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Authors: Carolyn Keene

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BOOK: No Laughing Matter
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“I'm so glad to see you guys!” Bess exclaimed as soon as the bandanna fell away. “It feels like I've been down here forever. Keith kept me in that stairway until late last night, after the dance club closed. I've been here ever since.”

“Bess, where's Keith?” Ned asked, pulling the rope free of her ankles.

Bess shot an urgent look down the dank passageway. “He's been gone for about half an hour. I don't know where he went—maybe to get food. We should probably get out of here fast, though.”

Bess was just getting to her feet when the SOS was beat out again. The four teenagers froze.

“Bess, you weren't the one who tapped out the SOS, were you,” Nancy whispered, her hair almost standing on end.

“Come on now, Nancy. You already figured that one out,” a deep voice spoke up from the darkness several feet away.

Keith O'Brien stepped out of the darkness and into the light of Nancy's flashlight beam, a small revolver leveled at them. “I knew I could count on you to recognize a call for help, Nancy.”

“You creep,” Ned muttered.

Keith ignored the comment. “You're not the only detective on the block, Nancy Drew, though I have to admit you are pretty good.”

“Keith, it's not too late to give yourself up,” Nancy said, hoping she could somehow talk their way out of this. “You just got in over your head. A jury would understand that.”

“There's no way I'll give myself up,” Keith sneered. He stepped toward her threateningly, but Ned strode forward to block her from Keith.

“You may have a gun, but it's still four against one, Keith,” Ned said boldly. “You can't shoot us all.”

“I think this changes the odds,” another voice spoke up from the shadows behind Keith. It was followed by a booming laugh that echoed again and again in the tomblike darkness.

Nancy recognized that laugh. A split second later Johnny Spector lined up next to Keith. Nancy's flashlight glinted off a gun in his hand, too.

The odds were definitely against Nancy and her friends now!



accounting book?” Johnny asked Nancy in a cold, businesslike voice.

Bianca stepped forward. “I have it, Johnny.”

Johnny seemed to be surprised to see her. “I'm sorry that you're involved in this mess, Bianca. You were a very good manager.” The way he said
gave Nancy the creeps.

“Now, let's go upstairs where we can discuss all this in a relaxed manner,” Johnny went on.

He herded them back down the passageway. Keith was in the lead, making sure no one tried to make a break for it. Nancy briefly considered creating a diversion, but it was too dangerous. With guns, someone could get seriously hurt, if not killed.

They paraded single-file up to the room where
the casino had been. Nancy wondered why Johnny was bothering to take them all upstairs, but then she realized that Johnny wanted to make a little show for them.

Waiting upstairs was the man with graying hair and sallow skin who had dropped off the small packages of gambling receipts.

“I want you all to take a seat for the ritual burning of all the evidence,” Johnny announced, waving his gun.

He motioned to the sallow-skinned man, who set a metal trash can in the center of the room. Johnny dropped the coded accounting book into it.

“You're a very smart girl, Nancy, and an excellent detective—”

There was no mistaking the sound of footsteps approaching from the hallway outside the room.

“Ben!” Johnny barked.

In a flash the sallow-faced man flattened himself against the wall next to the door. The door flew open, and Nancy watched, helpless, as Tony walked in.

“Bianca! I came up through the stage door. I just got the message you left—”

Tony stopped short when he saw Johnny. Then slowly he took in the whole situation. “Uh-oh,” he murmured, nervously moving from foot to foot.

“I'm afraid you're out of a job, Tony,” Johnny said in the same tone he used when making a
joke. “But you're in time for the finale of this show.”

Nancy couldn't believe how twisted Johnny was. People's lives were at risk, yet he was acting as if this was one of his stand-up routines!

“Before I light this match, I'm willing to take any questions from our distinguished panel of guests,” Johnny went on. “Miss Drew?”

Anything to buy some time, Nancy thought. “Were the gambling operation
the money-laundering scheme both your ideas?” she asked.

Johnny nodded proudly. “Of course. I have a few friends in Las Vegas who wanted to expand, and I came up with the perfect location. The Rainbow is my club. It's the perfect front for the casino operation—all I had to do was make up extra guest checks to show a bigger profit and a fake receipt for Allen Associates every month.” He smiled at Bianca. “You never even noticed when I put them in with the real receipts.”

“So those other initials in the account book are for your partners?” Ned asked.

“Very good,” said Johnny. “I paid Caribou handsomely for the use of their private room. They never asked questions, even when I changed the locks. Everything was perfect—until Matt Goldin started nosing around.”

“That's when you decided to frame him,” Bianca put in.

“My young friend Keith was a great help there,” Johnny said, making a slight bow in
Keith's direction. “He opened the account under Matt's name and had the ingenious idea to plant the check in Peter's files.”

