Authors: Carolyn Keene
“It's funny that we're making a special trip just to see your clock,” Bess Marvin said to her friend Nancy Drew. “I mean, we can see it any time sitting on your dresser.”
Nancy smiled as she turned her blue convertible sports car into the teachers' parking lot at River Heights High School. “You know what else is weird?” Nancy asked. “Parking in the teachers' lot. It wasn't that long ago that we were seniors here.”
“We would have been towed away in two seconds back then,” Bess said. “Kind of feels like we're getting away with something.”
Through her dark glasses, Nancy's deep blue eyes surveyed the lines of parked cars in the lot. “Looks like everyone in town showed up for the antiques expo. We'll be lucky to get a space. Wait, I see one.
This is going to be tight.Â .Â .Â .” She expertly maneuvered her sports car into a narrow parking space, and the two girls got out.
“Whew! It's hot.” Bess squinted into the summer sunlight as she and Nancy hurried across the asphalt toward a side entrance to the building.
Shorter and with a slightly rounder build than Nancy, Bess had to hurry to keep up. Grabbing an elastic band from the outside pocket of her purse, Bess twisted her straight blond hair into a makeshift bun to get it off her neck. Nancy's reddish blond hair was already pulled back in a neat French braid. She was wearing white shorts and a navy T-shirt.
The girls entered the high school and made their way down the cool, dim hall toward the gymnasium, where the antiques expo was being held. Half a dozen other people were heading in the same direction.
“By the way,” said Bess, smoothing her blue cotton sundress, “don't get me wrong about the clock. I think it's great that Mr. Gordon wants to feature it in his exhibit. You're not going to let him sell it, are you?”
Nancy's eyes widened. “Of course not! That's a memento of my very first case. It means more to me than anything else I own.”
Though Nancy was only eighteen years old, she was already an experienced detective. With the help of Bess and Bess's cousin, George Fayne, Nancy had solved many baffling cases in River Heights and all
over the world. In her first case, Nancy had helped some poor families collect large sums of money they had inherited. She had discovered a tiny notebook and key hidden inside an old clock, and those clues led her to a secret will that left the savings of a rich old man, Josiah Crowley, to his poor relatives. In gratitude, the heirs had given the clock to Nancy as a keepsake.
After keeping perfect time for quite a while, the clock had begun to run slow. Nancy had taken it to a local antique-store owner, Henry Gordon, who was also an expert at clock repair. Mr. Gordon told Nancy he had never seen a clock quite like it, and he asked her where she'd gotten it. When Nancy told him the story, he was so impressed that he asked her permission to exhibit the clock at the antiques expo. Then Mr. Gordon had invited Nancy to come to the show to see it on display.
“Looks as if this is a pretty popular event,” said Bess, as she and Nancy approached the gymnasium. “Reminds me of all those high-school dances.”
A large crowd was milling about outside the entrance. In front of the doors, men and women at long tables were collecting admission fees.
When Nancy and Bess reached one of the tables, a pudgy woman pushed a lined piece of paper toward them. “Please give us your name and address,” she said. “We'd like to put you on our mailing list for future expos.”
After they'd paid and signed in, the girls entered the gym.
“Wow!” Bess exclaimed, pausing just inside the doors. “Look at this place.”
Nancy followed her friend's gaze. The gym had been completely transformed. The bleachers were still set up against one wall, but the rest of the huge, open room was filled with row after row of exhibits. Some were long tables covered with jewelry, glassware, and small household objects. There were also stands displaying all kinds of artwork and clothing from earlier eras. Some of the exhibits were much larger, featuring groupings of furniture and, in one case, an antique car.
“It's hard to believe this is the same place where we used to dribble basketballs and do jumping jacks,” Nancy observed.
“Ugh. Don't remind me,” Bess said with a shiver. “I like it much better this way.”
Nancy laughed. Athletics had never been one of Bess's favorite activities. Nancy knew her friend would rather shop than do push-ups any day.
“We'll never find Mr. Gordon,” Bess said, a frown creasing her brow.
“Sure we will.” Nancy grabbed a map from a pile right inside the door and scanned it. “Here's Mr. Gordon's exhibit,” she announced. “Past Perfect is the name of his store. He's at booth six.”
They were halfway down the second row when Bess
pulled Nancy toward a glass display case. “Do you mind if we just look for a minute?” she asked. “I'd like to check out the jewelry.”
“Take your time,” Nancy said. “I'm not in any hurry.”
As she followed Bess over to a jewelry display, Nancy had to sidestep a tall, slender woman dressed dramatically in a black minidress and a small black hat. A gauzy white scarf was looped around her neck, and she wore dark glasses, even though she was indoors. Nancy glanced curiously at the woman. There was something oddly familiar about her. But before she could figure out where she'd seen her before, Bess was pulling her over to the display case.
“Oh, look at this stuff!” Bess exclaimed, her blue eyes gleaming.
Inside the case, sparkling antique watches, rings, bracelets, and brooches were lined up in orderly rows on a piece of black velvet. “It's a good thing I didn't bring my credit card,” Bess went on, pointing at a white gold ring with a cluster of tiny pearls. “That's gorgeous. I wonder how much it costs.”
A thin man behind the counter peered at Bess over large horn-rimmed glasses that sat low on his nose. He was in his mid-thirties and wore his light brown hair cut short. “It's very expensive,” he said.
