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Authors: Carolyn Keene

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BOOK: A Secret in Time
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“Unless she wanted to make it look as if someone else did it,” Nancy pointed out. “As I said before, she
could have made it
like a break-in at Mr. Gordon's store. But no matter who the thief is, I have a feeling he or she will come after the clock soon—maybe tonight.”

“So now what do we do?” Bess asked. “We're stuck here without transportation. We certainly can't go back into Kimberly's house to ask for help.”

“Sure we can,” Nancy said. “In fact, that's exactly what we're going to do.”

“Are you kidding?” Bess asked in alarm. “Who knows what she could do to us in that scary old house? Maybe she has ancient torture equipment down in the dungeon.”

“Whether she does or not,” Nancy said, “she's not going to do a thing to us.”

Bess shot Nancy a wary glance. “How can you be so sure?”

“She's far too clever to be so obvious,” Nancy said, heading for the stone steps. “Whether she's innocent or guilty, she'll at least let us use her phone.”

“I'll tell you what,” Bess said, opening the door to Nancy's car. “I'll stay here. If you don't come out in five minutes, I'll run and get help.”

“Okay,” Nancy said with a laugh. “But I'm sure you won't have to do anything so drastic.” She walked back to the mansion, rang the doorbell, and again heard the deep chimes echoing through the house.

Kimberly opened the door and smiled at Nancy. “Back so soon?” she asked. “I didn't know you felt so strongly about the brooch.”

Nancy studied Kimberly, wondering if her words had a double meaning. Which brooch was she talking about?

Nancy explained what had happened to her car and asked to use the phone.

Kimberly frowned and lowered her eyebrows, but she showed no other reaction to Nancy's predicament. “I didn't realize I lived in such a dangerous neighborhood,” she said. “You can use the phone in the hall.”

She led Nancy to an alcove off the entrance hall. There, on a dark wooden table, was an old-fashioned black dial phone. When Nancy picked up the heavy receiver, she noticed that Kimberly moved away but stayed close enough to hear.

First, Nancy called information for the number of a towing company and arranged to have her car picked up. Next, she called home to see if Hannah could come and get her and Bess, but there was no answer. Nancy didn't want to bother her father at the office. She was beginning to think she and Bess would have to make the long way home on foot when she suddenly remembered George's mobile phone.

Taking her wallet out of her purse, she rummaged through it and finally found George's number. Nancy dialed and waited through several rings before she heard her friend's familiar voice.

“George!” Nancy cried. “I'm so happy you're there.”

“Nancy?” George's voice sounded far away. “Hold on a second.”

More faintly, Nancy heard her asking someone whether he wanted rainbow or chocolate sprinkles. Then George was back on the line. “Sorry,” she said. “What's going on?”

Nancy explained the situation. “Do you think you could come and get us?” she asked. “Is it out of your way?”

“You're in luck,” said George. “When I'm done in this neighborhood, I'll be heading that way. Give me the address. I should be there in about half an hour.”

“Terrific! Thanks, George.” Nancy gave her directions and hung up.

“You're more than welcome to wait indoors,” Kimberly offered.

Though Nancy didn't believe Bess's fears about Kimberly's “dungeon,” she knew she'd feel safer outside, since Kimberly might have been the one who damaged her car. “Thanks,” she said. “But my friend will be here any minute.”

• • •

Shortly after a tow truck had carted Nancy's blue sports car away, Nancy and Bess heard a happy, tinkling tune in the distance. Gradually it grew louder and louder until a square white Frosty Freeze truck turned into Kimberly Burton's long driveway.

“George!” Bess called, running toward her cousin as the truck came to a stop.

George hopped out of the truck and onto the driveway, wearing her white Frosty Freeze smock and cap. She was grinning and holding out two paper-wrapped Popsicles. “Try a Rocket Pop,” she said.

“Don't mind if I do,” Bess said. “All this waiting in the hot sun has made me thirsty.”

Nancy took the other Popsicle. “You're a lifesaver, George.”

