Authors: Carolyn Keene
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Large type books, #Juvenile Fiction, #Mystery and detective stories, #Mysteries & Detective Stories
Nancy Drew Files #7
HEN IS THAT
phone going to ring?” Nancy Drew stalked out of her bedroom and across the hotel suite’s living room. She paused in the doorway of the bedroom on the far side, where her two best friends were unpacking.
“It’s twenty minutes to two right now,” George Fayne said, groaning. She glanced from her watch to her cousin, Bess Marvin, who was sharing the room with her. “If that woman doesn’t phone in the next two minutes, we’re going to miss the opening tennis match!”
It was a hot summer afternoon. Half an hour earlier, Bess, George, and Nancy had checked into the two-bedroom suite at the Alexandria, Virginia, hotel. George, an avid athlete, had recently been concentrating on her tennis game, and at her urging the other two had come with her to watch the International Women’s Semi-Pro Tennis Tournament. It was being held at Loudon College, not far from Washington, D.C.
“Senator Kilpatrick did phone at one, as she promised,” Nancy said. “The desk clerk gave me the message. It wasn’t her fault we got caught in all the airport traffic!” Marilyn Kilpatrick was an old law-school friend of Nancy’s father. When she had heard from him that Nancy and her friends were going to be in Alexandria, she had asked Nancy to run an errand for her, and Nancy had felt that she couldn’t very well say no. “If she said she’ll call back and asked me to wait, she’ll call,” Nancy added.
“Traffic jams wouldn’t have
a problem if we’d flown down yesterday the way we planned,” George pointed out. “Instead of going to that meet-the-players party last night, we were still in River Heights, waiting for your top-secret phone call from the senator.” She pulled off the khaki shirt she’d worn for traveling and tossed it onto her bed. “You know something? I’m beginning to have a lot more sympathy for Ned Nickerson.”
“Sympathy for Ned?” Nancy exclaimed, frowning. “Why?” Then her brow cleared. “Oh, you mean because he wasn’t able to come to the tournament with us.”
“No, she means because even Ned can’t be sure that a mystery won’t mess up plans you’ve made,” Bess put in, only half laughing.
“Right!” George began rummaging in her suitcase for a tennis crewneck. “I’m sure it’s great for Ned to be famous detective Nancy Drew’s numero uno guy, but never knowing when a mystery’s going to spoil a romantic moment must drive him crazy!”
Nancy’s blue eyes twinkled. “Ned manages! And look who’s talking about making boyfriends feel insecure!” Bess—small, blond, and curvy—was famous for the speed with which she collected—and then dropped—good-looking boys.
“Ned knows he’s my main man in any language,” Nancy went on more seriously. “But why do I have to keep telling you that Senator Kilpatrick’s errand has nothing to do with a case?”
“Is that why you’ve been carefully avoiding telling us what it is about?” George asked bluntly.
Nancy reddened. All at once, Senator Kilpatrick’s warning rang in her ears.
“Tell no one,”
the senator had said. Despite the muggy summer heat, Nancy felt a chill.
Bess gave her an odd look but changed the subject deftly. “That ‘numero uno’ bit means George is brushing up on her Spanish in case she meets that Central American tennis star the TV reporters are making such a fuss about.”
“Teresa Montenegro isn’t Central American, she’s from San Carlos,” George corrected her. “That’s in
America. And she’s not a star—not yet. Nobody outside of San Carlos has had a chance to see her play till now. But she’s supposed to be really great. I can’t wait to watch her!”
“If we ever get there, you mean.” Bess began to wriggle into a lavender knit miniskirt. Then she giggled. “Ten to one Nancy’s mystery interferes.”
“Come off it, you two,” Nancy protested, managing a laugh. “I’m meeting somebody to pick up something for the senator, and
“Su-u-u-re,” George drawled. “The lady’s only got an office and a staff in D.C., right across the river from here. But she absolutely had to talk to Nancy Drew last night, and she’s positively got to have Nancy and nobody but Nancy run this errand. And there’s no mystery involved? Who’re you trying to kid?”
