Authors: Carolyn Keene
“Here’s something for you, Sydney,” Ellie said, holding up a cream-colored envelope. “Looks like another RSVP.”
Sydney crinkled her forehead in confusion. “It can’t be,” she said. “All the RSVPs have been in for weeks.”
I glanced over as Sydney pulled a thick white card out of the envelope. From where I was sitting it looked just like the response card that had been included with the invitations we’d all received two months earlier. But when Sydney looked at it, her face went even paler than usual.
George saw her expression, too. “What is it, Syd?” she asked.
Sydney turned the card so we could all see it. Just as I’d thought on first glance, it looked exactly like the response cards from Sydney’s invitations. But embossed right in the middle of it in fancy script were some extra words:
RSVP: I WILL ATTEND.
BUT IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S
BEST FOR YOU, SYDNEY, YOU
#1 Without a Trace
#2 A Race Against Time
#3 False Notes
#4 High Risk
#5 Lights, Camera…
#7 The Stolen Relic
#8 The Scarlet Macaw Scandal
#9 Secret of the Spa
#10 Uncivil Acts
#11 Riverboat Ruse
#12 Stop the Clock
#13 Trade Wind Danger
#14 Bad Times, Big Crimes
#16 Dangerous Plays
#17 En Garde
#18 Pit of Vipers
#19 The Orchid Thief
#20 Getting Burned
#21 Close Encounters
#22 Dressed to Steal
#23 Troubled Waters
#24 Murder on the Set
#25 Trails of Treachery
#26 Fishing for Clues
#28 Mardi Gras Masquerade
#29 The Stolen Bones
#30 Pageant Perfect Crime
#31 Perfect Cover
#32 Perfect Escape
#33 Secret Identity
#34 Identity Theft
#35 Identity Revealed
#36 Model Crime
Available from Aladdin
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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Copyright © 2009 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
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Library of Congress Control Number 2008930397
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ou can stay in the car if you want,” Bess Marvin warned George Fayne through the open driver’s-side window of my car. “But if you do, I’m telling them to put some extra frilly stuff on your dress.”
I laughed as George shot her cousin a disgruntled look and undid her seat belt. Bess and George might be members of the same family, but they couldn’t be more different. That’s especially true when it comes to clothes. Bess always looks like she just stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine even when she’s only going to the supermarket. George prefers comfort over fashion and would probably wander around town in her pajamas if Bess would let her. As it is, she settles for jeans and sneakers. Me? I’m somewhere in between.
“Come on, we’re already late,” I said, checking my watch. We’d just found the last parking spot on the block, a few doors down and across Union Street from the River Heights Bridal Boutique. It was Wednesday afternoon, and the leafy commercial block felt sleepy and lazy. The only sign of life was a busy squirrel running up and down the trunk of one of the stately maples that lined the street.
“I told Sydney and Aunt Ellie that I’m allergic to satin, but did anyone care?” George muttered as we all crossed the street. “I still can’t believe Syd is insisting I have to be”—she shuddered visibly—“a
still can’t believe Syd is getting married.” Bess sighed blissfully. “I remember playing brides with her in our basement when we were all kids.”
George nodded, for the first time looking enthusiastic about the conversation. “Never mind that. I can’t believe she’s getting hitched to Vic Valdez!” she exclaimed. “I can’t wait to meet him. He was totally my favorite contestant ever on
Sydney Marvin was Bess and George’s cousin. She was a few years older than us, and had moved to New York City when she was sixteen to pursue a modeling career. Now she was coming home to marry her boyfriend of the past year, reality-show contestant Vic Valdez.
I’m not much of a TV viewer, and I’d only watched
a few times. But even I knew about Vic. He’d won his season and turned the show into watercooler fare in the process. The show itself was pretty outrageous, featuring a series of crazy, dangerous stunts at famous landmarks all across the country. But Vic was even more outrageous. His very first week on
, he and the other contestants had been asked to rappel down the side of the Washington Monument using a greased rope to make it extra difficult. Vic had showed up for the task dressed only in his underwear with his entire tall, skinny body painted like the American flag. From then on, more and more viewers tuned in each week to see what he might do next to make the show’s crazy stunts even crazier.