“No problem,” said George. “Hop in. There's only one passenger seat, but I think you'll both fit.”

“I don't know about that, after all the ice cream you've been feeding me,” Bess said.

Nancy and Bess squeezed into the front seat and fastened the seat belt around both of them as George set the truck in motion and drove back out to the street. “I hope you don't mind if I can't take you home right away. I've got another hour left on my shift. Then I have to take the truck back to headquarters. It's only a few exits away on the highway.”

“Don't mind us,” Nancy said, licking her Rocket Pop. “But do you think we could make a short stop before you leave River Heights? It should only take a minute.”

George shrugged. “Sure. Meanwhile, it's time to make the little kiddies happy.” She pressed a button on the dashboard, and the cheerful song blared out of the speaker on top of the truck.

Bess stopped eating her Rocket Pop for a moment to listen. “That's such a cute song,” she said.

• • •

“Don't you ever get sick of that song?” Bess asked an hour later as the Frosty Freeze truck pulled away from its last stop. “I mean, the same thing over and over and over again.” She covered her ears with her hands. “It's awful!”

“You stop hearing it after a while,” George said, laughing at her cousin. “Where to, Nan?”

Nancy checked her notebook. “Megan Krasnoff Realty, nine sixty-five Vernon Road,” she said. “That's between Center and Grove streets.”

On the way, Nancy and Bess filled George in on Lydia's mysterious appearance at the vacant store, as well as their visits to Mary Lou Jennings and Kimberly Burton.

“I want to know if it really was Lydia I saw,” Nancy said as they pulled up in front of the real estate office. “And if it was, we need to find out what she was doing there. I'll be right back.”

Megan Krasnoff Realty was located in a small brick building on a residential street. The door was open, so Nancy walked in. A young man with slicked-back hair was sitting behind the nearest desk.

“May I help you?” he asked, looking up at Nancy.

Nancy improvised quickly. “I saw your For Rent sign in that vacant store on Center Street, the one next to the dry cleaner. I was wondering if it was still available.”

“I'll have to check,” the man said. He tapped a few keys on his computer keyboard. Nancy tried discreetly to move behind him so she could see what information
came up on the monitor, but the man blocked her view.

“I'm sorry,” he said after a moment. “It's already been rented. Perhaps I could show you something else? We have several properties on Main Street, which is a good location for a business.”

“No,” Nancy told him. “I really had my heart set on Center Street. You wouldn't happen to know who rented it?”

The young man gave her an apologetic look. “We can't give out that information.”

“Oh,” Nancy said, disappointed. Then she had an idea. Pretending she needed something in her pocket-book, she set it down on the corner of his desk, then let it drop to the floor. “I'm so sorry,” she said as the man leaned over to pick up her purse.

As soon as he bent forward, Nancy looked at the monitor. The print was small, but she could see one thing clearly. The person who'd rented the property was Lydia Newkirk.

Nancy took the purse from the man and said, “Please forgive me. Sometimes I can be so clumsy.”

“No trouble,” he told her. “You're sure there isn't any other neighborhood you'd consider? We have lots of listings right now.”

“Let me think about it,” Nancy said. “I'll call you.” She slung her purse over her shoulder and headed for the door.

“I don't believe it,” Bess said, after Nancy told her
and George what she'd found out in the office. “I've never known Lydia to be a liar.”

“Facts are facts,” said George as she pulled away. “First she lied about having the flu, and now she's sneaking around behind her boss's back.”

“And if she's planning to start a business,” Nancy added, “she needs a lot of cash. What better way to get it than to sell an expensive piece of jewelry?”

“Sounds like a definite motive to me,” George agreed.

“So now we have two very strong suspects,” Nancy said. “Kimberly Burton and Lydia. Mr. Gordon's still on the list, too, but so far nothing points to him. I spoke to Chief McGinnis this morning. He said Mr. Gordon hasn't done anything except go to work and then return home at night.”

