Authors: Carolyn Keene
ITH A SMILE,
Ned Nickerson leaned toward Nancy Drew and put his lips close to her ear. “I thought this was supposed to be a small party,” he said loudly. “So far, I've counted thirty people, and another twelve are just walking in the door.”
Laughing, Nancy raised her voice so Ned could hear her over the pounding rock music. “Maybe this is small to Joanna,” she shouted. “After all, forty-two people barely fill one wing of this house.”
It was true. Joanna Tate's home was such a
huge, sprawling place that people jokingly called it the River Heights Hotel. The Tates were rich, and they loved to spend moneyâon their house, their cars, jewelry, antiques, and especially travel. That was the funny thing about them, Nancy thought. They had a fantastic house filled with just about everything money could buy, and they hardly spent any time in it. The three of them had barely arrived home from a month-long trip to Europe when Mr. and Mrs. Tate repacked their bags to catch another plane, this time to Mexico. When Joanna had invited Nancy to the party, she said she was tired of being on the move and wanted to spend a few weeks just lounging by the pool of the River Heights Country Club.
The club was where Nancy and Joanna had met. Nancy's father, lawyer Carson Drew, belonged to it, and so did the Tates. As a detective, Nancy was usually too busy working on cases to spend any time there, but one of the few times she had been there she struck up a conversation with Joanna.
Actually, Joanna was the one who had started the conversation. She loved to talk, Nancy discovered, especially about things she had just bought or was about to buy. Nancy had never known anyone more into
than Joanna, and if it weren't for her great
sense of humor, her conversation would be boring after a while. In fact, the two of them didn't have much in common except that they were both eighteen and they were both girls. But they had become friendly in spite of their lack of common ground, and Joanna had invited Nancy to her next big bash. Nancy had just finished a case and was definitely in the mood for a party.
“This band is great,” she said to Ned, looking around the terrace where the five-piece band was playing. It was a warm summer night, and a lot of people had come outside to dance. “I should have known Joanna wouldn't just pop a cassette into a tape deck. Trust her to hire a live band.” Tossing her reddish blond hair back from her face, she stood up and took Ned's hand. “Come on, let's dance!”
The two of them found space on the crowded terrace and danced five songs, until the band took a break. Then they went inside and made their way to the refreshment table, where there was enough food to feed a small village for a year. Nancy was trying to decide between a piece of the twelve-foot-long hero or a slice of pepperoni pizza when Bess Marvin and Bess's cousin, George Fayne, Nancy's two best friends, joined her and Ned.
“Isn't this incredible?” Bess shook her long blond hair and laughed as she piled food on
her plate. “I guess I'll have to start my diet tomorrow.”
George, who was tall and slim and never had to watch her weight, laughed, too. “I keep telling you that you don't need to go on a diet. All you need is more exercise.”
“I do exercise,” Bess protested. “I just danced for half an hour, thanks to that fabulous band. I never knew what you saw in Joanna,” she said to Nancy, “but I have to admit, she does know how to throw a great party.”
“Where is Joanna, anyway?” Ned asked. “I haven't seen her since we got here.”
“Probably trying on another outfit she bought in Europe,” George commented.
“There she is,” Nancy said, and they all turned as Joanna Tate, a short girl with frizzy brown hair and a wide smile, burst into the room. As George had said, she was wearing an outfit that couldn't have been bought at a River Heights shopping mall, but her clothes didn't stand out as much as her voice. As usual, Joanna was talking a mile a minute.
“Nancy!” she cried, edging her way over to the food table. “Hi! Glad you all could make it.”
“It's great to be here,” said Nancy.
“The band is excellent!” Bess exclaimed. “And your dress is gorgeous.”
Joanna twirled around so that Nancy, Bess, George, and Ned could get the full benefit of her electric blue silk dress, which was embroidered with hundreds of tiny pearls. When she finished modeling, she asked, “Oh, Nancy, did I tell you about my new necklace yet?”
“Necklace?” Nancy shook her head. “I don't think so.”
“Well, actually, I'm not supposed to mention it, but it's so fabulous that I just can't keep it a secret a minute longer!” her voice lowering a bit.
“Why should you have to keep a necklace secret?” George asked.
“Because,” Joanna explained, “it's very rare and very valuable. It once belonged to a Russian countess, and my daddy paid a small fortune for it. He promised to give it to me when I'm twenty-one.” She rolled her eyes and giggled. “If he knew I was even talking about it, he'd cancel my credit cards!”
“That must be some necklace,” Ned remarked.
“It is,” Joanna agreed. “It's absolutely gorgeous. I wish you could see it. It's got diamonds and rubies as big as marbles!” Without waiting for anyone to answer, she turned to another group of people and started telling them all about the fabulous necklace her father had brought back from Europe.