Bess kept reminiscing as we wandered across the street. “I always used to change my mind about what sort of wedding I wanted,” she said. “Sometimes it was an intimate ceremony on the beach somewhere, and other times I decided I wanted something super glamorous and dressy. But Syd’s fantasy never varied. She always said she wanted a small, tasteful, traditional wedding right here in River Heights with all her family and friends.”
“Hmm. Well, she stuck to at least one part of that,” George commented. “It’s going to be in River Heights. As for the rest…”
I chuckled. “Yeah,” I agreed. “Having a top-rated TV show film you marrying your reality-star man isn’t exactly what most people would call traditional.”
Bess shook her head. “I still can’t believe Syd agreed to that.”
“Sounds like she didn’t have much choice,” George said. “It was part of the compromise they worked out. If she got to have the wedding here instead of in New York, Vic got to have the filming thing.”
“Yeah, I know.” Bess shrugged. “I just can’t believe she went for that. And I
can’t believe Aunt Ellie was willing to go along with it.”
“Sydney told me that Vic thinks doing it will help land him the cohosting gig on the next season of
,” George said. “I guess they both want to help him succeed.”
By then we’d reached the bridal shop. A little bell over the door tinkled as we entered, and four people looked up immediately. One of them was the owner of the shop. Another, tall and willowy with a head of flaming red hair, separated herself from the rest and rushed over.
“Nancy Drew!” she cried, giving me a hug. “It’s great to see you. Thanks so much for agreeing to be in my wedding!”
“Thanks for asking me, Syd,” I replied as I hugged her back. I’d known Sydney forever, of course, seeing that she was the cousin of my two best friends. She’d even babysat me occasionally when I was little. But the two of us had become closer about a year earlier when she’d come back to town so my father could do some work for her. I was fuzzy on the details of said work—I know better than to ask Dad to violate attorney-client privilege, even for something boring like modeling contracts or whatever—but Sydney had spent a lot of time at our house during that time. That was when we’d bonded over our shared love for old black-and-white detective movies. Now, nobody who knows me would be the least bit surprised that I’d have that kind of interest. I’m known around town as a pretty good amateur sleuth myself.
But I was a little surprised when Sydney told me the way I’d solved my latest case reminded her of something out of the
series. That had led to a conversation about our favorite movies—and then numerous evenings spent with a bowl of popcorn in front of one classic film after another, from
The Maltese Falcon
The Hound of the Baskervilles
It had been great to reconnect with her that way. After she went back to New York we’d kept in touch via phone and e-mail, trading tips on films and also just chatting about life in general. It had been a nice surprise when she’d asked me to be in her wedding party along with Bess and George and a few others.
Now here she was in the flesh. She looked just as great as ever. She was always complaining about being too short for the modeling industry, but at five foot ten she seemed plenty tall to me. Her bright red hair flowed over her slim shoulders, looking extra bright against her pale complexion and the creamy white of the wedding gown she was wearing. Her expression was blissfully happy, which I was glad to see, given all the compromises she’d had to make on her dream wedding.
“Hey, what are we, chopped liver?” George complained as she and Bess watched my reunion with Sydney.
Sydney laughed. “Come on, I saw you two last night at dinner,” she said, reaching out to hug George and Bess as well. “I haven’t seen Nancy for ages.” She turned and gestured toward the other women. “You remember my mom, right, Nancy?”
“Of course she does. Nancy and I are on the Mahoney Foundation committee together.” Ellie Marvin bustled over and gave me a hug. Briskly efficient, with sharp green eyes and close-cropped salt-and-pepper hair, Ellie was a familiar figure around town. She was the type of person who knows everyone and gets involved in everything, from raising money for local charities to helping plan the annual Anvil Day parade.
Sydney waved over the remaining member of her little group, a young woman about her own age. She was short and stout, with dark hair and round, red cheeks. I was pretty sure I’d seen her around town, though I couldn’t place her until Sydney introduced her.
“This is Deb Camden,” Sydney said. “Deb and I have been friends since high school. She’s one of the other bridesmaids.”