“This is such a pretty drive,” Nancy said as they followed the road's graceful curves. On either side of the highway were gently sloping hills with thick green foliage. As they neared the steep gorge that gave River Heights its name, the hills became rockier and there were fewer trees. The highway led onto the River Heights Bridge, which crossed the Muskoka River.

As they neared the bridge, George swerved sharply into the right lane.

“Why'd you do that?” Nancy asked, holding on to the passenger door to keep from lurching into Bess.

George pressed her lips together and glanced at the rearview mirror.

“George? Is something wrong?” Nancy asked.

“I don't know,” said George, looking at the mirror again. “But I have a feeling we're being followed.”

Turning around in her seat, Nancy saw an orange van driving close behind the Frosty Freeze truck.

“Switch lanes again,” she told George. “Let's see what they do.”

George quickly moved back into the left lane. The orange van did the same.

“Oh, great,” said Bess. “This has been one terrific day.” Her tone was sarcastic, but Nancy thought she saw a hint of fear in her friend's eyes.

Suddenly the orange van moved closer and bumped the Frosty Freeze truck from behind.

“George!” Bess said nervously. She braced herself against the dashboard and turned around to look at the van. “Can you shake them?”

“I'm going to try,” George said, fighting to keep the truck from swerving. “But this truck wasn't exactly built for speed.” She jammed her foot on the accelerator and moved back into the right lane. The orange van sped up also and pulled up alongside them.

Nancy turned her head to get a better look at the van. It was painted orange all over except for three narrow lime-green stripes running along the side. The windows were tinted, so she couldn't see who was inside, and she couldn't get a look at the license plate.

“Can you go any faster?” Nancy asked George.

George shook her head grimly. “I've already got my foot all the way to the floor.”

Just then the van started to bump their left side. George tried valiantly to outmaneuver the van, but still it kept bumping them, pushing them closer and closer to the bridge railing.

“Oh, no!” Bess cried, gripping the dash so tightly that her knuckles turned white. “We're going to go over!”

Nancy tried not to let herself look to the right at the steel railing, the only thing that stood between them and a steep drop into the river below. “Don't worry. The guardrail will hold,” she said, trying to sound convincing.

The orange van gave another shove, stronger than the first. George clung desperately to the wheel, turning it sharply to the left. But the van's impact was too powerful. It forced the Frosty Freeze truck right through the bridge's metal guardrail.

A Valuable Discovery

Nancy, Bess, and George screamed as the Frosty Freeze truck tore through the metal rail with a loud screech. The impact caused them to lurch forward against their seat belts.

When the girls looked up, they saw that the truck was teetering precariously over the side of the bridge, still tinkling its happy tune. Like a giant seesaw, it tipped forward, caught on its rear axle. Nancy could see the rushing waters of the Muskoka River far below.

“What are we going to do?” Bess wailed. Then, trying to get control of herself, she smiled weakly. “Maybe we'll get to go swimming after all.”

“We won't be swimming,” George said. “We'll be driftwood. If we fall, the force of the impact will kill us!”

Suddenly Nancy had an idea.

“George, is there a back door to this truck?” When George nodded, Nancy unhooked the safety belt she and Bess shared. “We've got to move—
she said in an urgent voice.

Quickly undoing her own seat belt, George grabbed her mobile phone, and all three girls scrambled toward the back of the truck. George struggled with the latch on the door.

“Hurry!” Bess urged, her voice trembling.

Finally George got the latch open, and Nancy gave the door a powerful kick.

“Jump!” Nancy cried as the door flew open.

All three girls landed in a pile on the pavement. Quickly untangling themselves, they stood up in a daze. Traffic had stopped in both directions, and several motorists rushed over to see if the girls were all right. The orange van was nowhere in sight.

“I'll call the police,” George said, pulling her phone out of its pouch.

Bess glanced back at the truck, which was still hanging over the water. Suddenly she burst into tears. “Oh, Nancy, I really thought we were going to . . .”

“But we didn't,” said Nancy, giving her friend a hug. “We got out in time.”

“This time,” Bess said through her tears. “But who knows when our luck will run out?”

BOOK: A Secret in Time
2.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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