Johnny smirked and turned to Tony. “Tony here gave Keith the idea when he happened to mention the rivalry between Matt and Peter.

“By the way,” Johnny went on, “Keith and Ben would both like to apologize for some harsh treatment. Keith felt terrible, Nancy, about hitting you on the head and stuffing you in the office closet the other night. He thought you had already found my set of the books. And Ben here felt terrible about that van incident. Didn't you, Ben?”

“Sorry,” Keith and Ben said in unison, but their expressions told Nancy that they were anything but sincere.

“You'll never get away,” she said. “We have other proof. Carla Jones has admitted that she lied on the stand.”

Johnny waved away her declaration. “Carla will be very happy to take a permanent vacation in a sunny climate, all expenses paid. She won't be a problem.”

Johnny was obviously enjoying himself tremendously. “You see, this was all very well thought out. I judged everybody's character before I made a move. I knew that Matt couldn't be bought off, so I framed him. I knew that Peter was angry enough at Matt to turn him in. It was a quite perfect plan.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Nancy saw that Ned was inching closer to Keith, who was enjoying Johnny's performance so much that he hadn't noticed Ned's subtle shift of position. If she could just distract Johnny for a few moments longer . . .

“It wasn't that perfect, Johnny,” she said.

“What do you mean?” he asked, frowning.

“You left a trail of evidence,” Nancy told him.

Johnny smiled. “This is the only evidence that can hurt me,” he said, gesturing toward the ledger in the metal trash can. “And in a minute, it will be reduced to a pile of ashes.”

As he pulled a lighter from his jacket pocket, Nancy caught Ned's eye. Ned gave her the slightest nod, then one for Tony. Nancy saw that Tony was positioning himself closer to Ben now.

Ned made the first move, lunging toward Keith and snatching the gun from his hand. A split-second later Nancy lashed out with a kick that knocked Johnny's gun from his hand. Ben dove for the gun, but Nancy barreled into him from behind, sending him to the floor.

Before Johnny could move, Tony grabbed the gun and trained it on the club owner. Looking over her shoulder, Nancy saw that Ned had the other gun on Keith. Bess and Bianca could only watch.

Nancy grinned at them and gave them the thumbs-up. “Bess, call the police.”

• • •

“It's hard to believe that Johnny, Keith, Ben, and Carla might all be living in this same prison,” Bess said two nights later.

She, Nancy, and Ned were setting up potato chips and sodas on a table at Fairwood Correctional Facility. The prison officials had given special permission for a celebration in one of the rooms where prisoners were allowed to relax and watch television. Now the room's couches and chairs were taken up by Bianca, Tony, Rusty, Peter Sands, and Matt's sister Lisa. They were all talking excitedly while they waited for Matt to arrive.

“If you ask me, this place is too nice for Johnny and Ben and Keith,” Ned put in.

“I guess the judge will decide what happens to them,” Nancy added, placing a stack of paper cups on the table next to the sodas. “I'm just glad that Matt will be getting out of here soon.”

Because of the new evidence Nancy had uncovered, Matt's case was being reviewed. Tom Irwin, Matt's lawyer, said that he should be released very soon.

“I wonder what's going to happen to Over the Rainbow now?” Ned asked.

“Actually, Tony, Bianca, and I have big plans for it,” Rusty said. “We're thinking of taking out a loan and buying it.”

Bess's face lit up. “That's a great idea!”

“But only if you promise to make a guest
appearance every once in a while,” Rusty said, putting an arm around Bess's shoulders.

Bess giggled. “It's a deal.”

While the two continued to joke, Nancy and Ned went over to the couch where Lisa and Peter Sands were sitting.

“Nancy, I can't tell you how happy I am that this nightmare is over,” Lisa told her, smiling.

Peter took her hand in his. “Lisa's finally convinced me that maybe I can't handle
of our accounts,” he said. “I guess I was unfair to Matt, but I'm really going to try to work things out with him once he gets out of here.”

“Great,” Nancy said.

Just then Matt walked in and everyone cheered. He looked a hundred times better than when Nancy had last seen him. He was smiling again, and there was color in his cheeks. Grabbing a glass from the table, he held it high in the air.

“I'd like to thank everybody for believing in me and working so hard to prove my innocence. I think Nancy deserves my special thanks. I owe you one, Nancy!”

Everybody cheered. Ned took her in his arms and gave her a giant hug. “To River Heights's best detective,” he whispered into her ear. “And my favorite person in the world.”

He leaned down, and their lips met in a warm kiss.

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Simon Pulse

An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division

1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

Copyright © 1993 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

ISBN: 978-0-6717-3083-3 (pbk)

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3854-4 (eBook)

NANCY DREW and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

THE NANCY DREW FILES is a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

BOOK: No Laughing Matter
3.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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