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Authors: Carolyn Keene

Fatal Ransom

BOOK: Fatal Ransom
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Chapter

One

D
AD, ARE YOU
saying you don't want me to take this case?” Nancy Drew asked, her blue eyes locked on her father.

Carson Drew kept pacing back and forth in front of the sofa, where his daughter was sitting. “It's not that I don't want you to take it,” he said.

“What is it, then?” Nancy asked, pressing her point.

“It's just that kidnappings are so dangerous. I've known of so many ugly incidents. . . .” Mr. Drew rubbed his forehead and stared past Nancy as though he were looking for the right words to express his feelings. “I wish I'd never
told Lawrence Colson I'd talk to you about investigating this.
He
wondered if I should allow you to take the case. He said he wondered if it was too much for a girl your age to handle. Now I think he's right—especially when I'm going to be out of town for the next three weeks.”

“I know the danger,” Nancy answered emphatically, leaning forward. “I also know that a sixteen-year-old boy was kidnapped yesterday. If I don't make the right moves fast enough, that boy could die!”

“You
could die, too,” said her father. He stopped pacing and stood in front of her, looking down into her eyes. “I don't usually interfere with your cases, Nancy—”

“I won't make any wrong moves, Dad!” Nancy insisted. “You know I'm careful.”

“All right,” her father said after a second. “But I want you to promise me that you'll use your judgment—and if things get dangerous, you'll contact me.”

Nancy smiled. “That much I can promise.” Just then the doorbell rang and Nancy jumped off the sofa and went to answer it.

“We came right over,” Bess Marvin said the instant Nancy opened the door.

“What's up?” George Fayne asked. “Sounds important.”

“Come in and I'll tell you all about it,” Nancy said, showing them into the living room.

“Hi, Mr. Drew,” Bess said as she sat down. “Oh, Nancy, I forgot to tell you, we ordered a pizza for supper just before we came over. Double everything except anchovies. It should be delivered anytime now.”

“That's my cue to get out of here,” said Carson Drew. “You girls won't need any help from me! Nancy,” he continued,
“if
you're going ahead with the case, you should have this. I was going to return it to Lawrence Colson, but if you're sure . . .”

It was a piece of folded paper. When Nancy opened it, two pictures carefully labeled Number One and Number Two fell out. She set them aside while she examined the letter. It was made up of words and letters cut from magazines and pasted onto high-quality bond paper.

“Today Hal looks like picture number one,” the note said. Nancy glanced at the photo of a teenage boy who had been bound and gagged. His eyes were terror stricken. “We want $475,000 by noon on Thursday, or Little Hal will be returned to you looking like photo number two.”

Number two was an exact duplicate of the first picture—except for one thing. In the second photo, the boy's head had been removed.

“Do not contact the police,” the note continued, “or you will never see him again. And remember, we're watching you.” The last sentence simply said, “We'll be in touch.”

No wonder her dad was apprehensive about the case! Nancy thought. “Thursday,” she muttered. “This is Monday—less than three days. Sounds as though the kidnappers mean business. We have no time to lose.”

She handed the note and pictures to her friends. George whistled. “These guys are intense!” she said.

“I don't want to think about it,” said Bess. “Where's our pizza?”

“You're amazing, Bess,” George said. “We're talking about a kidnapping and possible murder, and all you can do is wonder where the pizza is. Don't you ever think about anything besides food?”

“Yes,” Nancy broke in. “Most of the time she thinks about boys.”

“That's not fair,” Bess argued.

George leaned against the arm of the sofa and glanced at Nancy. “It's weird that Bess and I can be cousins and be so different, isn't it?”

“What's really weird,” Bess said, “is that we called for that pizza forty-five minutes ago and it's not here yet! I haven't eaten all day—nothing to speak of, I mean. I simply can't think about this case on an empty stomach.”

Nancy was about to point out that that particular case might be even harder to think about on a full stomach, but she changed her mind. “I thought you were going to try to lose some weight, Bess,” she said instead.

“I am. Tomorrow. I need to take off about five pounds—oh, there's the doorbell! Thank heaven!”

Nancy smiled to herself as she collected all their money and went to pay the delivery man. She wondered how many times Bess had lost those same five pounds.

No sooner was the pizza on the coffee table than Hannah Gruen appeared carrying a tray crowded with sodas, paper plates, and a mountain of napkins.

“I think she's on to us,” George said as Hannah carefully put the tray down.

“Yes. I am.” Hannah divided the napkins into three equal stacks and placed one in front of each girl. “You can't take care of a family for as many years as I have and not know that three girls eating pizza are going to make a mess.”

