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Authors: Carolyn Keene

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BOOK: No Laughing Matter
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“As if we don't hear enough of that rubbish coming from Andrew's room,” she snorted.

Nancy smiled to herself. That was pretty much how her father felt about her music. The couple gave their names to the tuxedoed man, and he opened the door for them.

Another couple quickly followed the first.

“Name, please?” the doorman asked.

“Pierson,” the man said.

“Oh, look, James,” the woman said, peeking over the doorman's shoulder at his clipboard. “Michelle Foley is coming tonight.”

“I'm sorry, ma'am, but you're not supposed to see the list,” the tuxedoed man told her.

“Of course,” the woman said graciously. “You're just doing your job.”

After the couple disappeared into the room, Nancy took a deep breath. If she was ever going to see what was behind that door, it would have to be now.

She closed the rest-room door and quickly applied fresh blusher and lip gloss. She wasn't as dressed up as the women she'd just seen, but with her jacket closed, she looked like she had on a fancier outfit than just waitressing clothes. Holding her chin high, she stepped out of the rest room and walked confidently up to the doorman.

“Michelle Foley,” Nancy announced in a clipped voice. “Are the Piersons here yet?”

The doorman didn't even bat an eye. “Just came in. Have a nice evening, Ms. Foley.”

He opened the door and Nancy stepped inside. After moving down a hallway, she emerged into a large, open room—and stopped short.

Nancy couldn't believe her eyes. Slot machines stretched along the wall on her left. Crowds milled around poker tables and blackjack tables, and the roulette wheel was spinning.

It was a full-blown casino!

Chapter

Thirteen

N
ANCY TRIED NOT
to show her amazement as she scanned the plush room. There had to be at least fifty people in there, she realized. Some were feeding coins into the slot machines, while others placed bets at the gambling tables. All the dealers wore tuxedos, as did the waiters who circulated with trays of food and drink. Through an open doorway in one corner, Nancy saw a small office where people were buying chips.

“I don't believe this!” she whispered under her breath. The room was filled with chatter and laughter, which was probably drowned out by the pounding dance music from the club downstairs. Whoever ran the casino had done well to locate it here.

Nancy was glad the place was crowded. That meant she could move around without attracting
much attention. She had only taken a few steps into the room when she spotted a familiar dark-haired man at the roulette table.

Her heart leapt into her throat. It was Keith O'Brien!

She turned away. Her suspicions about Keith must have been right! She briefly wondered if he could be there investigating as she was, but somehow she doubted it. The pile of chips in front of him was awfully big for someone who didn't really want to gamble.

Nancy recalled what Keith had told her about Johnny at Over the Rainbow. “I've known him for a few years now,” he'd said. Keith admitted that he'd known Johnny for some time. When she'd had lunch with Keith, he hinted that he'd never met Johnny until Matt had hired him six months earlier.

Nancy felt sure that Matt wouldn't knowingly hire someone who was associated with Johnny. After all, Johnny owned the club Matt suspected was laundering money. So Keith must have kept his association with Johnny a secret from Matt. Maybe Keith had been in on the gambling and money-laundering schemes from the beginning! He had told Nancy that he'd approached Matt, but now she had a hunch that it wasn't because he wanted to help Matt. It was because he wanted to make sure that Matt went to jail.

Nancy frowned. If Keith was involved in the gambling operation, there was a good chance that
Johnny was, too. She didn't know if anyone in the casino could confirm her hunch, but she had to try.

Carefully avoiding the roulette table, she slipped off her jacket, left it at the coat room near the door, and tried to blend into the crowd. She only had a couple of minutes before her break was over and she had to be back at Over the Rainbow.

As a tuxedoed waiter passed, Nancy stopped him. “Excuse me, I was looking for the man who's in charge. Do you know where I can find him?”

“I would help you out,” the waiter responded, “but I don't know who he is myself.”

“Whose party is this?” Nancy inquired.

“You don't know?” the waiter asked a little suspiciously.

“I came with friends,” Nancy answered quickly. She thanked him and turned away.

For the next few minutes she spoke to people at random, trying to find out who ran the casino, but no one seemed to know. Everyone was so caught up in gambling that they didn't care who ran the show.

After she had finished speaking to one woman, Nancy cast her eyes around the room to find Keith O'Brien again. He was at one of the blackjack tables now, and all of his attention seemed to be focused on the game.

Nancy stepped over to the roulette wheel and
approached a dark-haired woman standing off to one side. “This place does a great business,” Nancy said, smiling at the woman.

“You bet,” the woman said, her eye on the spinning wheel.

“I wanted to tell the owner how much fun I was having,” Nancy said. “Do you know where I can find him?”

The woman stared at Nancy blankly. “Uh, no.”

Nancy didn't know if the woman was being cagey, or if she was just preoccupied with the roulette wheel. “Were you invited here by Johnny?” Nancy pressed.

The woman seemed to think that a business associate of her husband's had invited them, but she wasn't sure of his name.

Nancy asked a few more leading questions, trying to see if the person might be Tony, or Johnny, or even Peter Sands, but she didn't get any answers. She wasn't going to get very far here, Nancy realized. Whoever ran the gambling casino was keeping a pretty low profile. Besides, she had to get back to Over the Rainbow.

