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Authors: Carolyn Keene

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BOOK: A Secret in Time
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“What lucky break?” Carson Drew asked, giving Nancy a curious look.

Nancy sighed. There was no point in keeping the story from him any longer. “We had a close call this afternoon on the River Heights Bridge,” she said simply.

Hannah gasped. “Is that what Bess meant about your luck running out?”

Nancy nodded, then told them the whole story. She tried to play down the dangerous parts, but there was no fooling either one of them.

“I knew it,” Hannah said. “I knew you were hiding something.”

Carson Drew gave his daughter a stern look. “You should have told us this before.”

“I didn't want you to worry unnecessarily,” Nancy told him. “And it was already over. Telling you wouldn't have changed anything.”

“I guess not,” said Carson, “but we worry anyway.” He wrapped his arms tightly around his daughter. “You could have been killed today.”

“I'm sorry, Dad. I promise I'll keep you up to date about everything else that happens.”

Officers Walker and Daniel made a quick search of the house. “We'll keep watch downstairs,” Officer Walker said. “You folks get yourselves a good night's sleep.”

“There's no chance in the world I'll sleep tonight,” Hannah said. “If this thief is capable of running Nancy off the road, who knows what else he'd do to get the brooch.”

“We'll make sure you never have to find out,” Officer Daniel said. “You're perfectly safe as long as we're here.”

“Thank you again,” Nancy said to the officers. “Good night, everybody.”

The last thing Nancy heard as she headed up the stairs was Hannah offering to make the police a pot of coffee. Good old Hannah, Nancy thought with a smile.

Nancy changed into her nightgown and climbed
into bed. With the officers downstairs and the thief scared off, at least for the night, she could finally get some sleep. She rested her head on the pillow and closed her eyes, but she couldn't stop thinking about the case.

Lydia, Kimberly Burton, and Russell Brown had all been at the expo and in a position to steal the brooch. Lydia and Mr. Brown had the clearest motivation. Lydia needed start-up money for her business. Mr. Brown had recently taken out an insurance policy and could collect money on the stolen brooch. Lydia had had the best opportunity to hide the brooch inside the clock. She'd been alone at Mr. Gordon's booth right after the robbery was discovered. And while there was still nothing specific tying Kimberly Burton to the case, she had been in the best position to sabotage Nancy's car.

And then there was Henry Gordon. He'd been alone with the clock briefly, but that was before the robbery occurred. True, he'd been insistent about delivering the clock after the expo, but that was entirely consistent with what Nancy knew about him. He was a good businessman. Besides, the police officers tailing him hadn't turned up anything unusual. Nancy wasn't ready to cross his name off the list yet, but he was definitely taking a back seat to the other suspects.

Nancy kept juggling the possibilities, but no clear theory emerged. Something didn't add up. She turned over onto her side and bunched up her pillow.
She really had to go to sleep or she'd be too tired to think. Nancy tried to make her mind go blank, but a question kept appearing: Where had she seen that orange van before?

Nancy rolled over onto her stomach and sighed. At this rate, she'd be up all night.

• • •

Nancy awakened to sunlight streaming through her window and turned to look at the clock. It was ten-thirty! She jumped out of bed. She'd overslept, and there was so much to do.

Grabbing her phone, Nancy punched George's number and asked her to pick her up in half an hour. She was sitting on the curb in front of her house, munching a piece of toast, when George and Bess arrived.

“What happened to the police?” Bess asked, nodding toward the vacant spot across the street where the blue sedan had been parked.

Nancy climbed into the back seat. “Hannah's serving them breakfast.”

“Does that mean they didn't get the thief?” George asked. “Did someone break in last night?”

“It's a long story,” Nancy said. “I'll tell you on the way to Lydia's house.”

By the time Nancy had finished telling the cousins the details of the break-in, George was turning onto Lydia's street.

“So you think the thief will come back?” asked George.

“I think so,” Nancy replied, “especially now that it looks as if the police are gone. “

“Unless the thief decided not to take any more chances,” said Bess. “Maybe he's skipped town.”

