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Authors: Carolyn Keene

Tags: #Mobilism

041 Something to Hide

BOOK: 041 Something to Hide
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Chapter

One

T
HIS SHOULD BE FUN,
” George Fayne said. As George rang the doorbell to her cousin Bess Marvin’s house, a soft October breeze ruffled her short dark hair.

“What I think is so great,” Nancy Drew said, pushing her reddish blond hair back from her face, “is all the time I’m going to get to spend with Ned!”

Nancy’s boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, had come home from Emerson College for a long weekend to work on a research project for a marketing class he was taking, and Nancy and her friends were going to help him. It wasn’t
often that Nancy and Ned had time together during the school year, and Nancy couldn’t wait.

George shot Nancy a teasing glance. “Well, I don’t know about you, Drew, but I’m thinking of this as an
educational
experience.”

The door opened just then, and Bess Marvin stood on the doorstep, a tissue in her hand. “I’m ready if you are,” she croaked.

“Bess, you look terrible!” Nancy exclaimed. Although Bess had done her best to cover her red nose with makeup, the flame color still showed through. Her blue eyes were watery and running. “Are you sure you feel up to this?”

Bess blew her nose and cleared her throat vigorously before tossing back her long blond hair. “Just try to keep me away,” she challenged.

“She has a point,” George put in. “Bess can always get herself together to go to the mall.”

Bess made a face at her cousin before slipping on a pair of sunglasses to hide her red eyes. “You’ll never understand about shopping.
Yon
spend all your time in sweats and running shoes.” She turned to Nancy. “Honestly, Nan, I’ll be fine. I sound a lot worse than I feel. Come on, let’s go!”

“What exactly are we going to do for this research project?” George asked once the three
friends were in Nancy’s Mustang and on their way to the mall.

“Ned didn’t tell me too much,” Nancy said. “Only that a group of students from his marketing class would be working at the River Heights Mall introducing people to a new product.”

“What’s the product?” said George.

“He didn’t tell me that, either.” Nancy smiled. “Actually, he was very mysterious about the whole thing.”

Bess hardly listened to any more of their conversation. Instead, she leaned forward from the back seat to study herself in the rearview mirror. “I just wish I didn’t look so horrible today,” she fretted.

“What are you talking about?” George asked.

Bess pointed to a small blemish on her left cheek. “I never break out! Why now, when I’m about to be spending a whole Saturday with cute college boys? It’s not fair!” Bess grimaced.

“Oh, you look fine,” George reassured her as they pulled into the mall’s parking lot.

“All I can say is nothing seems to be going right for me today,” Bess croaked, clambering out of the back seat.

Glancing at the entrance to the mall, Nancy felt a smile pass over her face. Pacing back and forth in front of the mall, waiting for them,
was Ned. She recognized him instantly by his tall build.

Nancy walked on ahead of her friends, stole up behind Ned, and threw her arms around him. “Oh, Ned!” she murmured in his ear. “It’s so good to see you!”

“Nancy!” Ned turned and gave her a big hug, smiling down into her eyes. “I really missed you!” He reached out and gently drew Nancy’s face up to his, then softly kissed her lips. Nancy felt a warm glow pass through her.

“Ahem, you two. When do we get to meet the rest of the research team?” George asked.

Ned grinned. “Follow me.” He put his arm around Nancy and led the girls inside the mall and over to a sleek little booth with mirrored sides and a pink awning. “Welcome to the Spotless project!” he said grandly. “And here are two members of the team that’s going to make Emerson College history,” he went on.

“We hope,” said a tall, angular girl behind the counter. She had long golden hair and pale skin and was dressed all in black. She gave Nancy and her friends a polite half-smile. “I’m Marcia Grafton,” she said.

“And I’m Justin Dodd, the brains behind this operation!” boomed her companion.

Marcia winced. “He’s got his name right, anyway,” she said.

Justin was short and chubby, with curly
brown hair and a snub nose. He gave the three girls a friendly grin. “Nice to have you aboard,” he said. “Welcome to the ultra-glamorous world of market research.” He laughed loudly.

Nancy smiled back at him. “Nice to be here,” she said.

“Don’t pay any attention to Justin’s little ways,” Marcia said tiredly. “He’s the class clown—if you haven’t already figured that out. I’m glad you can give us a hand.”

“What did you want us to do?” George asked.

Marcia picked up one of the little white jars from the table in the middle of the booth. “We’re giving away free samples of this,” she said. “Some of us will hand them out while the rest of us get people to fill out questionnaires.”

“What’s in the jars?” Bess asked hoarsely.

“It’s a preventive cream,” Marcia answered. “You put it on every night, and it keeps your skin from breaking out. It really works, too.”

“It’s called Spotless. Spotless! Get it?” Justin asked, nudging Nancy.

“We’re using River Heights as a test area,” Ned explained.

“And if it’s successful here?” asked George.

“Then the company will start a national sales campaign. Here comes the rest of our team.” Ned walked over to greet a couple who
had come up to the booth. “Meet Heather Tompkins and Brad Chanin. Heather and Brad, this is Nancy Drew, Bess Marvin, and George Fayne.”

