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Authors: Carolyn Keene

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BOOK: No Laughing Matter
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Nancy gazed at him expectantly. “And?”

“I'll tell you a secret,” Keith said, after taking a bite of his roll. “I'm still on the case—I've been spending time at the Rainbow, buttering up the owner. But so far I haven't found any proof that there's money laundering going on at the club. No fake receipts, no clue as to where any illegal income might be coming from . . .” He shrugged at Nancy. “So far the place is squeaky clean.”

Just then the waiter arrived with Nancy's salad and Keith's poached salmon. Nancy waited until they were alone again, then asked, “What about Bianca Engel and Tony Fry?” She told him about the conversation she and Bess had overheard, about Ned being almost run off the bridge, and about the threatening phone call she'd received.

“That does sound suspicious,” Keith agreed. “Maybe I missed something.”

Nancy took a sip of her ice water. “Hopefully I'll be able to collect more information. I've got a job at Over the Rainbow as a waitress. If you stop by, I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't know who I am.”

“Sure thing,” Keith replied. His green eyes gleamed as he added, “Say, maybe when you're done with this case, you and I can team up.”

Nancy stared nervously down at her salad, stabbing at a piece of lettuce with her fork. “I already have a lot of help from my
boyfriend,”
she told him, stressing the last word.

“Oh, yeah. Sure,” Keith said. He backed off—for the time being. Nancy now had a feeling that working on this case was going to be even more complicated than she'd anticipated.

• • •

After leaving the Riverside, Nancy called Ned and asked him to meet her at GS Accounting Associates, so they could talk to Peter Sands. Since Ned was doing his report on Matt's case, it was important for him to be in on as much of the investigation as possible.

When she got to the small office building in downtown River Heights, Ned was waiting for her in the parking lot, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his parka. Right behind him, Nancy saw the sign marking the entrance to GS Accounting.

“Hi,” Ned said, bending to kiss her lips as she came up to him.

A familiar tingle ran through her, and she realized that she wouldn't trade her boyfriend for all the Keith O'Briens in the world.

Stepping through the door to the first-floor office, Nancy and Ned found themselves in a
plain, square reception area. There was no one at the front desk, but they did hear a man's voice coming from the hallway that led away from the reception area.

She shrugged at Ned, then led the way down the hallway toward the voice. Poking her head in the doorway with the voice, Nancy saw a short, stocky, blond-haired man behind a cluttered desk. He was talking on the phone, his glasses pushed up on his forehead and his tie loosened. Seeing Nancy and Ned, he waved them in. “I'll be off in a second,” he mouthed silently.

While she and Ned sat down in the two leather-backed chairs facing the desk, Peter grimaced, then spoke into the receiver.

“No, Mrs. Taylor, I haven't had a chance to look over your file yet.” The accountant pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and mopped his forehead with it. “I'll call you the minute I've examined the details. . . . Yes, I'm thinking of hiring someone else. . . . You'll be hearing from me soon.”

No sooner did he hang up than a frantic female voice spoke up from the hall: “Peter, this is impossible—”

Nancy did a double take when she saw the dark-haired girl enter the office. It was Lisa Goldin!

Lisa was so surprised to see Nancy that she almost dropped the file she had in her hand. “Nancy! Uh, hi!” she said.

Peter focused first on Lisa, then on Nancy. “You two know each other?” he asked.

Nancy's mind was racing. What was Lisa doing helping Peter? Surely Matt must have told Lisa about his suspicions that Peter was involved in framing him. Yet she
had
been defensive of Peter at the party the night before. Why would she defend the man who may have helped send her brother to jail?

“Lisa's doing an accounting work-study program with me,” Peter explained, breaking into Nancy's thoughts. From the proud expression on his face, it was obvious that Peter liked running the show at the accounting firm. When she'd swiveled around to see Lisa, Nancy noticed that the nameplate on the open door read Matt Goldin. Peter had moved into Matt's office!

“I've, uh, got to run an errand,” Lisa said quickly. “Good to see you guys.”

After Lisa had left, Nancy tried to explain to a distracted Peter why she and Ned had come. Nancy mentioned the possibility that Matt had been framed, and Peter became noticeably uneasy.

“Look, until I found that check I never would have thought Matt was a crook,” Peter said. “But I knew there had to be a reason he was keeping me from handling his big accounts. When I found the check from Over the Rainbow I knew what that reason was.”

Or perhaps Peter simply wasn't ready for the
responsibility, as Matt had claimed. Judging from the mess on his desk, he was definitely having a hard time handling the business on his own.

Nancy and Ned tried to get more detailed information about where and how Peter had found the check, or if he knew anything about a money-laundering operation, but he brushed off their questions. “Look, I have a lot of work to do. So if you wouldn't mind?” The accountant nodded toward the door.

Nancy exchanged a frustrated look with Ned. They obviously weren't going to get anything more out of Peter. Thanking him, they left the office.

“I don't know, Nan,” Ned said as soon as they were outside. “Is he just totally disorganized, or is he hiding something?”

“That's the million-dollar question,” Nancy told him. “And how does Lisa fit in?” She shook her head slowly. “Maybe I'll find some answers at Over the Rainbow. I'm due there in about fifteen minutes, so I'd better go.” She glanced down at her black pants and white shirt, which were required attire for the comedy club's waitresses. “I'm glad I thought to put these on before I left home.”

Checking his watch, Ned said, “Maybe I'll go to the library and check newspaper articles about the trial. I'll talk to you tonight.”

Nancy kissed her boyfriend goodbye, then
drove to Over the Rainbow. When she walked into the comedy club, the first thing she heard was Bess's laughter. Nancy saw that Bess and Rusty were rehearsing. She couldn't hear the words, but Bess was obviously having the time of her life.