“This is a simple job—quick and easy. And
!” Nancy shook her head vigorously, hoping her red-gold hair hid her blush as she remembered Senator Kilpatrick’s words on the phone last night: “Find a way to get into the locker rooms, but don’t let anyone find out what you’re doing.”
“The real mystery,” Nancy continued, “is why Bess Marvin, who’s allergic to exercise, is in such a hurry to see a tennis tournament.”
“If it were a men’s tournament we’d understand,” George agreed. She looked at her cousin, who was knotting a bright print shirt at her midriff. “I suppose you think that’s a tennis outfit,” she added, rolling her eyes.
“You’re here to watch the tournament and pick up tennis pointers. I’m here to watch the tournament-watchers,” Bess said, unruffled. “If you must know, I’m looking for a better grade of boyfriend. One with something in the brains department!”
Nancy’s eyes met George’s with shared amusement. Bess’s most recent great loves had been a rock musician and a skier. Falling for a brain would be a nice change.
“You two take a cab out to the tournament,” Nancy said generously. “It’ll be my treat. I’ll drive the rental car out and meet you just as soon as Senator Kilpatrick has called. That way you won’t miss anything.”
“Really? Great!” Bess dashed out of the bedroom, taking a brief look in the mirror as she passed it. “If I gain one more pound I won’t be able to get into this skirt again,” she said mournfully.
“Worry about that later,” George said. “I want to get out there and see Teresa Montenegro. See you later, Nancy, okay?”
“Sure,” Nancy answered absently as the two girls left. The mention of Teresa Montenegro, the San Carlos player, had made last night’s conversation, and her own secret mission, flash vividly back into her head.
Secret mission? What made me think that? Nancy wondered, startled. Her friends were right. She did have mysteries on the brain.
Nancy crossed the suite and went into her bedroom. She stared at her reflection in the bureau mirror, only half seeing it.
The small travel clock she’d set beside the bed ticked loudly. Two o’clock. A quarter after. Half past. When the phone on the bedside table finally rang, Nancy leaped for it so quickly that the little clock went crashing to the floor.
A woman’s voice interrupted evenly. “Miss Nancy Drew? This is Senator Kilpatrick’s office calling. The senator has asked me to tell you the meet has been postponed until nine o’clock this evening. Same instructions as before. You are to contact the senator immediately afterward and report what happened. Thank you.”
The phone went dead.
Not a meeting,
. That was government talk. Secret Service or CIA talk.
As Nancy changed clothes rapidly, her mind reviewed the instructions Senator Kilpatrick had given her.
“Pick up your special pass at the hotel desk—I sent it over by messenger. It’s a government pass, and it should get you through security and into the women’s locker room. If the guards give you a hard time, have them call my office. But it would be better if you could get in there without anyone noticing. Your father says you have a blue denim miniskirt. I imagine you have a plain white T-shirt, don’t you? . . . Wear that, and do you have some kind of distinctive belt you can wear? . . . A bright red one? Yes, that would be good. I’ll see that the courier is notified that that will be your identifying mark. After you receive the information packet, go back to your assigned box seat and stay with your friends for the rest of the match. As soon as you get back to your hotel, call my office and insist on speaking directly to me. I’ll alert my staff to connect us at once.” That’s what the senator had said.
Well, there was no need for the special outfit till that night, so Nancy thrust it into a small duffel bag that she used as a purse and changed into shorts and a knit top in tennis white with a pale blue stripe. Then she ran out of the suite and toward the elevator. If she was lucky, she could just miss the commuter traffic that would soon clog the highways.
