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Authors: Carolyn Keene

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BOOK: No Laughing Matter
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She didn't see any record of gambling profits in the box, though. A few receipts weren't proof of an illegal gambling operation, but they did give her something to go on.

Nancy took a second look at the receipt for the poker chips and cards. It was from a company called Gleason's. Fantorelli, Inc., was the name of the company on the champagne receipt. Neither company had an address listed.

If Over the Rainbow was being used to launder money, someone had to be keeping records. If she could only find them!

“Nancy? Find those checks yet?”

Nancy jumped at the sound of Jenny's voice. Her urgent gaze swept the room, landing on a box on the chair by the door. The flaps were partially open, and she could see the guest checks inside. “Yes. I'll be right down,” Nancy called back.

Quickly she grabbed the tape dispenser from Bianca's desk and sealed up the box of receipts again and placed it back on the floor next to the desk. Then, taking the box of guest checks, she hurried back downstairs.

Tony glanced at her as she placed the guest checks at the waitress station. He looked as if he were going to ask her something but stopped himself as a burly man stepped into the club.

“Tony!” the man said, slapping the bartender
on the back. “Terrible weather we're having,” he said in a fake British accent. “Pip, pip and all that. Cheers.” The man practically bent over double in laughter.

Tony laughed politely, but Nancy thought he seemed a little nervous. “Um, hello, Johnny.”

Nancy studied the man more closely. This had to be Johnny Spector, the club's owner. He was a big man with thinning gray hair, blue eyes, and a jolly red face.

“And who's this?” the man asked, turning to Nancy. “Every time I turn around, there's a new employee working for me and I'm the last one to know. I'm Johnny Spector. I own this place.”

“I'm Nancy Drew,” she told him. She couldn't help smiling at his flamboyant style. He acted like a character from a movie.

“Now, Nancy, don't work too hard,” Johnny went on. “I like my employees to have a good time. This is a comedy club, after all. If you look unhappy, no one will laugh at any of the jokes because they'll think my waitresses hate working here. So have fun.”

Nancy laughed. “Don't worry. I'm already having fun.”

As Johnny continued to joke with Tony, Nancy looked around for Jenny. She didn't see her anywhere among the tables, but she did notice that several customers had been seated in her section. Nancy was about to bring them menus
when the double doors to the kitchen were opened and Jenny emerged with a plate of french fries.

“I sat a party at tables three and four in your section,” Jenny said. “Go get 'em, tiger.”

During the next half hour the rest of Nancy's tables filled up and she was busy taking orders and delivering soft drinks. She was just bringing the first table their food when Rusty went on stage and introduced the first comedian.

“You've probably seen Bernie around town already. We're lucky to have him with us at the Rainbow tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, Bernie Weinstock!”

Nancy watched as Bernie solemnly took his place behind the microphone. He had a very whining voice and immediately started complaining about just about everything. Not everyone is a born comedian, Nancy thought to herself. But when he delivered his punchline, she couldn't help laughing out loud. His deadpan act actually turned out to be quite funny.

Glancing around the club, Nancy didn't see Bess anywhere. She was dying to tell her about the receipts. Bess was probably backstage waiting to go on. Besides, Nancy was too busy to take a break.

For the next hour or two, Nancy ran back and forth, filling food and drink orders. She didn't have a chance to observe Tony and Bianca, but from what she could tell Bianca remained up in
the office most of the evening. Tony appeared to be as busy as Nancy was and didn't do anything suspicious that she could see.

Nancy was delivering sodas to one of the tables when she noticed Bianca standing next to Johnny's table. She was nodding as he talked to her, but Nancy didn't miss the frown on her face, nor the way her gaze flitted uneasily around the club. She seemed nervous—and so had Tony when Johnny first arrived earlier. Then again, if they were involved in laundering money for a gambling operation, it would make sense that they would be nervous around Johnny.

After delivering the sodas, Nancy rushed to the kitchen to pick up two dessert orders. When she returned to the floor, the entire crowd was roaring with laughter. She saw Bess and Rusty doing their sketch.

Nancy hardly recognized Bess, who was wearing a brown wig with big red bows tied around its thick braids. Bess kept interrupting Rusty, who played the lumberjack role. Nancy didn't have time to really listen to the skit, but from the loud laughter that kept ringing out, she could tell that the crowd loved Bess.

“Can a hungry man still get a burger?” a familiar voice spoke up behind Nancy as she finished delivering the desserts.

It was Keith O'Brien. Nancy felt a wave of nervousness and hoped he'd remember not to say anything to blow her cover.

Her worries disappeared a moment later. “You look new. How long have you worked here?” Keith asked innocently. Nancy saw the playful glimmer in his green eyes, but he gave no other sign that they had ever met.

“This is my first day,” Nancy answered. After he gave his order, she quietly filled him in on the receipts she had found in the upstairs office. “I'm going to try to look around later for any bookkeeping that indicates there really is a money-laundering operation,” she concluded. In a louder voice she added, “A burger and onion rings. Will that be all?”

He nodded and Nancy went to the kitchen to place the order. A loud round of applause told her that the first show was ending. Groups of people began calling for their checks, keeping Nancy very busy.

Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that Peter Sands had entered the club. The accountant was standing by the drinks counter, talking with Tony.

Nancy immediately turned her back to the bar. She hadn't counted on Peter showing up. If he saw her he really could blow her cover! Luckily he was so engrossed in his conversation with Tony that he didn't seem to notice anyone else.

He must have come for the accounting book, Nancy thought, recalling the ledger she'd seen Bianca working on earlier. Nancy couldn't help wondering if he had a second purpose in coming.
What if he were picking up the box of receipts from upstairs?