“Hey, Nancy. Catch.”

Nancy turned in time to see a white apron flying toward her. She caught it just before it hit her face.

“Lesson Number One,” Tony Fry said from behind the drinks counter. “Always be prepared for flying objects at a comedy club. Especially when the comics are bad.”

“Thanks for the tip,” Nancy said, laughing. “Where's Bianca?”

“In the office.” Tony flicked a thumb toward the staircase, then turned his attention to a man wheeling a dolly loaded with cardboard cartons into the club. As Nancy started up the stairs, she heard the man call out, “Delivery.”

Upstairs, a rectangle of light spilled out into the darkened hallway from an office. Nancy found Bianca behind one of two identical wooden desks that took up most of the space in the room. A large, leather-bound accounting book was open in front of her, one cover resting on the phone. As Nancy walked in, the manager rubbed her eyes and smiled.

“Hi, Nancy,” Bianca said. “Glad to see you. I've got to get these books ready for the accountant,
but I'll take you down to Jenny Reilly, the other waitress. She'll show you the ropes.”

Nancy tied on the apron Tony had thrown her as she followed Bianca back down the stairs. After showing Nancy where to leave her jacket and purse, she led her to the waitress station, near the kitchen door. A girl with short blond hair was piling salt and pepper shakers onto a tray.

After introducing Nancy, Bianca said, “I'm turning the new recruit over to you, Jenny.” Then she turned and went back up the stairs.

Jenny gave Nancy an easy smile. “Boy, am I glad to see you. It's been crazy here! Why don't you grab some silverware and napkins, and we'll talk as we work. Did Bianca explain how the club works?”

“All I know is that the comedy shows are at seven and nine, and the restaurant opens at five-thirty,” Nancy said. She smiled at Jenny. “I guess it's up to you to tell me the rest.”

“Okay, let's take it from the top.” Moving over to the tables, Jenny placed salt and pepper shakers while Nancy set out the napkins and silverware.

Nancy listened carefully as Jenny explained how to place orders, where to pick up the food from the kitchen and beverages from the drinks counter, and finally where to put dirty dishes. She and Jenny would each be responsible for half of the restaurant's dozen tables. The job was
going to be a lot of work, Nancy realized, and it wouldn't leave much time to keep an eye on Tony and Bianca.

By the time Nancy and Jenny finished setting up, some of the comedians had begun to arrive. One of them shyly said hello to Jenny and slipped backstage. “That's Simon,” Jenny told Nancy, rolling her eyes. “He's incredibly shy in real life, but on stage he's an amazing performer.”

She took a pile of napkins and gestured for Nancy to sit at one of the tables at the back, near the bar. “This is the quiet before the storm,” Jenny said. “If we fold these now, it'll mean one less thing to do to set up for the second show.”

“How do you like working for Bianca?” Nancy asked as she reached for a napkin.

“She's okay, but she's been uptight for the past few months.” Jenny lowered her voice before adding, “I'm sure you heard about the scandal with the accountant.”

“I think I saw something about it in the papers,” Nancy said casually. “Did you know him?”

Jenny shook her head. “No, but his junior partner used to come in pretty often to pick up the books. I think his name was Peter. He'd mostly stay at the beverage counter, talking with Tony.”

Hmm, Nancy thought. Could it be that Peter had been working with Tony and Bianca to set up Matt?

Nancy was about to ask Jenny about Tony, when she saw Bianca walking toward them. “Is everything going okay?” she asked.

“Nancy's a natural,” Jenny said with a grin. “We're running low on guest checks, though.”

Bianca glanced toward the club's entrance, where a man in a brown uniform was waiting with a clipboard. “I have to supervise this delivery around back,” she said, frowning. “The box of guest checks should be upstairs on my desk.”

“I'll get it,” Nancy offered quickly. With Bianca out back, she'd have a chance to snoop a little.

Bianca was already halfway out the door. “Thanks, Nancy,” she called over her shoulder.

Getting up from the table, Nancy hurried toward the stairs. “Oh—excuse me,” she said. She had almost run into a short man with graying dark hair coming down the stairs. Luckily, he didn't seem to mind. He just nodded and continued down the stairs.

Nancy went up the stairs and into Bianca's office. “Better find those guest checks first,” she murmured to herself. She didn't see a box on Bianca's desk, but there was a small cardboard carton down by the legs of the other desk. Bending to pick it up, Nancy saw that it was taped shut. She slit open the tape with her thumbnail and opened the box.

No guest checks in here, she thought. She began idly flipping through the papers, which
were receipts for various items—beverages, meat, cheese. . . .

“What's this?” she murmured out loud, staring at a receipt for sixteen cases of champagne. Over the Rainbow didn't serve alcohol, so why was there a receipt for champagne?

Nancy felt a rush of excitement as she continued flipping through the receipts. “Gaming chips—five hundred decks of cards!”

These receipts couldn't be from Over the Rainbow. They had to be from some other business, Nancy thought. Based on what she'd seen so far, it was from a
gambling
operation!

Chapter

Six

N
ANCY FELT A RUSH
as she stared at the receipts. This could be a lead—a big one!

Her mind flashed back to Dennis Lassiter's talk at the prison. He had made his money gambling and then laundered the profits by writing phony receipts to pretend he'd earned the money in his grocery business. Maybe Matt had been right, maybe the same thing was happening here. Maybe someone was running a secret gambling operation and using Over the Rainbow as a front! That was the only explanation Nancy could think of for that box of receipts.

Nancy reasoned through her theory. Someone would take these receipts, total the amounts, then create fake receipts so it looked as if the money had been spent on supplies for Over the Rainbow. The comedy club's profits would also have
to be inflated, to include the amounts made from the gambling operation.

BOOK: No Laughing Matter
5.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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