Hannah Gruen had been with the Drews since Nancy's mother died, when Nancy was three. And I never really appreciate her until I'm about to start a dangerous case, Nancy thought to herself as she watched Hannah bustle around.

“Thanks, Hannah,” she said. “For everything.”

“Have fun, you three” was Hannah's answer as she left the room.

Bess pushed her long blond hair back behind her ears, scooped a piece of pizza from the box, and took two huge bites, one after the other. She sighed ecstatically and leaned back in her seat. “There. Now I can think about other things. So tell us the plan, Nan!”

“Yeah, Nancy,” said George. “Fill us in.”

Nancy settled into the corner of the sofa with a can of soda in her hand. “Well, the first move is for me to go over to Lawrence Colson's tonight and find out everything he knows so far. My dad said he's expecting me at eight.”

“Lawrence Colson?” asked George. “Is he related to the Colson Enterprises people?”

“He
is
Colson Enterprises,” Nancy replied. “He's one of my dad's clients. Colson called and told him about the kidnapping this morning. Dad said Mr. Colson was a nervous wreck.”

“Who wouldn't be?” George said. “Think about what he's going through, worrying about his son.”

“No, Hal is his nephew—not his son,” Nancy said.

“And think about all that money! Even for a
man like Colson, parting with four hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars would be a problem,” Bess added, reaching for another slice of pizza.

“Do the police know about this yet?” asked George.

“Colson didn't think it would be wise to get in touch with them yet—at least that's what my dad says,” said Nancy. “He wants to find out more about the people he's dealing with. He's concerned that the threat in the letter is serious. He said he'd never forgive himself if he called the police and something terrible happened to Hal.”

She stood up decisively. “I think I'll go change and get ready to see Mr. Colson.”

“Okay, we'll clean up down here and walk out with you,” said George.

• • •

The night air was warm and filled with the spring scent of honeysuckle. Nancy breathed in the fragrance and suddenly remembered sitting on the front porch with Ned Nickerson one evening a few weeks before, talking and gazing at the stars. She missed Ned. She wished he were there right then.

Nancy shook off the thought and climbed into her blue Mustang. She'd decided she shouldn't tell Ned about this case. He was busy writing a
paper at school—Emerson College—and she didn't want him to be worrying about her. There would be plenty of time to fill him in later.

“Call us when you get home,” George said as she and Bess walked to George's car.

Nancy waved an okay, pulled out of the driveway, and headed toward Allegheny Drive, the quickest route to Lawrence Colson's house.

She made her way along the winding road that led to the very posh residential area on the outskirts of River Heights. As darkness settled around her, Nancy brushed all thoughts of Ned out of her mind and started working on possible plans for rescuing Hal Colson.

Suddenly a car drove up behind her, its headlights shining straight into her rearview mirror. Nancy reached up and turned a switch on the mirror to eliminate the glare. But the car was following so closely that the entire rear window became filled with blinding white light. She increased her speed slightly—and the car behind her began going faster too. As she drove along, continuing to go a bit faster, the lights changed from a minor annoyance to a major problem.

“Why doesn't he just pass me?” Nancy muttered out loud as the two cars came to a long, straight stretch of road.

A few moments later the road started curving
again. Now it was too late for the other car to pass her. And it was moving up even closer.

Nancy felt a shiver of fear. The car had to be chasing her, and there was only one thing to do: outrun it. Nancy gunned the Mustang and took off like a shot—the phantom car staying with her.

Suddenly Nancy felt a jolt as the car tapped her back bumper. “He's trying to run me off the road!” she said out loud.

Nancy pushed the accelerator to the floor as she began to ascend a hill. She had to get away, but on the incline the Mustang didn't have enough power.

Then the phantom car made its move. The first jolt snapped Nancy's head backward against the seat. She gripped the steering wheel and fought to keep the Mustang on the road as the second jolt rocked the car.

The third blow came swiftly. Suddenly Nancy's car flew over the crest of the hill, careening out of control and straight into the path of an oncoming car.

Chapter

Two

N
ANCY GRIPPED THE
steering wheel and held on for the full ride. Something her father had said a couple of years before flashed into her mind: “Never stop driving until the car comes to a complete stop.” Good advice for a girl learning to drive. Better for a girl in a runaway Mustang.

Jerking the wheel to the left, Nancy sped by just in front of the oncoming car and landed in a clump of bushes on the left side of the road. The phantom car that had pushed her into that flight was nowhere to be seen, and the car she had almost hit didn't even bother to stop.

“Friendly folks,” Nancy said, opening the car door and stepping out to check the damage.

The Mustang's back bumper was bent, but not too badly—certainly not badly enough to worry about right then. Nancy got back into the driver's seat and started the ignition.

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