Laughing, Nancy and her friends went back to filling their plates with food, but before they had managed to swallow more than a bite or two, Joanna was back. “I just can't stand it!” she said dramatically. “That gorgeous necklace is sitting in the house this very minute, and I just have to show it off or I'll die. I'm going to get it now, but you have to promise me that you'll never breathe a word of this to my parents. Okay?”
“Look, if your parents really don't want you to, maybe you should just forget it,” Ned suggested.
“Right,” George agreed. “Besides, I don't think anyone's all that interested in seeing it. Most people just want to keep on partying.”
“Believe me, they'll forget about everything else once they set their eyes on this necklace,” Joanna told them. “I'm just going to sneak it out, give everybody a quick peek, and then sneak it back. Don't go away. I'll only be a few minutes!” Giggling with excitement, she took off through the crowd, telling everyone what she was about to do.
Nancy laughed. “I don't know how she expects to keep her parents from knowing. She's already told everybody about that necklace.”
“George was right, though,” Bess remarked. “Joanna's the only one who really cares about
it. I mean, an old necklace is nice, but I'd rather dance. Besides, at the rate she's moving, by the time she gets upstairs, the party will be over.”
“Bess does have a point,” Ned said as he watched Joanna make her way through the crowd. He turned to Nancy. “Come on, let's try to find a place to sit. I'm starving.”
Carrying two plates of food, Ned started moving through the crowded living room, looking for a chair, a footstool, or even a clear space on the floor. Nancy followed, carrying two glasses of soda.
“I guess we'd better go out to the terrace,” Ned called over his shoulder. “I don't see an empty square inch in here.”
“Fine,” Nancy called back. “I could use the air, anyway.”
Together, they stepped through the sliding glass doors that led to the terrace. Just as they did, the band started playing again, and everyone began dancing. The couple closest to the doors whirled around and crashed into Nancy. One of the sodas flew up, splashing her face and hair, and the other fell down, soaking her blue skirt and dripping through her sandal.
“Sorry about that!” the couple called out, dancing away.
Nancy wiped her face with her hand, which immediately became sticky, too. “I was a little
hot,” she said, joking. “But I wasn't quite ready to take a shower.” Glancing down at her skirt, she shook her head. “Well, it doesn't show too much, I guess.”
“Sure,” Ned said. “That big splotch looks like part of the pattern.”
“Thanks a lot,” Nancy replied with a laugh. “Yuck! Even my sandal's sticking to my foot. I've got to go wash it off. Be right back.”
Pushing her wet hair off her forehead, Nancy threaded her way back through the crowded room, past the food table, and into a hallway. She had never been in the Tates' house before, but she knew a house that size would have plenty of bathrooms. She was right. She found one along the hall and another around a corner. Unfortunately, both of them were occupied.
Nancy kept walking down the hall, then took a right turn, and finally a left. She ended up at the bottom of a short stairway. Nancy climbed the few stairs and found herself in another hallway. She was in a different wing of the house then, she realized. It was quiet; the music from the band and the laughter of the guests sounded far away.
The hall was wide, with a deep, soft carpet and several closed doors on either side. One of them has to be a bathroom, Nancy thought.
Stopping in front of the first door, she raised her hand and was just about to knock when she heard something that made her hand freeze in midair.
It was a screamâa sharp, piercing screamâand it was coming from behind that door.
ORGETTING ABOUT KNOCKING,
Nancy threw open the door and ran into the room. It was a study, with bookcases on three of the walls and a stone fireplace on the fourth. Next to the fireplace was a painting, which had been swung out from the wall like a cabinet door. Behind it was a wall safe, also open. In front of the safe stood Joanna. She was holding a box, staring at it in horror, as if she had found a snake inside.
“Joanna!” Nancy cried. “What is it? What's wrong?”
“Oh, Nancy!” Joanna's small face crumpled, and tears started rolling down her cheeks. “It's gone! I can't believe it! What am I going to do?”
Quickly crossing the room to Joanna's side, Nancy looked at the box she was holding. It was red leather, padded and lined with white satin. It had obviously contained a piece of jewelryâNancy could see the imprint in the satinâand that piece of jewelry had obviously been a necklace.
“The diamond and ruby one?” she asked Joanna. “The one you just brought back from Europe?”
Sniffing, Joanna nodded. “The one my father paid a fortune for,” she said miserably. “The one he's going to absolutely freak over when he finds out it's been stolen. What am I going to do?” she asked again. “If only I hadn't shot my mouth off about it!”
It was true, Nancy thought. Joanna had blabbed about the necklace to everyone, but it was too late to do anything about that. “What about the safe?” Nancy asked. “How many people at the party did you tell about the safe?”
“I didn't tell anyone about the safe,” Joanna said positively. “I suppose somebody could have found it, but no one knows the combination except my parents and me.”