Read (#15) The Haunted Bridge Online

Authors: Carolyn Keene

(#15) The Haunted Bridge (7 page)

Bess and George stared at her in bewilderment.

“How can you expect to have any fun with him?” George asked.

“I don’t. But it’ll be a good chance to study the guests—investigative work for Dad.”

“Oh, that’s different,” Bess answered in relief. “By the way, two boys here at the hotel have asked George and me to the same dance.”

“We haven’t promised yet,” Bess replied, “but if you want to go with Barty we could accept and all keep together.”

“Good idea,” Nancy agreed after a moment’s thought. “And now, let’s eat lunch. I’ll have to leave soon for my match.”

Later, when the girls came from the dining room, the desk clerk signaled to Nancy. He handed her a telegram that had just been delivered. It was from her father and read:

MEET ME AT AIRPORT TOMORROW MORNING AT SEVEN. JEWELRY IN BRASS CHEST EXAMINED. WE MUST LOCATE OWNER.

Immediately Nancy thought, “Maybe I’ll have some news for Dad. There’s a chance I may see Margaret Judson at Hemlock Hall tonight! For once perhaps Barty has done me a favor by inviting me to the dance there.”

It was after two o’clock when the girls walked to the first tee. Nancy resolutely put aside all thoughts of the baffling mystery. Her opponent, a stout, muscular woman, nodded curtly as she tested out her swing.

Bess whispered to Nancy, “This isn’t going to be a friendly match. Ruth Allison is out to win!”

The two players matched each other stroke for stroke as they played the first three holes. Neither seemed able to gain the advantage. Nancy was conscious that her opponent watched every shot like a hawk, as if hoping to catch Nancy breaking one of the rules of the game. Nancy in turn paid careful attention to every move she made.

Her hand pained her, but she made no mention of the handicap under which she was playing. At first Nancy was able to drive long, straight balls, but gradually her hand became weary and she found herself in difficulty.

Ruth Allison won two holes in succession. A look of smug satisfaction came over her face. It faded, however, when Nancy, fighting gamely, took the next hole, matched her opponent in the following one, and then won again to even the score.

At the sixteenth tee the match was still even. Having won the previous hole, Nancy had the honor of driving first. As she took a backswing with her club, her mind wandered momentarily to the mystery of the jewel thefts. The result was that her ball sliced wickedly. To the horror of Chris it entered the woods.

“Too bad,” Ruth Allison said with a false show of sympathy. “I’m afraid that will put you out of the tournament.”

CHAPTER IX

Nancy Is Accused

 

 

 

 

RUTH ALLISON’S remark that Nancy’s bad drive might put her out of the tournament upset the teen-age girl. She tried not to show it. Nancy watched in dismay as her opponent drove a long, straight ball past the spot where hers had gone into the woods. The group walked along in silence.

“Cheer up, Nancy,” said Bess. “There are still two holes to play. You could win yet.”

Chris summoned up his courage and plunged into the woods. He located Nancy’s ball in a hollow spot by a tree.

“It’s almost unplayable,” he told her when she caught up to him. Ruth Allison had walked on, a self-satisfied expression on her face.

Nancy asked Chris for her mashie and struck the ball with all her strength. The shot was remarkable. The ball flew up and sailed cleanly out of the woods.

“Marvelous!” George called out.

Despite Nancy’s remarkable play, her score was one point higher than her opponent at the end of the hole.

As they walked to the next tee, Nancy remarked, “I’m one down now, and—” She started to add that her hand was paining her but quickly broke off.

Nancy had no intention of giving up easily, and managed to tie Ruth Allison on the seventeenth. As they played toward the last green, she put all her strength into each shot, wincing with pain every time.

“A tie isn’t enough here,” she said to herself grimly. “I must win by a stroke or I’ll lose the match and be out of the tournament!”

A small crowd had gathered by the green to watch the players come in. Ruth Allison, with victory so near, became excited and made a wild putt. Nancy dropped her ball into the cup, tying the match again.

According to the rules, the players had to keep on until one or the other had a lower score. Nancy wondered how much longer her hand could endure the strain.

As the two players went back to the first tee the crowd followed. An audience seemed to bother Ruth Allison. Her drive was short, and her next shot went into the rough. She lost the hole by two strokes. It was Nancy’s match!

“Oh, you were great!” Bess praised her friend gleefully, while George hugged her.

Ruth Allison, instead of offering congratulations, turned on her heel and stalked angrily toward the golf clubhouse office.

“What a poor sport she turned out to bel” George said in disgust.

When the applause of the crowd was over, Nancy and her friends walked away slowly. They noticed a man who was on the tournament committee hurrying toward them. It was evident from the expression on his face that something was amiss.

“Miss Drew, will you come with me, please?” he requested her quietly. “There seems to be a little misunderstanding. Your opponent claims the match.”

“Why? I won it fairly,” Nancy replied as she followed the man. “There were witnesses.”

“Miss Allison claims the match on account of the sixteenth hole,” the man told her gravely. “She says that you moved your ball after it went into the woods.”

Nancy was stunned by the false accusation. In the office she faced Miss Allison and demanded, “How can you say such a thing? You know it isn’t true.”

“It certainly is,” the woman retorted. “I’m sure you moved your ball. Otherwise you never could have reached the fairway in one shot. I distinctly heard your caddy tell you that the shot was unplayable.”

“Nevertheless, I made it.”

Bess and George had followed their friend to the golf office. Unable to remain quiet, they flew to her defense.

“Nancy has never cheated in her life!” George burst out angrily. “You’re just mad because she beat you!”

“Now, let’s be calm about this,” the tournament chairman said anxiously. “We’ll try to decide this matter fairly—”

“What’s the trouble?” asked a masculine voice behind them.

