every drawer was a Thorndike crest painted in gold leaf.
Then it was on to the dining room.
“The table is set,” said Robert, “with the oldest china in the house. It belonged to Mr. Thorndike’s British ancestors and was given to the young Mrs. Thorndike as a wedding present.”
Everyone on the tour, including Nancy, Bess, and George, leaned over the table to get a good look at the china. Its pattern was, as they expected, the Thorndike crest.
“There’s something odd about this china,” Nancy said.
“I don’t see it,” George said. “Give me a hint.”
“The crest is different,” Nancy said. “But I don’t know how. I’m going to check it out.” She moved toward the dining-room door.
“Excuse me,” said Robert. “Where are you going?”
“Could I go back to the master bedroom?” Nancy asked.
“If you lost something, one of the guards will find it,” Robert said.
“I didn’t lose anything,” Nancy said pleasantly. “I’d like to look at something again.”
Robert shook his head. “Sorry,” he said. “This is the last tour and you’re not allowed to return to any of the rooms unescorted.”
“It’ll only take a minute,” Nancy said.
“It’ll take less than that for me to get fired,” Robert said.
“You can come again tomorrow, dear,” said the woman in the flowered hat. “Then you can see everything.”
Exasperated, Nancy stepped back into her place among the other tour guests. But outside, when the tour was over, she saw a chance and took it. While everyone else was invited to wander through the tulip garden, Nancy quietly slipped back into the house.
Nancy felt like a criminal as she sneaked upstairs into the master bedroom to look at the gold-leaf crest hand-painted on the drawers of the mahogany chest. Then she hurried into the dining room to look at the old china plates.
“There’s a difference, all right,” Nancy whispered, looking carefully.
The older version of the crest, on the china, was less complicated. The ring of tulips was the same, but at the center, where the stems met, it was much less thickly tangled.
Quickly Nancy took out a pencil and fished out the largest piece of scrap paper she could find in her purse. Then she leaned against the diningroom wall, sketching the china version of the crest. Was that a footstep in the hall? Was someone coming? With her heart pounding, she hurried back into the bedroom and sketched the crest on the mahogany drawers.
Back outside in the garden, Bess and George hadn’t missed her at all. Nancy waited until the other visitors had driven away. Then, standing in the parking lot, she showed her friends the two drawings.
“What do you think?” Nancy asked Bess.
Bess sat on the hood of their car and looked closely at the paper. “Maybe the crest changed because the artists changed over the years,” she said. “The china is very old, you know.”
Bess handed the paper to George who stared at it for a while. George shook her head.
“Sure, the crests are different,” George said. “But so what? I don’t see any hidden words or secret messages.”
Just then, George turned the paper over in her hands. On the other side, there was the address of the Laugh Riot. Suddenly she sat up very tall. “Guys, I don’t know about the crest. But I do know one thing. I’ve seen this handwriting before. It’s totally familiar.”
“Sure,” Nancy said. “It’s Cecelia’s. That’s the paper she used when she wrote down the address of the comedy club.”
George shook her head. “No. I mean I’ve seen it somewhere else.“
Nancy studied the paper for a minute. Then she started digging in her purse with a wild kind of excitement. “George, you’re right, you’re brilliant, and you’re wonderful!” she shouted.
“I know,” said George. “But what are you talking about?”
Nancy pulled her wallet from her purse and found in it the airline ticket made out to Markella Smith. She handed the ticket to Bess and George.
“The handwriting is exactly the same!” they cried out together.
The handwriting was exactly the same, Nancy knew now. Which meant that Cecelia had written Markella Smith’s airline ticket. Which meant that Markella Smith probably didn’t exist.
“Wait a minute…“ Bess said, trying to piece the story together. “You mean to tell me Markella was Cecelia Bancroft all along?”
Nancy nodded her head as she quickly got into the car.
“I knew I had seen that handwriting somewhere,” George said as they started the two-hour drive from the Cape back to Boston. “I must have looked at that airline ticket a hundred times — while I was calling every Smith in Denver.”