Suddenly George slammed her foot on the brakes. “Doesn't look like it,” she said as Nancy and Bess were jerked forward in their seats.

Nancy looked up and saw what had made George react so abruptly. Parked right in front of Lydia's house was an orange van with green stripes.

10
A Moving Story

Nancy stared at the van in amazement. There was no mistaking it. The van looked exactly like the one that had nearly run them off the bridge the day before.

George immediately pulled over to the curb, and the three girls jumped out of the car. As they neared the van, Nancy finally got an answer to one of the questions that had been troubling her. Beneath the three lime green stripes painted along the van's side was a company logo: RapidSend.

“That's it!” Nancy cried. “I can't believe I didn't remember the name. Those vans are all over the city.”

“Isn't RapidSend a moving company or something like that?” asked George.

“It is,” Bess informed them. “I've seen their ads in the newspaper. Too bad the paper's not in color or I
might have recognized the logo. It's hard to forget orange with green stripes.”

“But what's a moving truck doing here?” Nancy wondered. “Didn't Lydia say she was living with her parents and that she'd be here for a while? And she just rented a store, so she wouldn't be leaving town.”

Looking at Nancy, Bess said, “You know, I didn't want to believe Lydia was capable of breaking the law, but I'm beginning to think you might be right.”

“I still might be wrong,” Nancy told her. “After all, there's nothing definite pinning her to the crime.”

“This van looks pretty definite to me,” Bess said, peering through its open side door. “Hey, look at this.”

Nancy and George joined Bess. Inside the van they saw several pieces of furniture covered with old blankets.

“Looks as if Lydia's moving out,” Bess said.

The sound of voices made the girls turn around. Coming around the side of the Newkirk house were two young men in jeans and orange T-shirts. They were carrying a salmon pink coffee table shaped like an amoeba. Lydia followed right behind. Bright as the orange T-shirts were, they paled next to Lydia's minidress, which was a frantic swirl of hot pink, yellow, turquoise, and lime green. On her feet she wore white boots that reached almost to her knees.

Lydia stopped short when she saw her friends. “Uh-oh . . .”

“Is something wrong?” Bess asked.

Lydia looked nervously at Bess. “No one was supposed to know about this except my parents,” she said.

“Your
parents?”
exclaimed Bess. “You mean they're in on it, too?”

“They understand,” said Lydia. “Sometimes you have to be a little sneaky to get what you want.”

“A little sneaky?”
Bess echoed again. “That's what you call robbery and attempted murder?”

Lydia looked confused. “What are you talking about?”

“I'm talking about the orange van,” Bess said in an accusing tone. “Is that the same one that ran us off the River Heights Bridge yesterday?”

Lydia looked shocked. “I don't understand.”

“And
I
don't understand how you can even look me in the face after you tried to kill us,” Bess replied.

Noticing that the men in the orange T-shirts had stopped to listen with interest, Lydia directed them to continue moving things into the van. Then she turned to Bess and said, “I don't know what you're talking about.”

“You're doing a great job of playing innocent, Lydia,” Bess went on angrily. “Do you want me to refresh your memory?” She recounted for Lydia how the orange van had pursued them.

A look of horror came over Lydia's face. “I swear, Bess, it's just a coincidence that I rented this van,” she insisted. “I would never do anything so awful.”

Bess still looked skeptical. “And I suppose you have a really good alibi ready for us?”

“It's not an alibi. It's the truth. I didn't want to tell you, but if it will clear my name . . .” Lydia looked around as if she was afraid of being overheard. “I'm opening my own antique store on Center Street. It's going to be called the Time Machine.”

Nancy, Bess, and George remained silent, waiting to hear what else Lydia would reveal.

“It'll be different from Henry's store,” Lydia continued. “It's not going to sell stuff from just one period. I'm going to have displays from different times so you can walk from one to another and feel as if you're traveling through time.”

“Is that what that 1950s coffee table is for?” Nancy asked as the two men loaded the irregularly shaped piece into the van.