After picking up her jacket, Nancy walked casually to the door. She smiled at the doorman as she left, then started down the hall toward the stairs.

All at once Nancy stopped cold. Keith O'Brien was standing at the far end of the hall by the stairs! He was deep in conversation with a man in
a gray suit. She couldn't possibly get by him without being recognized.

Instinctively, Nancy ducked into the first doorway to her right. She pretended to fumble for something in her coat pocket.

Keith was shaking the man's hand now. She had to make a move! Nancy tried turning the knob of the door. To her amazement, it opened. Quickly she stepped in and closed the door behind her.

For a moment she just stood there, breathing in huge gulps of air. Had Keith seen her? Nancy stood stock-still, listening.

Nothing. Keith had probably returned to the casino, but Nancy couldn't take the chance of running into him, so she decided to wait a few minutes.

She had no idea where she was. The room was so dark that she couldn't see a thing. It was musty and gave the impression that no one had been in there for a long time. Feeling along one wall, she reached out with her other hand and touched another wall. This was some sort of hallway. She inched forward, keeping one hand on the wall.

Suddenly Nancy plunged forward as her foot shot out into space. She grabbed frantically, and luckily her hand closed around something. A banister. This wasn't a room, she realized. It was a staircase!

As her eyes began to adjust to the dark, Nancy saw that the staircase was quite long and steep.
She took one careful step at a time. If she fell and hurt herself, no one would find her for a long time.

As she made her way down, Nancy played over what she knew. There was definitely a gambling operation, and she knew that Keith O'Brien was somehow involved. She still didn't have any real connection between the casino and anyone at Over the Rainbow.

Maybe the box she'd seen Bianca holding was the key. If those were receipts from the casino, they'd prove there was a link. All Nancy had to do was find the receipts. Also there had to be some clue as to how the gambling profits were hidden in Over the Rainbow's accounting books. She had to check those, too.

It was starting to get easier to see, and Nancy spotted a door up ahead. Light was coming from underneath it, and she could hear people talking behind it.

When she reached the door, Nancy took a deep breath. Here goes, she said to herself. The knob turned easily, but the door seemed to be stuck. It obviously hadn't been used in a long time.

She put her shoulder to the door and gave it a good shove. It shuddered and then swung open.

Nancy stumbled forward, blinded by the spotlights that shone in her eyes. She blinked, confused, as a roar of laughter surrounded her. When she could finally focus, she saw that Bess
and Rusty were standing about ten feet away from her, wearing the costumes for their comedy act.

All at once Nancy realized where she was. She was onstage at Over the Rainbow, in the middle of Rusty and Bess's sketch!

Chapter

Fourteen

N
ANCY FELT LIKE
a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. If anyone at the comedy club knew about the gambling operation, that person knew exactly where she'd just been. She blinked into the lights, trying to see who was out in the audience, but all she saw was a blurry sea of faces.

“Mrs. Peabody,” Rusty cried out in the English accent he used for his character in the scene with Bess. “So good of you to join us.”

The crowd screamed with laughter. Then the stage went black.

Nancy's heart was pounding as she crossed to the stairs leading off the stage. Her cover was entirely blown. It was only a matter of time before things would get really hot for her.

Rusty slapped Nancy on the back. “I'm going to write in that entrance so it's a regular part of the sketch. It's a great ending! Where'd you come from, anyway?”

“You were fantastic, Nancy!” Bess cut in. She quickly grabbed Rusty's arm and said, “I'm not sure about how I handled the last few lines. Can we go over them again?”

She pulled Rusty aside. Leave it to Bess to distract him. Letting out an audible sigh, Nancy started toward the waitress station.

Now that she was away from the spotlights, she could check out the room. Tony was behind the bar. Even from across the room, she couldn't miss the curious look he gave her. Nancy spotted Johnny, too. He was talking with a couple at a table, clapping the man on the back and laughing. Bianca was nowhere to be seen.

Nancy made her way through the crowd, signaling Jenny that she needed a few minutes before she started working again. She had just finished hanging up her jacket when someone tapped her on the shoulder.

“Everyone's a comedian!” Johnny said, smiling broadly. “Even the waitresses. I had no idea there was a door there. Is that a closet?”

Nancy hesitated. “I'm not sure,” she hedged. “I was only in there for a minute, and it was pretty dark.”

She wanted to be able to trust Johnny. He
seemed like such a nice guy. She couldn't rule out the possibility that he was behind the gambling operation or the money laundering, though.

“Um, I've got to get back to work,” she said, tying on her apron.

Nancy didn't know how she made it through the rest of the shift. She could hardly concentrate as she did the setup for the second show and ran food orders back and forth.

After that fiasco on stage, she had to step up her investigation. She had to find time to call Ned back. Also she wanted to get into the upstairs office to search for anything that might link the gambling operation to Over the Rainbow.

The rest of the night went by quickly. By eleven o'clock most of the customers had left. Nancy was sitting at one of the tables, totaling up her guest checks, when Bess walked up to her.

“Rusty and I need to work out a few quirks in the sketch. Is it okay if we stay here for another half-hour?” Bess asked.

BOOK: No Laughing Matter
3.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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