Nancy Drew Mystery #72
The Haunted Carousel
1. Mystery Challenge
“Can we see the haunted carousel, Nancy?!” “Of course! That’s where we’re going now, Billy,” Nancy Drew assured the excited little boy.
Nancy and her two friends, Bess Marvin and George Fayne, were taking the three small Custer children—relatives of Bess and George— through the amusement-park area of green, wooded Riverside Park.
“Why is the merry-go-round haunted?” asked Billy’s seven-year-old sister, wide-eyed.
“Well, that’s a bit of a mystery, Janet.”
“And maybe you’re just the person to solve it, Miss Drew!” called out a voice on Nancy’s right.
The titian-haired teenager turned and saw a rangy young man in a summer sports jacket striding toward her. Nancy recognized him as Rick Jason, a reporter for the River Heights News.
“Is that an invitation?” she smiled.
“Call it a challenge!” Jason shot back. Several times recently, in the middle of the night when the park was closed, the carousel had suddenly lit up and begun playing music and turning around. Each time, when people came running to investigate, the carousel would stop and go dark again. The spooky incidents had attracted wide interest, and many wild guesses were being made about the cause.
“When I take on a mystery case,” Nancy told the reporter, “it’s usually to help someone. I don’t believe I’ve ever tackled a mystery on a dare before.” Her blue eyes twinkled. “Can you give me one good reason why I should accept your challenge?”
“I’ll give you two. First—you’re the most successful sleuth in or around River Heights— maybe in this part of the country.”
Nancy blushed. “Flattery will get you nowhere, Mr. Jason!”
“Don’t be so modest, Nan—he’s right,” spoke up Geprge Fayne, a slim girl with short, dark hair.
The praise was well earned. Daughter of Carson Drew, a prominent River Heights attorney Nancy had displayed an unusual knack for solving mysteries. Her father frequently made use of her talent in connection with his own law cases, and her feats of detection had often been reported on television and in the newspapers.
“Second,” Rick Jason went on, “I’ll see if I can get the News to put up a reward. You name it, and I’ll try to talk the managing editor and publisher into going along. The story should be worth it—especially if you can come up with a solution!”
“Hm.” Nancy reflected. “Then how about offering every boy and girl in River Heights a bus trip to the park and an afternoon of free fun- rides?”
“You’re on!” said Rick.
Nancy dimpled and they shook hands. Then the reporter whipped out a camera and snapped several pictures of the pretty young sleuth.
“Oh, how exciting!” gushed plump, blond Bess Marvin as the girls and their three little charges walked on. Rick Jason had hurried off to file his story. “You’ll have everyone in town breathlessly following the progress of your investigation!”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Nancy quipped wryly. She paused a moment later, glancing off
to one side with a look of concern. “Isn’t that the Swiss couple we met at the cotton-candy stand?”
“Yes, it’s the Trompels,” said George. “I wonder what’s wrong?”
The three girls had gotten into conversation with the young couple while waiting to be served. They learned that Konrad and Judi Trompel had arrived in New York only two days before to begin an early planned tour of the U.S.A. River Heights and Riverside Park were their first stop outside the huge skyscraper metropolis.
But something had evidently gone wrong. Trudi was weeping while her husband tried to comfort her. Nancy went up to them.
“Can we help?” she asked sympathetically. “I doubt it, but thank you, anyhow,” said Konrad Trompel. “I am afraid only a policeman can help us.”
“Are you in trouble?”
“Yes, I have just discovered my wallet has been stolen.”
“You mean here in the park?”
“So it seems. I had it only a little while ago, when we were talking at the cotton-candy stand. But now it is gone—snatched by some pickpocket, no doubt.”
Konrad explained ruefully that the wallet contained all the money they possessed—partly in American dollars and partly in Swiss francs— which meant that they would have to cut short their vacation and return to Switzerland.
Bess and George were shocked and embarrassed that two foreign visitors, especially two as nice as Trudi and Konrad Trompel, should have been victims of such a heartless crime while visiting River Heights. While her friends sympathized with the unhappy couple, Nancy— who knew a good deal about the ways of criminals—decided to offer her own help as a detective.
“Did anyone bump you recently?” she asked Konrad.
The young Swiss looked surprised at her question. “Why yes, a man bumped into me just as we stopped to get a drink at the water fountain.”
“Can you remember what he looked like?”
“Of course. He was a heavyset man—going bald, I believe—and he had on a checked suit. But why do you ask?”
“Because that’s probably when you were robbed.” Nancy told Konrad that pickpockets often work in teams. When the burly man bumped him to distract his attention, another
crook—a light-fingered “dip,” skilled at picking pockets—had doubtless seized the chance to lift Konrad’s wallet.
The dip, Nancy went on, would have passed the wallet to a third crook, who would quickly strip it of its valuable contents and dump the empty wallet in the nearest trash bin. “That way,” she added, “it’s almost impossible to catch any member of the team with incriminating evidence on him, unless they’re nabbed within moments of the crime.”
Konrad sighed. “Then there is little hope of recovering our money, eh?”
“There may be a chance in this case,” Nancy said thoughtfully. “Anyhow, let’s not give up just yet. The first thing is to find where they threw your wallet.”