Heather shook her mane of brown curls back from her perfect heart-shaped face. Her long-lashed hazel eyes darted from Nancy to Bess and George. “Hello,” she said, shaking Nancy’s hand.

Brad Chanin was blond and tall, with shoulders a football player would have envied. Behind his horn-rimmed glasses his deep blue eyes were sparkling.

“It’s nice to meet you,” he said to the three girls, but he directed his gaze only at Bess.

“Ready to start?” asked Ned.

“We sure are,” Brad said enthusiastically.

The group moved into position at the booth. As the mall began to fill with shoppers, Ned and Justin approached teenagers, while— under Marcia’s direction—Nancy, George, and Heather asked them to fill out questionnaires. Bess and Brad sat at the table, arranging the sample jars and filing the questionnaires as they were turned in.

“This really won’t take long,” Nancy promised a redheaded girl who was glancing worriedly at her watch. “All we need to know are your name, address, age, and what creams you’ve used in the past.”

“Well, I guess it’s worth it if Spotless
works,” answered the girl. “I’ve tried just about everything.”

“It works,” Heather assured her. “Believe me, it works!”

“How did you all get involved in this test?” Nancy asked Heather as the redheaded girl turned in her questionnaire and walked away.

“Didn’t Ned tell you?” Heather asked. Nan-cy shook her head and Heather went on. “We’re all senior marketing majors at Emerson—except for Ned, but he was taking a course with us, so he was asked to help.”

“I hate to sound dumb,” George said as she leaned against the back of the booth, “but what exactly
is
marketing?”

Marcia tucked her long blond hair behind one ear. “Basically, it’s anything that convinces people to buy a product,” she said.

“And giveaways like this are part of it,” Heather added. “Our professor calls it market research. I call it testing the waters before you jump in.”

“Yeah,” Justin said, turning around. “After all, who wants to drown in a pool of skin cream?” He doubled up in laughter as Heather rolled her eyes.

“Well, it certainly seems like a great project,” said George.

“It’s more than that,” Marcia said sharply. “There’s a lot at stake!”

Nancy stared at her in surprise. Before Nancy
could ask Marcia what she meant, another group of teenagers arrived, and the girls were busy once again.

Half an hour later, when the crowd had thinned out a little, Nancy moved to Ned’s side. “How’s it going?” she asked, pulling him a few feet away from the booth.

“Great!” Ned smiled at Nancy. “And I think being in River Heights has something to do with it.”

Nancy returned the smile, their thoughts on the same wavelength.

“Is this a private conversation, or can anyone join?” Heather had left the table and moved up beside Ned. “I’d certainly hate to be left out,” she cooed, looking at Ned in a way that definitely excluded Nancy.

Nancy found herself wondering what was going on with Heather. Didn’t the girl know Ned was her boyfriend? Why was she flirting with him?

“I just think this is a fabulous project,” Heather said, her eyes never leaving Ned. “We’re really lucky to be part of it.”

Ned nodded and squeezed Nancy’s hand. Obviously he wasn’t responding to Heather.

Nancy turned back to the sample table. Justin was joking with a group of customers while George was helping a boy with his questionnaire. There was another boy waiting to fill in a questionnaire, but Marcia hadn’t
noticed him. Her eyes were fixed on the sample table, where Bess and Brad were sitting. There was a frown on her face.

Bess was talking animatedly to Brad. He was leaning over her, his blond head bent as though he was afraid of missing a single word.

Nancy glanced back at Marcia. The thin girl’s fists were clenched. Something about Bess and Brad was definitely bugging her.

Nancy decided she’d better intervene. She walked nonchalantly over to the table. “How’s your throat, Bess?” she asked.

“No worse,” Bess said cheerfully. “In fact, it’s feeling a little better.”

“Your turn to do questionnaires, then,” said Nancy. As Bess rose from behind the table, Nancy slipped into the seat her friend had just left.

Nancy turned to Brad. “Do you live around here?” she asked him.

“Right outside River Heights, in Clinton,” said Brad. “So does Heather. Marcia’s from River Heights now. Her folks just moved here.” Justin, Nancy knew, was from River Heights itself. He had gone to a private school and graduated two years before Ned. “My folks are glad I’m home,” Brad continued. “It’s—”

“Hey, Chanin!” came Justin’s loud voice. “I’m going out to the car to get more samples. Don’t let anyone steal anything while I’m
gone!” He grinned and bounced off toward the exit.

Heather had strolled back to the booth and let out an exasperated sigh. “There goes the mad scientist,” she said.

“Why do you call him that?” asked George. “He doesn’t look anything like one to me.”

“All that kidding around is an act,” Heather answered. “Justin’s pretty intense. You should see him at finals time—no joking around then.”

“So you’re all in classes together?” George asked.

“Sure. There aren’t that many marketing majors at Emerson,” Brad explained as Marcia walked over to join their conversation.

“It’s true. We’re kind of like brothers and sisters,” added Heather. “Right, Marcia?”

Marcia didn’t answer. She just stared at Heather. Unruffled, Heather gazed calmly back at her.

There’s something going on that I don’t understand, Nancy said to herself. Marcia’s definitely upset—but about what specifically? It’s got to be something to do with Brad. I wonder if—

BOOK: 041 Something to Hide
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