“Sure, I know who you are.” Deb giggled as I shook her hand. “Nancy Drew, right? You’re always in the newspaper for solving crimes and stuff.”
“Nice to meet you, Deb.” Her identity had just clicked into place in my mind. “You work at the convenience store over on State Avenue, right? I think I’ve seen you there a few times.”
“Yeah, that was me.” Deb giggled again. I was starting to get the feeling she giggled a lot. “I’m working there part-time to help pay my way through school.”
“Oh, are you at the University?” George asked. “Uncle Ted teaches there—Syd’s dad.”
Deb shook her head. “I’m taking classes at River County Community College. I’d have to get at least ten part-time jobs to afford RHU!”
Before we could continue the conversation, Ellie Marvin checked her watch and cleared her throat. “Let’s keep things moving, girls. Sydney and I still have to stop in at the print shop after this to check on the programs.”
She sounded a little stressed. I wasn’t surprised. Thanks to the TV people’s schedule, Sydney and her family really hadn’t had much time to pull this wedding together. The bridal shower was that Saturday, and the wedding itself would take place one week later.
Sydney sighed, casting one last glance at her reflection in the big mirrors that lined the walls of the shop’s main room. “Mom’s right,” she said. “You know, I’m really looking forward to walking down the aisle and marrying the man of my dreams.” She smiled. “But I have to admit, I’m also looking forward to having this wedding behind us and relaxing on the beach in the Caribbean for our honeymoon—with no cameras in sight!”
At Ellie’s last comment the bridal shop owner had hurried over to a rack behind the counter. Now she bustled back toward us bearing several plastic-draped dresses on hangers.
“Here you go, girls,” she said. “Your names are pinned to the dresses to let you know whose dress is whose. Ready to try them on?”
“We can’t wait,” Bess told her, shooting George the slightest of smirks. “Right, girls?”
George emitted a groan. “Are you sure you don’t want me to, like, work the lights or the sound or something instead?” she asked Sydney.
Sydney laughed. “You’re going to look great, George,” she said. “Just pretend you’re doing my job—I have to wear clothes I don’t really like all the time!”
“She’s just being cranky,” Bess said. “The dresses you picked out are gorgeous—it’s obvious you’re a fashion pro!”
“Hey, it runs in the family, right?” Sydney replied with a wink.
of the family, anyway,” Bess agreed, sneaking another sly look at George.
I chuckled at George’s disgruntled expression. “Come on,” I said, reaching for one of the dresses. “Let’s get George into the dressing room before she makes a break for it.”
The bridal shop owner handed over the dresses. “Now, these just came back from the tailors this morning, girls, so watch out for pins—I haven’t had a chance to check them.” She shook her head in amazement. “I still can’t believe we were able to get the alterations done so fast.”
“It’s amazing what TV money can make happen, isn’t it?” Ellie commented with a slight roll of her eyes. She didn’t sound too happy, which didn’t surprise me. Ellie Marvin likes being in charge of things. It had to be killing her to plan her only daughter’s wedding on someone else’s schedule.
“The bridesmaids’ dressing room is right over there,” the bridal shop woman said, pointing toward an arched doorway on one side of the counter.
“I’ll be there in a minute,” Deb said. “I want to help Syd with her dress first.”
“Thanks,” Sydney said, heading toward a matching doorway on the opposite side of the counter. Her mother and Deb followed, each of them carrying one corner of the long train of her dress.
Bess, George, and I headed into our dressing room, which turned out to be roughly the size of my bedroom at home. Soon all three of us were twirling in our bridesmaid dresses in front of the full-length mirrors. Well, okay, Bess and I were twirling. George was sort of standing there glumly. I guess the sight of herself wrapped in rose-colored satin had sent her into shock.
“I can’t believe I’m going to make my TV debut looking like a giant tube of strawberry frosting,” she muttered.
Bess shot her a glance. “You look great,” she said. “Besides, we probably won’t actually be on TV. I think they’re planning to use the footage on their website, and then include some kind of
wedding spectacular–type thing on the next set of DVD releases.”
“Whatever,” George said. “Either way, I—”
She didn’t get to finish whatever she was going to say. Because at that moment, from the other side of the shop came a bloodcurdling scream!