“Yes,” Nancy said. “Cecelia probably took this phony ticket to the church the day she met us there, and dropped it in the church stairway when George wasn’t looking.”
“But why?” George said.
“I think it was a trick to get us to go to Denver and get out of town,” Nancy said. “And now I’m sure that Cecelia had something to do with stealing Meredith’s veil. Cecelia might even be the red-haired woman who tricked Meredith!”
“Wouldn’t that be weird?” Bess said. “I mean, if Meredith were here, she could identify her in a minute! But she’s in Bermuda, and we never saw the red-haired woman. Meanwhile we’re running all over Boston with Cecelia as though she’s our best friend.”
“She’s a very cagey woman,” Nancy said. “But I knew she’d make a mistake sometime — and I hoped I’d be there to catch her.”
“What now? Call the police?” George asked.
“Not quite yet,” Nancy said. “We don’t really have enough proof. An airline ticket with her handwriting on it doesn’t prove she stole the veil. I think we should pay Cecelia a visit.”
By the time they reached Boston it was almost eight, and all three girls were starving. But a rushed dinner was all Nancy would allow her friends. She was eager to get to Cecelia’s.
After dinner the three of them jumped back into the rental car and Nancy outlined her plan.
“The two of you will keep Cecelia talking, while I try to slip away and search the house for the veil.”
But when George pulled the car up in front of 1523 Chestnut Street, the plan hit a snag.
Cecelia and Jason’s house was aglow with bright lights and music. Even from the street, Nancy could see people moving in every room. New guests arrived as quickly as their limos could pull up in front of the walk. There was a party going on — that was clear.
“Uh-oh,” said Bess to Nancy. “We’re going to need an invitation to talk to Cecelia tonight.”
“Maybe this isn’t the best time to try,” George added. “Cecelia will be too distracted to talk to us.”
“I know,” Nancy answered with a sly grin. “That means it’s a perfect time to search her house for Meredith’s veil.”
Nancy left George and Bess out front, and went around to the back of the house. There wasn’t really a yard, but candles and lanterns had made the courtyard festive with twinkling lights. There were tables of food and drink, and benches where the guests could sit and talk. And while a guitarist played classical music, people walked here and there, mingling and chatting to each other. With so many guests, it was going to be easy for Nancy to blend in. Getting into the house and keeping out of Cecelia’s way was a more difficult problem.
Well, if I’m supposed to look like a guest, Nancy thought, I’ve got to act like one.
So as she made her way across the courtyard, she stopped to put cheeses, crackers, fresh vegetables, a slice of lemon cake, and a cup of punch on a plate.
It was working and it was going to work — unless someone asked her who she was.
“Hello, who are you?” called a man with a kind face and a spicy chicken wing in his hand.
“I’m Nancy,” she said, suddenly taking a serious interest in her watch. “Who are you?”
“I’m Harold,” said the man. “Are you timing me?”
“No,” said Nancy.
“Are you with someone?” Harold asked.
“I came with two friends,” said Nancy.
She tried to walk away, after each answer, but Harold followed. As he spoke he plucked hors d’oeuvres off trays carried by the catering helpers.
“Tell me, Nancy, are you a lover of art, or are you like me? I’m here because when Jason Moss tells you to come see his newest acquisition, you come.”
“Actually, I know Cecelia better than I know Jason,” Nancy said. “Would you excuse me? I promised to meet her right away.”
Nancy handed Harold her plate and moved quickly, zigzagging through the crowd. The best route was probably to sneak in through the back door of the house. But just as Nancy approached the back steps, Cecelia came out that door. Nancy held her breath and stood statue-still.
“Hello, hello, everybody,” Cecelia said. “Were going to unveil the painting now. So everyone come inside to look and don’t just feed your silly faces.”
Then she disappeared. Nancy let out her breath with relief. Had Cecelia noticed her? Nancy knew Cecelia well enough to be sure of one thing: Cecelia could have spotted Nancy and not even flinched.
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