Read 039 The Suspect Next Door Online

Authors: Carolyn Keene

Tags: #Mobilism

039 The Suspect Next Door

BOOK: 039 The Suspect Next Door
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Chapter

One

I
’M CRAZY ABOUT YOU,
N
AN.

Nancy Drew’s eyes were still shut after Ned’s long, lingering kiss. She felt his breath on her ear as he uttered those magic words. A ripple of delight slid up her spine.

Opening her eyes, Nancy gazed into the warm, handsome face of her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. Behind him, the setting sun shone through the dappled leaves of the trees in the park.

“You know something?” Nancy said with a glowing smile.

“Hmmm?” Ned murmured.

“I’ve got to be the luckiest girl in the entire universe. You’re a wonderful guy, Ned Nickerson.”
Brushing a strand of reddish blond hair from her face, she leaned against him and reached down to hold his hand.

“The feeling is totally mutual,” Ned said, nuzzling her neck.

Resting her head on Ned’s strong, muscular shoulder, Nancy thought back over the last few weeks. Summer had been fabulous.

If only their time together could last forever. If only summer didn’t have to end.

In less than a week Ned would be going back to Emerson College. That meant nine long months of seeing him only on holidays and an occasional weekend.

Nancy sighed and snuggled closer to Ned. Her hip brushed up against her purse, and she felt the portable radio she’d bought for Ned earlier that day. It was her anniversary present for him, and she could hardly wait to give it to him.

She couldn’t help wondering, though, if he had remembered it was their anniversary. Oh, don’t be silly, she told herself. Of course he did.

“What are you thinking?” he asked, nuzzling her ear.

Nancy gazed up at him through the gathering darkness and ran a hand through his wavy brown hair. She was trying to fix his image in her memory. “I was thinking I’m going to miss you terribly.”

Across the brook, on the path that led down to the big weeping willow trees and the riverfront, Nancy caught sight of a young couple strolling, hand in hand, their heads together, deep in conversation.

Nancy recognized the girl immediately. It was her neighbor, Nikki Masters. Just sixteen, Nikki was a slender, blue-eyed blonde with a sweet, gentle nature. Nancy didn’t recognize the guy, who was about Ned’s age. He was wearing a jacket with a gold eagle patch on the arm.

“Look, Ned,” she whispered. “Over there. Aren’t they cute?”

“Mmmm.” Ned nodded and tossed an arm over her shoulder. A slow grin came over his face. “Reminds me of us.”

Nancy giggled. “Don’t you recognize her? That’s Nikki, my next-door neighbor.”

“That’s Nikki? Wow!” said Ned with surprise. “She sure has grown up. Who’s the guy she’s with?”

“I don’t know. But I think this is her first big romance.”

Ned clasped Nancy’s shoulder a little tighter and gave it a quick squeeze. “And you’re mine, Nancy. My first, last, and only.”

Nancy bit her lip and felt a blush spread over her cheeks. She had met other guys who turned her head temporarily. But she’d always been loyal to Ned.

Turning toward him, she tenderly ran her fingertips over his strong jaw. “I love you, too, Ned, only you. Now and always,” she murmured.

Before she knew it, their lips were meeting in another sizzling kiss. A bolt of glorious electricity went straight through Nancy.

Slipping out of Ned’s embrace, she took one last look across the park. Nikki and her friend were leaving.

As Nancy watched, Nikki yanked her hand from her boyfriend’s and started walking away from him. Despite the boy’s pleas, Nikki refused to turn around. Instead she ran to the parking lot, got in her car and drove off—leaving her boyfriend standing alone by his dented blue car.

That’s strange, Nancy thought. But then, first romances weren’t always easy. Not everyone was as lucky as she and Ned.

• • •

“He’s just so thoughtful. So sweet.” Nancy couldn’t stop bragging about Ned the next afternoon. She and her best friends, Bess Marvin and George Fayne, were on a shopping excursion at River Heights Mall.

“You are
soooo
lucky!” Bess pulled on a strand of her blond hair in mock frustration. “If only they could clone Ned. Why, oh why, are all the good ones taken?”

“Come on, Bess,” Nancy teased. “It’s been a grand total of three weeks since you’ve been madly in love.”

“Three weeks? Try two days.” Bess’s first cousin, George Fayne, rolled her eyes. Despite her name, George was definitely a girl—tall, lean, and athletic, with short curly dark hair and intelligent brown eyes. “You’ve got to admit it, Bess. You’re just not a one-man woman,” she added.

Bess’s mouth took on a pretty pout, and she put her hands on her hips. “How can you say that! I am, too!” she insisted. “It’s just that I haven’t found the right ‘one man’ yet!”

That sent all three girls off on a fit of laughter. The only thing better than a good friend is
two
good friends, Nancy reflected. Bess and George were even a big help when it came to her detective work.

“All I can say is, thank goodness for shopping,” Bess said with a sigh. “It alone makes this lonely life worthwhile. Hey, check out that dress. Can’t you just see me in that?”