Nancy was surprised at the man's tone. A comment such as that would turn away more business than it
would attract, she thought. Of course, she and Bess weren't seriously planning to buy the ring, but the man didn't know that. Nancy glanced at the sign in front of the man's exhibit. It read Russell Brown Antiques.
“Mr. Brown?” Nancy asked the man, raising her eyebrows.
When he nodded, Nancy asked, “How old is this pearl ring? It's so pretty.”
“It's a rare piece from the turn of the century. There aren't many like it.” Mr. Brown took a pair of amethyst earrings out of a case to show a customer, and Bess and Nancy looked at some of the other pieces of jewelry.
“I didn't even want to hear how much that ring cost,” Bess said under her breath.
“You probably would have fainted right on the spot if he had told you,” Nancy replied, and both girls laughed.
Nancy glanced at the other customers at Mr. Brown's boothâa handful of women and a big man with an orange T-shirt stretched over his fat stomach. “I wonder what these people think of Mr. Brown's prices,” she whispered to Bess.
Bess put back the necklace of semiprecious stones she'd been admiring. “They seem way out of line to me.”
Nancy spotted Henry Gordon across the aisle and pointed him out to Bess. Even in the crush of people,
Mr. Gordon stood out. While everyone else was dressed in casual summer clothing, Mr. Gordon looked as if he'd stepped out of an English novel. He was wearing an old suit with a matching vest and tiny round eyeglasses with metal frames. His gray hair was combed back, and Nancy could see the gold chain of a pocket watch tucked in his vest. Gordon noticed Nancy and Bess and waved them over to his booth.
“It's a madhouse!” he shouted as the girls pushed through the crowd toward him.
“I guess we're not the only ones with a passion for the past,” Nancy said, grinning. “Mr. Gordon, this is my friend Bess Marvin.”
“Very pleased to meet you,” Mr. Gordon said, shaking Bess's hand.
“I know your assistant, Lydia Newkirk,” Bess volunteered. “She grew up down the street from me. I haven't seen her since she went away to college a few years ago. I heard she was back, though, and working for you.”
“A singular young woman,” Mr. Gordon said, smiling fondly. “And a great help to me.”
“Is Lydia here today?” Bess asked. “I'd love to say hello.”
Mr. Gordon nodded and gestured vaguely at the crowd. “Somewhere. She's been working hard all morning, so I gave her some time to shop.”
“I'll bet she's looking for costumes,” Bess said. She turned to Nancy. “You remember Lydia, don't you?
She's the one who liked to dress up in outfits from different times.”
“Oh, yes,” Nancy said after thinking a moment. “I remember seeing her once wearing long white gloves and carrying a parasol.”
Bess giggled. “That's Lydia, all right.”
“She's been a big help to my business,” Mr. Gordon said. “Customers come into my shop just to see what she'll be wearing. Now,” he added, ushering the girls to a round wooden table in the center of his display, “I'm sure you're eager to see my exhibit's special attraction. I've brought mostly smaller pieces today, so your clock is truly the centerpiece.”
Nancy smiled when she saw the clock standing alone on a mahogany table. A tall mantel clock with a square face covered by a glass door, it was topped with five round crystal ornaments. The wood encasing the clock was polished to a high gloss, and its brass fittings gleamed brightly.
In front of the clock sat a framed card with an inscription:
English mantel clock, circa 1892
Owned by Nancy Drew, River Heights
Originally owned by Josiah Crowley, a local millionaire. In his later years, Crowley hid a notebook and key, which led to his second and final will, behind the clock's face. Only through the efforts of Nancy Drew, River Heights's famous
detective, was the will discovered and Crowley's inheritance given to his rightful heirs.
“Pretty impressive, Nancy,” Bess said proudly after reading the card.
Nancy blushed when she read the part about River Heights's famous detective. Then she noticed that the clock face was ajar to show the empty space behind it.
“It was very nice of you to put out that sign,” she said to Mr. Gordon, “but it really wasn't necessary. I'm sure the clock is pretty ordinary.”
“But its owner isn't,” said Mr. Gordon. “And the clock is now a part of the history of our town. I consider it an important piece.”
“Well,” Nancy said, still feeling embarrassed, “I think Bess and I should goâ”
“Bess!” cried a high-pitched female voice. Nancy and Bess turned to see a tall young woman in a full-skirted dress made of lavender-flowered cotton. The sleeveless top was fitted and tied at the waist with a purple sash, and the long skirt was made fuller by the petticoats underneath. She wore a wide-brimmed straw hat that had a ring of lilacs tucked into the band, and her dark brown hair was braided down to the middle of her back.
“You look gorgeous!” Bess exclaimed, hugging the woman. “Like a character from an old movie. Are you really my long-lost neighbor, Lydia Newkirk, or a flash from the past?”
“All of the above,” said Lydia excitedly. “How have you been, Bess?”
“Great,” Bess told her. “It's been so long. When you went away to college, you really went away.”
Lydia shrugged. “I traveled during the summers,” she explained. “But now I'm back to stay.”
“You remember Nancy Drew, don't you?” Bess asked.
“Of course I do,” Lydia replied, nodding to Nancy. “You two were always inseparable. But where's the third musketeer?”
Bess laughed. “You must mean my cousin George. She's got a temporary job driving a Frosty Freeze ice cream truck. It's a really great deal for me, since George is so generous.”