The girls turned. Martin Bartescue was standing in the doorway. He repeated his question and the tournament chairman reluctantly explained the difficulty.

“Why, Miss Allison’s accusation is utterly false,” he stated firmly. “It so happens that I was walking along the woods as the match was being played. I saw Miss Drew drive into the trees, and I watched her execute her shot onto the fairway. It was a beauty.”

“Oh, thank you,” Nancy gasped gratefully. For the first time she decided that Barty had his good points.

“If everyone defends Miss Drew I may as well drop the charge!” Ruth Allison said haughtily and left the office.

“Don’t mind her,” the tournament chairman said to Nancy. “She always loses hard. I’m sorry to have embarrassed you.”

Bartescue followed the girls outside, smirking with pleasure.

“Did you really see me play my shot?” Nancy asked him.

“Why certainly,” he returned, his eyes twinkling. “Didn’t you see me?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“You must have been looking in another direction. By the way, did you get my note?”

“Yes,” Nancy admitted and politely accepted his invitation to the dance at Hemlock Hall.

He said good-by and walked off. Nancy could not rid herself of the suspicion that Bartescue had lied about being in the woods. Later that afternoon, while the three girls were in the soda shop, they were amazed to have the boy at the counter mention Bartescue to them.

“He’s a funny guy,” the boy said. “Spent a long time in here earlier this afternoon. He wrote out a telegram, but crumpled it up. As a matter of fact, he wrote out two or three, but couldn’t seem to get one that suited him. He left one wadded up on the counter and I read it.”

“You did?” Nancy said.

“Sure, see, here it is.” The boy took a crumpled paper from his pocket and waved it. Nancy was able to make out two words in the quick glance she got of the message—Margaret Judson.

“Nancy has never cheated in her life!” George burst out

“Want to read it?” the boy asked.

Nancy shook her head. “No, I’m not interested in Mr. Bartescue’s private affairs.”

The boy thrust the paper into his pocket again and a moment later was called away to wait on another customer. Nancy left the shop with Bess and George.

She wondered if she had made a mistake in declining to read the telegram. What connection could Barty have with Margaret Judson?

“I caught only a glimpse of the writing,” she said, “but I’m sure it wasn’t the same as any of the other samples of Barty’s.” She paused, then continued, “About the dance tonight. I’d like you and your dates to follow us closely in your car.”

“We’ll do our best to keep you in sight,” Bess promised.

“I hope I won’t need to send out an SOS.” Nancy laughed.

Shortly before nine o’clock the boys who were to escort Bess and George arrived in their car. Nancy was worried that Barty would ruin her plans by being late, but to her relief he appeared within a few minutes.

As he assisted her into his car, Nancy glimpsed her friends in a nearby convertible, waiting to follow. For a time her escort drove at a moderate pace. When the road straightened out he speeded up until the other car was left far behind.

“Oh, let’s not go so fast!” Nancy protested.

“This is the way I like to travel,” Barty told her.

“Well, I don’t. If you refuse to slow down, I’ll never go out with you again.”

“All right,” he grumbled, and grudgingly reduced the speed of the car.

For some minutes they rode in silence. Nancy was wondering how to broach the subject of Miss Allison’s accusation about cheating. Finally, with a pretense of being facetious, she suggested that perhaps he had not really seen her hit the ball out of the woods.

“You were just coming to my defense, weren’t you?”

“I guess maybe you’re right,” Barty admitted. “Did you cheat?”

“Certainly not!”

“It wouldn’t make any difference to we if you had or hadn’t,” Barty replied.

Nancy was not flattered. She wanted to tell him how important and enjoyable it was to play any competitive game honestly and with a good sportsmanlike attitude. But she decided she would gain nothing by revealing her true feelings. Taking a different tack, she cajoled her escort into a pleasant mood and casually asked him if he knew Miss Judson whose house had burned.

“Margaret Judson?” he inquired indifferently. “Oh, I met her in Europe three years ago. A pretty woman, but boring.”

“Where is she living now?”

“She doesn’t wish to have her address revealed.”

“I thought she might be staying near here,” Nancy said, watching him closely.

“Perhaps she is.” Bartescue smiled.

Another silence followed, which was not broken until they reached Hemlock Hall. Nancy excused herself to go to the powder room. She stayed there hoping to see Margaret Judson among the persons who came and went. Bess and George arrived and she left the room with them.

“Try not to lose Barty’s car going back to the hotel,” Nancy urged. “In the meantime keep your eyes open for a woman with a jeweled compact. If you see one, please report to me instantly.”

“Will do,” Bess promised.

The music was excellent, but Nancy did not enjoy dancing with Bartescue. Finally she went to the ladies’ lounge. There she maintained an alert watch for a woman with a jeweled compact.

“This night will be entirely wasted,” she thought in disappointment. “Miss Judson isn’t here and there’s not a single clue to help Dad’s case.”

Reluctantly Nancy returned to dance with her date. When the music stopped, he took her to a chair and excused himself. “I’ll be back in a few minutes,” he said, and went off.

Nancy got up and wandered into a small room adjoining the ballroom to get some fresh air. The place was vacant. Nancy turned to leave but halted when she heard a low murmur of voices.

Two women seated on the porch outside were conversing earnestly near an open window. Their words reached Nancy clearly.

“But I tell you I have no money to give you for the compact,” the one said in a harassed tone. “Please try to understand.”

“How do I know you didn’t sell it?” the other asked harshly.

The women lowered their voices so Nancy was unable to hear anything. She moved swiftly toward the window to listen.

“I must learn who they are,” Nancy thought excitedly. “One of those women may be Margaret Judson!”

CHAPTER X

Telltale Photograph

 

 

 

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