Bess’s sparkling blue eyes were fixed on a fiery red dress in the window of Vanities, the mall’s most exclusive boutique. The dress had an off-the-shoulder top, decorated with black sequins; the skirt was made of the sleekest scarlet satin. A red bolero jacket with black satin piping completed the outfit.

“It’s beautiful,” George said, her eyes wide. “And just think, all you’d need is a few hundred dollars and you could actually buy it!”

Bess sighed. “A few hundred dollars and a
two-month diet.” Bess was forever trying to lose weight, even though her figure was only five pounds heavier than perfect.

Nancy and George gave each other a look. Bess was staring at the dress, unable to move. “I have a feeling my hips would look really svelte in that dress,” she murmured.

“You want to try it on, don’t you?” George asked sympathetically.

“Okay, let’s go in,” Nancy agreed. “But, George, you’ve got to promise to help me sew up Bess’s broken heart after she reads the price tag. Okay?”

“Sure,” George said cheerfully as she pushed the glass door open for her friends. “I’m an expert at that by now.”

As the three girls walked into the shop, they were immediately overwhelmed. Clothes were just a part of Vanities. The store featured accessories, too: belts, bags, and exclusive designer jewelry. Many of the items were one of a kind, and the prices ranged from expensive to out of this world.

There were dressed mannequins and display cases artfully placed to lead the shopper farther and farther into the store. Right in front, where Nancy was standing, was the cashier’s station. The cashier was an attractive girl with oversize glasses, pale skin, and curly dark hair cut shoulder length.

At the moment, she was being lectured by an elegantly dressed middle-aged woman with steel gray eyes and well-styled, upswept black hair.

“This is not an ordinary store,” the woman was saying. “You’ve got to learn to project more confidence. Vanities has a certain image, one that I have worked hard to establish. You’re going to have to do more to project that image.”

The older woman wore a close-cut conservative suit, not of the type that was featured at Vanities, but her oversize silver and lapis earrings gave her great style.

From the way the cashier listened to her, Nancy guessed the woman must be the owner of Vanities.

“Oh, look! Aren’t these adorable!” Hearing Bess call her, Nancy turned and saw her holding two red-feathered earrings up to the sides of her head. “They’d go perfectly with that dress in the window.”

Bess rushed over to the girl behind the register. “I’ve got to try on that incredible red dress in the window,” she confessed. “Do you have it in size seven?”

“I’m not sure, but I guess I can check,” the girl said timidly.

“Oh, I love jade,” George cooed as she hovered over a display case filled with beautiful green ornaments and jewelry.

“And look here!” Bess cried excitedly. “Check
out this jewelry! It’s so great. Nancy, that blue necklace would look terrific on you.”

The display case Bess was looking at contained jewelry made of silver, turquoise, and acrylic. It was the most unusual jewelry Nancy had ever seen.

“It’s super!” George agreed. “And Bess is right about that blue one, Nan. It matches your eyes perfectly.”

The older woman saw them looking at the jewelry, walked over, and silently lifted the tray out of the case.

“Thanks,” Nancy said, reaching for the necklace her friends had pointed to. On the back was an inscribed Z, which looked like a bolt of lightning. Nancy guessed it was probably the jeweler’s mark.

Nancy flipped the price tag over. The necklace cost sixty-five dollars. Nancy had enough money from her birthday to buy the necklace, but she decided to wait. She was hoping Ned might surprise her with a piece of jewelry for their anniversary. Wearing things he picked out for her was a lot more fun than buying them for herself.

“It’s lovely,” Nancy said, placing the necklace back on the tray.

The curly-haired salesgirl came over to them. “Sorry,” she told Bess regretfully. “We’re out of that dress.”

Bess’s face fell, and her eyes went to the dress in the window. “What about that one?”

The girl shook her head. “I think it’s a size three,” she said tentatively.

“Excuse me, Charlene.” The owner approached them. “We just got that shipment in yesterday. Did you check in the stockroom?”

“Yes, Ms. Hayes.” The salesgirl was completely flustered. “There are none left. I looked everywhere.”

“You must have missed them, Charlene,” Ms. Hayes said with a worried smile. “I’ll check myself,”

She strode to the back of the store and disappeared into the stockroom. The three girls stood there, a little embarrassed for the salesgirl.

A few moments later Ms. Hayes reemerged. “Trisha!” she called out in a loud voice.

A pretty girl of about twenty-five with a clipboard under her arm ran over from across the shop. She had ear-length ash blond hair held up on one side with a large green barrette. “What is it, Ms. Hayes?”

“The red bolero outfit in the window? Didn’t it come in just yesterday?”

“Yes. A dozen of them, in sizes five to thirteen. See here?” She pointed to a notation on a form attached to the clipboard. Nancy edged closer.

“And how many were sold?” Ms. Hayes asked, a look of confusion clouding over her eyes.

Trisha bit her lip and checked farther down on the page. “None yet,” she said weakly.

“You know what that means, don’t you?” Ms. Hayes asked. Nancy noticed there was an edge to her voice.

Trisha was silent. Ms. Hayes answered for her. “It means Vanities has been robbed again!”

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