The young sleuth suggested that they check the trash baskets nearest the water fountain. Two baskets were soon located, in opposite directions from the fountain.
Eight-year-old Gary Custer gave a triumphant whoop after peering into the second basket. “I found it!” he yelled and held up a brown wallet.
Konrad confirmed that the wallet was his and thanked the little boy, even though the wallet was now empty of money. “At least I have my identification cards and driver’s license back,” he added gratefully.
"This is just the first step,” Nancy responded. Gazing around, she saw a refreshment counter nearby and hurried toward it. “Did either of you see a person throw something into that trash basket just a few minutes ago?” she asked the two counter attendants.
One shook his head. “Sorry, I didn’t notice. Too busy dishing out hot dogs!”
But the other told Nancy, “Yeah, matter of fact I did see a guy throw something away there. I meant to go over and check, because it looked like a wallet.”
“It was a wallet,” said Nancy. “Can you remember what the fellow looked like?”
“Sure, he was about nineteen or twenty, with long, dark hair—and he had on a red polo shirt.” “Thanks!” Nancy beamed. “You’ve helped a lot.”
The girl quickly mapped out a plan of action. She suggested that their group split up into four pairs and spread out through the amusement park, looking for the burly, balding man in the checked suit or the young man in the red polo shirt. Bess, George, and Nancy herself would each take one of the Custer children, while the Trompels would stay together.
“I’m sure there’s a team of at least three pickpockets working together,” Nancy added. “If we can find either of the two suspects, he may lead us to their partners in crime.”
Within ten minutes, little Janet Custer came running up to Nancy, who had Janet’s younger brother Billy by the hand. “George and I found one of the crooks!” the little girl cried excitedly. “Which one?” asked Nancy.
“The bald-headed one!”
Nancy quickly rounded up the Trompels, Bess, and Gary, and they all rejoined George Fayne, who pointed out a thickset figure in a checked suit. The man was waiting near the park’s shooting gallery.
“You are right! That is the man who bumped me!” Konrad declared in a low, intense voice.
Even as he spoke, the balding crook was joined by another man—an elderly, skinny fellow with a wrinkled, pinched-looking face.
“I’ll bet he’s the dip who picked your pocket,” Nancy conjectured. “They’re probably waiting for their partner in the red shirt to come and split the loot, since he’s the one who actually took the money from your wallet.”
Since Nancy’s group were partly screened by sKrutbery, the two crooks did not yet realize
they were being watched. She urged her companions to run and look for a policeman, while 'he herself kept the suspects under surveillance.
Within minutes, her prediction was borne out as a tall, slender young man in a red polo shirt came walking toward the two older crooks. Nancy cast about frantically, hoping to glimpse a park policeman. But none was in sight.
If I don’t do something fast, she fretted, they’ll get away!
In desperation, Nancy decided that her best move would be to try to catch the young crook alone before he joined forces with his two partners. She might at least be able to recover the Trompels’ money, even though it meant giving up any chance of bringing the pickpockets to justice.
Nancy hurried across the grass and confronted the young man in the red polo shirt while he was still some distance from his two confederates.
“Hand over that money you stole!” she demanded boldly.
His face seemed to come all apart in a look of stunned dismay. “Wh-what do you mean?”
“You know very well what I mean! I’m talk-
:ng about the money you stripped from that stolen wallet, just before you tossed it in a trash
Seeing his expression of guilt and growing .Uarm, Nancy pressed on sternly. “You can be identified as the thief because part of that money is in Swiss francs. If you surrender the loot now, I’ll let you go. But you’d better hand it over fast,” she stated, “because if you don’t, you’ll soon find yourself behind bars!”
The young thief hesitated and gulped fearfully. But a moment later, his expression hardened into a mocking grin. Glancing over her shoulder, Nancy at once saw why. The burly, balding crook and his skinny cohort were hurrying toward them with angry scowls and doubled-up fists.
“Beat it, lady!” the bigger one bellowed.
2. The Wonderland Gallop
Nancy tried not to show her fear. But she could tell from the looks on their faces that the two oncoming crooks were deadly serious. If they could not scare her off, the bigger one was ready to use force!
Should she stand her ground or run? Nancy’s heart was pounding, and her throat suddenly felt dry. If she stayed, she might be hurt. But to give up now meant the Trompels would lose all their money and have to return to Switzerland, their American vacation ruined by these vicious, unfeeling criminals.
If only help would come! Nancy bit her lip to keep it from trembling and decided to stall for time, at least for a few moments longer.
Suddenly, the shrill blast of a police whistle split the air! Then came the faint sound of George’s voice calling, “We’re coming, Nancy!” The two older members of the pickpocket gang skidded to a halt only a second before they would have reached Nancy. Both glanced over their shoulders toward the sound of the whistle.
The burly crook’s face twisted with rage as he saw himself lose both his loot and chance for revenge. Then he and his scrawny companion turned and fled!
Nancy boldly reached out and grabbed the red-shirted youth’s forearm. “See how your pals have deserted you?” she exclaimed scornfully. “Better give up that money you stole while you still have a chance!”
The young crook wavered, his face pale and oozing perspiration. With an oath, he jerked free of Nancy’s grasp. At the same time, he grabbed a wad of bills from his pocket and tossed them into the air. Then he, too, turned and ran!