Lydia nodded. “I rented the van to transport it and my other furniture. I've been collecting stuff now for the past few months. That's what I was really doing at the antiques expo, not shopping for clothes, as I'd said.”

“Starting up a business must be pretty expensive,” Nancy said. “And you just got out of school. How can you afford it?”

“My parents have given me a loan,” Lydia replied. “I'm going to pay it back as soon as I can.”

Nancy studied Lydia closely. She seemed to be telling the truth, but now she had a definite reason to
have tried to steal the brooch—she had a loan to pay back.

“So why all the secrecy?” George asked. “Starting a business isn't a crime.”

Lydia gave them a sheepish look. “I didn't want Henry to know. I was afraid he'd fire me before I was ready to open. I needed the money he paid me, and the experience.” She looked at her watch. “Look, I'd like to help you guys, but I've got to return this van in a few hours.”

Nancy still wasn't convinced of Lydia's innocence, but she didn't think Lydia was going to reveal anything more, at least not now. There was always the chance that Lydia might drop her guard later on, though, if she thought they believed her. Nancy gave Lydia a big smile. “I'm sorry we came barging over here,” she said. “You can understand why we were upset about the van.”

“Sure,” Lydia said. “I'm really sorry about what you went through, too.”

“We'll let you get back to your moving,” Nancy said, as she and her friends started to walk toward George's car. “And good luck with your store.”

“I can't believe you let her off the hook so easily,” Bess said when they'd pulled away. “Did you really believe her story?”

“Yes,” said Nancy. “About the store, at least. Everything she said fits with things we already know. The real estate office rented her the store, and she's
got all that antique furniture, so she'd need to rent a van.”

George looked expectantly at Nancy. “So that's it? We cross her off our list?”

“Well, no,” Nancy said. “There are still too many coincidences, like the fact that she's using RapidSend to move her furniture. There are lots of other movers in town. And Lydia had the best opportunity to hide the brooch inside the clock.”

“Which means that avoiding Henry Gordon might not be the only reason she's sneaking around,” added Bess.

“That's right,” Nancy agreed. “If she sold the brooch, she'd be able to pay back her parents and have money left to invest in her business.”

“So what's our plan?” asked George.

“We'll go to RapidSend,” Nancy told her. “Now that we know what kind of van it was, we should find out who drove or rented one yesterday. Can I borrow your phone?”

George pulled her mobile phone out of its pouch, and Nancy dialed information for RapidSend's address.

“It's just off Route Nine,” Nancy said after she hung up.

It was hard to miss the large RapidSend sign, even from a half mile down the road. George turned into a parking lot filled with dozens of identical orange vans and trucks of different sizes.

“It could have been Lydia,” George said, eyeing the vans. “Or it could have been about a billion other people.”

Nancy bit her lip in frustration. “I don't feel that we're narrowing down our list of suspects.”

The girls entered a small square concrete building in the middle of the lot. Inside, a young woman sat behind a desk. She had long, curly hair and wore hoop earrings. Her nameplate read Jolie Wilson.

“Are you here to rent a truck?” she asked.

“No,” Nancy said. “We need to talk to the owner or manager of the company right away.”

“I'm sorry,” said Ms. Wilson. “My father is busy right now and can't be disturbed.”

“It's very important,” Nancy insisted.

The young woman shrugged. “If you really need to see him personally, you'll have to set up an appointment.”

“Look,” Nancy said, “I don't want to be a pest, but one of your vans nearly killed us yesterday. If you don't let us see your father, you could be accused of obstructing justice.”

Jolie Wilson stood up from the desk and stammered, “I-I'll be right back.” She disappeared through a gray metal door and was back in less than a minute. “My father will see you,” she said.

Before Nancy, Bess, and George could move, a middle-aged man appeared in the doorway. He was balding and had a mustache. “I'm George Wilson, the
owner,” the man said, extending his hand. “Please come in.”

BOOK: A Secret in Time
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