The elevator took Nancy directly to the basement-level parking garage. Soon she was out of Alexandria and heading west toward the rolling Virginia countryside. She came to the great shopping mall at Tyson’s Corner. Loudon College was only a few miles farther. And didn’t the brochure say there’s a service road to the college somewhere? Nancy thought. The road to her right had to be it—a wide dirt lane beneath a stand of towering catalpa trees.
Soon Nancy was entering the college grounds. The parking lots near the stadium were filled, but she finally found a space near the dirt lane. She locked the car carefully and threaded her way through the acres of parked cars toward the grandstands.
The sun was high in the sky, and a faint breeze stirred the heavy air. Nancy glanced at her watch. She was pleased to realize that she’d probably missed only part of one match.
She flashed her pass at a guard and asked for directions. Then, as she turned the corner around the first of the gray stone college buildings, she paused. The stadium was across a road and to the left, but maybe there was a shortcut through the building so she wouldn’t have to take time to circle the two beyond. Yes, Nancy could see another set of glass doors on the opposite side of the ground floor. She pushed open the door nearest her and started into the cool dimness.
“Seńorita, this area is players only.” A dark, good-looking, wiry young man wearing tennis clothes caught her arm. But as Nancy spun around, startled, he let go quickly. “Oh, I’m sorry—”
“I’m the one who should be sorry. I didn’t know this was off-limits.” Nancy smiled. “What’s the best way to get to the courts?”
For a moment the athlete just stood and looked at Nancy blankly. Then he shrugged. “Oh, go ahead. Cut through here and you’ll get there faster. Just don’t tell anyone I said you could do it. Right?”
“Right.” Nancy smiled again and pushed through the other set of doors.
As the doors banged shut behind her, hands closed roughly on her shoulders.
For a split second Nancy thought it was the young athlete playing a trick on her. Then she knew, with horror, that it was no trick. She twisted around, trying to get a look at her attacker. The man thrusting a gag into her mouth was middle-aged. He wore a dark, foreign-looking business suit. So did the other two men who held her tightly.
It all seemed to be happening in slow motion. This isn’t real, Nancy told herself dazedly. But it
real. She was being kidnapped. And the method was fast, efficient, and effective.
Nancy struggled frantically as she was pulled into the bushes and her hands and feet were bound with ropes. She was thrown like a bundle over a brawny shoulder, and a concealing blanket was tossed over her.
Nancy knew struggling was useless. She went limp—and concentrated hard.
The men were speaking Spanish. They were heading toward the parking lot—Nancy recognized the sound of the gravel they were walking on. As her kidnapper swung her upright, Nancy caught a glimpse of the car. It was a limousine, long and dark, and the windows were tinted glass.
A rear door was jerked open, and Nancy was thrown inside. One of the men started to climb in behind her.
She kicked with both feet, since her ankles were bound together, and she heard an agonized groan.
Before she could lash out again, another man wrenched open a front door. Then he leaned over the seat back and pressed the muzzle of a gun against her forehead.
He snapped out some rapid orders in Spanish. Nancy didn’t understand much of what he said, but suddenly a blindfold was tied around her eyes, and another strip of cloth was tied around her mouth.
Then one word came to her, loud and insistent.
That was Spanish for
. The warning was terrifyingly clear.
ANCY LAY HELPLESSLY
across the backseat. A moment later, the seat sagged. One of the men had sat down next to her. The gun at her forehead was shifted to her temple.
Doors slammed. An engine roared to life. The limousine jerked into motion with unbelievable speed. Nancy held herself motionless, like a crouching cat preparing to spring. But she couldn’t spring—not yet.
She had to be ready.
She had to stay alert and not give way to panic. She had to force her senses to be aware of every detail of the terrifying ride.
It was astonishing how much Nancy could notice, even with her eyes tightly bound. The car’s ride was very soft and springy, in spite of the fact that they were hurtling along the dirt lane. She figured that they were on the lane because the car was rolling across the same ruts she’d driven over earlier, and occasionally she could hear stones fly up to ping against the undercarriage of the car.