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Authors: Carolyn Keene

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BOOK: No Laughing Matter
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“What a nightmare,” Rusty said. Hopping off the stage, he threw himself into a chair at one of the nearby tables and let his head fall into his hands.

After a long moment he raised his head and smiled at the woman. “The last thing I'd do is get between you and fame. Think of me when you're dripping with diamonds and furs and the queen knights you—”

“Oh, Rusty,” Sandra said, giggling as she sat down next to him. “I wish I could take you with me.”

“No, I'm happy right here on the stage of Over the Rainbow. Of course, I'd be happier if I had a new partner for our sketch.”

Rusty stood up, put one leg on his chair, and struck a dramatic pose. “Well, I'm off, Mrs. Cleaver.”

Suddenly Bess piped up: “Mr. Cleaver, you won't be needing that ax today, I suppose.”

Nancy, Rusty, and Sandra all stared at Bess in surprise. Then Rusty resumed his pose and answered Bess in character: “Now, come on, Lizzy. I'm a lumberjack. How am I supposed to go to work without my ax?”

Bess and Rusty continued the silly conversation, which Nancy finally realized must be part of one of Rusty's sketches. When the sketch was finished, Rusty and Sandra both clapped and hooted. Bess turned bright red as the other two came over to join her and Nancy.

“Where did you learn that?” Rusty asked.

“I've watched it a few times here at the club,” Bess told him. “I think it's hilarious. I'm Bess Marvin, by the way, and this is Nancy Drew.”

Rusty introduced himself and Sandra, then asked, “How would you like to fill in for Sandra for a few days, until I find a replacement?”

Bess's mouth fell open. “Are you kidding?”
Her blue eyes opened wide as Nancy gave her the thumbs up. “I'd love to!” Bess told Rusty.

“Well, then, you're officially hired,” Rusty said. “Meet me here tomorrow afternoon at one, and we'll rehearse.”

“I'll be here,” Bess said. Saying goodnight, she and Nancy left the club.

“Can you believe our luck?” Bess was practically jumping up and down. “Now we'll both be undercover!”

Nancy nodded. “You can try to find out if Rusty or the other comedians know anything about money laundering here at the club, or about Matt's frame-up. I'll concentrate on checking out Tony, Bianca, and the other club staff.”

The night had turned icy cold. As they headed for Bess's Camaro, Nancy heard the throbbing bass of dance music from the club next door. A well-dressed couple in their forties had just gotten out of a sleek sedan next to Bess's car, and they crossed the lot toward Caribou, the dance club.

“That's odd,” Nancy commented. “They look kind of old to be going to a club where they play loud rock.”

“Maybe they're young at heart,” Bess said, shrugging. “Actually, I've been meaning to check out Caribou myself. Maybe we can go there after work some night.”

Nancy nodded vaguely. She loved to dance but
didn't think she'd really enjoy herself until she'd solved her case.

• • •

“Dad, if Matt is telling the truth, then I have to find out who framed him,” Nancy said the next morning. She leaned across the dining-room table to pour her father a fresh cup of coffee, then filled her own cup.

As a prominent criminal lawyer, Carson Drew often gave Nancy valuable legal advice on her cases. Nancy had been glad to catch him before he left for his office so she could fill him in on the Matt Goldin case.

Pushing aside the morning paper, Carson gave Nancy his full attention. “From what you say, those two people at the comedy club sound like a good place to start investigating,” he said.

“It might be hard for me to get any proof, though,” Nancy said. “After all, Matt was arrested six months ago. My only hope is that someone was sloppy and didn't do a good job. Or that I'll be able to find evidence of the money-laundering operation.”

Carson settled back in his chair. “It sounds tough. Even if there
was
money laundering going on, it may have stopped after Matt started asking questions. Do you have any leads other than Bianca and Tony?”

Nancy quickly filled her father in on Matt's suspicions of his partner, Peter Sands. “I'm going
to talk to Matt's lawyer and to the PI he hired, to see what I can find out about Sands and about any money laundering at Over the Rainbow.”

“I've got a trial to prepare for, but keep me posted,” her father said. After getting up from the table, he kissed her cheek, grabbed his briefcase from the floor, and headed for the front hall. “Call me if you need anything.”

“Thanks, Dad. See you later.”

Nancy went into the kitchen and opened the River Heights phone book for the phone numbers for Martel and Donnelson, Matt's lawyer's law firm, and for Keith O'Brien, the private detective Matt had hired.

It might not be easy to come up with leads in the case, Nancy thought, but she was going to give it her best shot!

• • •

It was late morning when Nancy arrived at the offices of Martel and Donnelson. After giving her name to the receptionist, Nancy sat on a plush velour couch in the waiting area and flipped through a magazine.

“Hi, you must be Nancy Drew. I'm Tom Irwin.”

Nancy raised her eyes to see a young blond-haired man in his late twenties smiling down at her. His suit was rumpled, and there were dark circles under his eyes, as if he hadn't been getting much sleep. “Are you related to Carson Drew?” he asked, holding out his hand.

“He's my father,” Nancy replied, getting to her feet and shaking his hand. She followed him to his office and stepped inside. Papers and books were stacked on the desk, shelves, and even on the chair that Mr. Irwin offered her. She had never seen so much disorganization in one room.

“You'll have to excuse the mess, but I've got a trial coming up in two days and I'm a little behind schedule,” the lawyer said apologetically, sweeping the books from Nancy's chair before she sat down. “Now, what was it you wanted to see me about?”

“Matt Goldin,” she reminded him, trying to stifle her annoyance. She had told him what she wanted when she'd called to set up the appointment. “Matt thinks he was set up, and I'd like to know if you came up with any evidence during the trial to back up his claim.”