On the spur of the moment Nancy made a decision. She had to see the accounting book before Bianca handed it over to Peter!

Nancy was bringing change to a customer when Bess bounded toward her from backstage. “Hey, what did you think of my comedy debut?”

“You were amazing!” Nancy said, shifting her position so that her back was still to Peter and Tony. She quickly told Bess about finding the box of suspicious receipts, then explained why she didn't want the accountant to see her. “Bianca's talking to Johnny, so now's my chance to go upstairs to the office to get a look at the book.”

Bess shot an appraising glance at Tony and Peter. “And you want me to keep those guys busy?”

Nancy nodded. “You guessed it. I shouldn't be more than a few minutes.”

“No problem,” Bess said, grinning. Nancy watched as her friend bounced over to the two guys and asked them what they thought of her act.

Nancy smiled as Tony and Peter both launched into an animated conversation with her. Way to go, Bess! After glancing over her shoulder to make sure Bianca was still talking to Johnny, Nancy walked up the stairs and into the office.

Closing the door behind her, she hurried over to Bianca's desk. The desktop was clear, so she
began opening drawers, searching for the leather-bound accounting book she'd seen Bianca working on earlier. She made her way down to the bottom drawer.

“Yes!” she crowed in an excited whisper. The book was there, lying on top of some loose files. Taking it out, she placed it on the desktop and opened it.

Suddenly Nancy paused, cocking her head to one side. Was that a noise out in the hall? She tip-toed up to the door and pressed her ear against it, listening. When she didn't hear anything, she started back for the desk.

She had only gone a step or two when she heard the door swing open. Before she could turn around, she felt something hard crash down on the back of her head.

Blinding pain flashed down her spine, and Nancy's knees buckled beneath her. Then everything went black.

Chapter

Seven

O
OOH
 . . .” Nancy's head was pounding. With a huge effort, she finally managed to open her eyes. A lot of good it did—she was staring into complete darkness.

Where was she? She felt around on the floor and pushed herself up onto her knees, then onto her feet. Groping around with her hands, she felt the solid wood of a door and something woolen brushing against her face. Stumbling over a pair of boots, Nancy realized she was in a closet.

She felt for the doorknob and was relieved when the door easily swung open. The office was empty now, Nancy saw. She took a few deep breaths to steady herself, then looked around.

“Oh, no!” she groaned, as her gaze landed on Bianca's desk. The accounting book was gone. So
was the small box containing the gambling receipts.

Nancy winced as she felt the back of her head—a bump had already formed. She fought against the pain, trying to clear her head. Who could have knocked her out?

Bianca could have, but could such a petite woman have dragged her across the room to the closet? Had it been Tony? Or Peter Sands? She had to get downstairs to ask Bess if she had seen anyone go up the stairs.

Glancing at her watch, Nancy saw that she had been gone for ten minutes. Jenny was probably wondering where she was, and Bianca could return to the office at any second.

Nancy took a deep breath to steady herself, then carefully made her way back down the stairs. Tony was at the bar area, she saw, but Peter was gone. Nancy didn't see Bess, either. She must be backstage, getting ready for the second show.

As she headed back out to her station, Nancy flashed Tony a bright smile. Someone at the club was onto her, and she had no idea who it was! Her nerves were buzzing.

Nancy forced herself to concentrate on serving the customers, but her head was still throbbing. It seemed to take forever before the second show ended and the customers finally left. Then Nancy and Jenny had to put all the chairs up on the tables so the floors could be washed. It was after
eleven before Nancy could take off her apron and count out her tips.

“What a night!” Bess exclaimed, appearing from backstage.

You don't know the half of it, Nancy added silently as Bess came over and sat down at the table with her and Jenny. Nancy introduced Bess to Jenny, and the girls talked about nothing in particular until Jenny said good night. As soon as she was gone, Bess leaned across the table.

“Did you get a look at the accounting book?” she asked quietly. “I'm really sorry I couldn't keep watch on Tony and Peter, but Rusty called me backstage.”

Nancy glanced around to make sure no one could overhear them. When she told Bess what had happened, Bess's mouth fell open. “Nancy, you could have been seriously hurt!” she said in a horrified whisper. “I can't believe I didn't see who went upstairs. I feel awful!”

“It's not your fault,” Nancy reassured her. “We'll just have to be more careful from now on. Did you get a chance to talk to any of the other comedians?”

Bess nodded. “I asked Rusty a few leading questions, but he said he was busy with the acts and never paid much attention to anything else. None of the other comedians even worked here when Matt was the accountant.” Bess got up from the table and helped Nancy put the last four
chairs up. “I'll keep nosing around, but I don't expect to find out much.

“Oh, one more thing,” she added. “Before Rusty called me backstage, I did manage to get Peter and Tony talking about how well the club was doing. I got Tony to tell me how much he sells in drinks on an average night.”

“Bess, you're incredible!” Nancy said after Bess told her the figure. “And I know how much we brought in from the food, from adding up the checks at the end of the night. If I could just get a look at that accounting book, I'd be able to see if the numbers matched up.”

Nancy stifled a yawn. “Let's go home, Bess. I need a good night's sleep to think clearly about all this.”

The two girls grabbed their parkas from the coat check, then said good night to Tony and Rusty, who were having a soda at the bar. Rusty gave Bess a warm hug.

“You've got real talent,” he said, smiling at her.

Bess blushed and grinned back at him. “Beginner's luck,” she mumbled. “But thanks for the vote of confidence. See you tomorrow.”

BOOK: No Laughing Matter
5.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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