“Matt Goldin, Matt Goldin,” muttered Mr. Irwin. “Nice guy, beard, right?”

Nancy nodded, surprised that a lawyer would have forgotten a client so quickly. After all, the trial had ended only a month before.

“It's a trial I'd like to forget, since we lost. Now, where did I put his file?” Mr. Irwin said as if reading Nancy's thoughts. “Ah—here we go,” he said, pulling a folder out of a stack and opening it.

Nancy waited while he skimmed the contents of the file. Finally he looked up at her again.

“That's right, the embezzling case. Matt was
sure he was set up, that there was money laundering going on at Over the Rainbow,” he said. “But you know, I didn't find any evidence of it. I checked the club's books, receipts—everything. They all seemed to be in order.”

“Do
you
think it's possible he was being set up?” Nancy asked.

Tom Irwin rubbed his chin and glanced down at the contents of the folder again. “I guess you already know about the account that was opened in the name of Gold Enterprises,” he said. When Nancy nodded, he added, “A teller at the North Central Bank testified that Matt Goldin had opened that account. Even though Matt told me he'd never been in the bank, the teller picked him out in the courtroom.”

“Was his signature checked?”

“Yes,” Irwin replied. “We brought in two handwriting analysts. One was sure it was Matt's signature. The other was less sure but, in the end, decided that it was Matt's, too.”

So far Tom hadn't provided her with any new leads, Nancy reflected. In fact, he seemed so disorganized and overworked that she wouldn't be surprised if he had overlooked some important clue during the trial. “What about Peter Sands, Matt's partner?” she probed. “He's the one who found the check, right?”

Mr. Irwin nodded. “What struck me was that Sands didn't go to Matt with the check before contacting the police,” he said. “But when I
asked Sands about it on the stand, he said that their partnership had deteriorated to the point where he didn't trust Matt.”

The junior accountant's explanation seemed a little weak to Nancy, but Tom Irwin couldn't offer her any more information. I guess I'll just have to find out more about Peter Sands myself, she reflected.

After getting the name and telephone number of the bank teller, and the address of Matt's accounting firm, Nancy thanked the lawyer and left his office. She was just stepping through the law firm's heavy outer door when the receptionist called out to her.

“Miss Drew, you've got a phone call.”

That's weird, Nancy thought to herself. She didn't think anyone knew she was there.

The receptionist led her into an empty office, handed Nancy the telephone receiver, then pressed the button on the blinking line.

“Hello? This is Nancy Drew,” Nancy said into the receiver.

“People shouldn't stick their noses where they don't belong,” a muffled whisper came over the line.

Nancy's whole body tensed. “Who is this?” she demanded.

“Never mind that,” the voice said. “Just watch your back, Miss Drew.”

Then the line went dead.

Chapter

Five

N
ANCY SLOWLY
replaced the phone in its cradle. Someone was trying to scare her off the case. But who?

“Is everything all right?”

The receptionist was hovering in the doorway, a concerned expression on her face.

“Yes, everything's fine,” Nancy fibbed. “Thanks for your help.” Hurrying past the woman, she left the office.

She made her way back to her Mustang, deep in thought. How could anyone have known she'd be at the lawyer's office? She had only just made the appointment that morning. The voice had been muffled, and she didn't know if it was a man or a woman. Could Bianca and Tony have become suspicious of Nancy after she'd overheard
their conversation the night before? If so, they might have followed her, then made the call.

Nancy shivered at the thought. As she emerged from the office building, she checked carefully but didn't spot anyone who might be following her.

Get a grip, Drew, she chastised herself. Glancing at her watch, she saw that it was a quarter to twelve. Her lunch with Keith O'Brien wasn't for another fifteen minutes. She still had time to call Carla Jones, the bank teller who had testified about the account Matt had supposedly opened. Later that afternoon she hoped to talk to Peter Sands.

Stopping at a phone booth, Nancy called the bank and asked to speak with Carla Jones. The bank manager, a woman with a thin, pinched voice, informed Nancy that Carla had been on vacation in Hawaii for three weeks.

“She won a free ticket from some game show,” the manager said. “She'll be back tomorrow.”

Nancy was disappointed, but she had no choice but to wait. She was anxious to piece the case together as fast as possible because all her instincts told her that Matt's suspicions were well founded. She and Ned had already been threatened
and
almost run off a bridge, but so far none of her leads had given her anything to move on. She hoped her lunch with the private investigator would be more productive.

Nancy jogged back to her car and drove to the Riverside, the restaurant where she was to meet Keith O'Brien for lunch. Her spirits lifted as she approached the restaurant. The Riverside was perched high above the Muskoka River, and the view was fantastic.

When she gave her name to the maître d' he led her to a table right next to the bank of windows overlooking the river. A tall young man with dark curly hair and green eyes stood up from the table and flashed her a disarming smile. Nancy blinked when she saw him. Somehow she hadn't expected the private investigator to be so young—or so handsome.

“Hi. I'm Keith O'Brien,” he said, greeting her. “It's an honor to meet you. Nancy Drew is famous in detective circles, although no one ever told me how pretty you are.”

Nancy felt uncomfortable with the compliments and wanted to get right down to business. After ordering a chef's salad, she said, “Matt Goldin has asked me to look into the possibility that he was set up. I know you've already done some investigating. It would be a big help if you could tell me what you turned up.”

Keith O'Brien finished buttering a roll before answering. “Well, I couldn't break the bank teller's story, if that's what you mean,” he began. “If she was lying about Matt opening the account, she fooled me.”

“What about Matt's suspicion of money laundering at Over the Rainbow?” Nancy asked.

“When I first read about Matt's arrest in the paper, the whole thing sounded funny to me,” Keith said. “I had a feeling he was set up—that was why I went to Matt and offered him my services.”

BOOK: No Laughing Matter
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