Authors: Carolyn Keene
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Mysteries & Detective Stories, #Fiction, #General, #Mystery and Detective Stories, #Girls & Women, #Action & Adventure, #Reality Television Programs, #Reference, #Weddings, #Celebrities, #Models (Persons), #Drew; Nancy (Fictitious Character), #Teenage Girl Detectives, #Girl Detectives, #Drew;Nancy (Fictitious Character)
Syd nodded to the man running the karaoke machine, and he slipped a DVD into the player. Immediately the bouncy first notes of the eighties hit filled the room.
I chuckled as the music bounced around, nearing the first verse. Syd reached out to one of the women in the front row, holding out her PDA.
“Can you take a picture?” she asked, gesturing to the phone’s camera buttons.
Just then a funny beeping sounded, making me wonder if that had always been part of the song.
Syd sighed. “That’s a message coming in,” she explained to the woman who held her PDA.
The woman handed Syd her PDA back, and Syd sighed, flipping through the screens with a slightly annoyed expression.
Then, suddenly, Syd screamed.
It was a photo. At the bottom of the photo, a message was typed:
Still sure u want 2 go thru with this?
#1 Without a Trace
#2 A Race Against Time
#3 False Notes
#4 High Risk
#5 Lights, Camera…
#7 The Stolen Relic
#8 The Scarlet Macaw Scandal
#9 Secret of the Spa
#10 Uncivil Acts
#11 Riverboat Ruse
#12 Stop the Clock
#13 Trade Wind Danger
#14 Bad Times, Big Crimes
#16 Dangerous Plays
#17 En Garde
#18 Pit of Vipers
#19 The Orchid Thief
#20 Getting Burned
#21 Close Encounters
#22 Dressed to Steal
#23 Troubled Waters
#24 Murder on the Set
#25 Trails of Treachery
#26 Fishing for Clues
#28 Mardi Gras Masquerade
#29 The Stolen Bones
#30 Pageant Perfect Crime
#31 Perfect cover
#32 Perfect Escape
#33 Secret Identity
#34 Identity Theft
#35 Identity Revealed
#36 Model Crime
#37 Model Menace
Available from Aladdin
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
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re we ready to par-tee down?” my friend Bess Marvin asked with an impish grin as she climbed into the backseat of my Prius. Next to me, in the passenger seat, my friend George Fayne groaned. She and Bess might be cousins, but their personalities are
“Ready as I’m going to get,” I replied, pulling out of Bess’s driveway. “Hopefully this party will be a little quieter than the last one we went to.”
“You mean, we won’t catch any criminals?” George asked, faking a disappointed pout. “I do so love a party that ends with someone being led away in handcuffs.”
I smiled. The three of us were headed to a joint bachelor/bachelorette party for George and Bess’s cousin, Sydney Marvin. Syd was scheduled to get married in a week, and so far, the preparations for her wedding had been a little
exciting. First Syd got a very creepy reply card in the mail. Instead of just information about who would be coming to the wedding and whether he or she would bring a guest, this card was printed to look like the original invitation, and read:
RSVP: I WILL ATTEND.
BUT IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S BEST
FOR YOU, SYDNEY, YOU
Sydney is a pretty successful model, so if this had been the only strange incident, we might have written it off as a practical joke from an overzealous fan. But then, within hours of arriving in town, her fiancé, Vic, was sent to the hospital after someone tried to poison his drink with jet fuel! Thankfully he’d come out of it fine, but just days later, Syd was the victim of another attack—this time she was given a lei infested with tiny biting ants. That may sound odd—what do leis have to do with wedding preparations?—but truthfully, this whole wedding is a little odd. For one thing, it’s being filmed by the producers of
the reality television competition, as a TV special. And for another, the wedding seems to be under attack. It looks like
out there really doesn’t want to see Syd and Vic say “I do.”
“Has Syd mentioned any more creepy e-mails or texts?” I asked my friends as I pulled into the parking lot for Mead, a medieval-themed chain restaurant that would be hosting the party. Over the last few weeks, Syd had received a couple threatening e-mails—all sent from public computers—and at least one scary text message.
Bess shook her head. “Nothing since the shower,” she replied. At Syd’s bridal shower, we’d gotten at least some answers as to why the wedding seemed to be cursed. Putting two and two together, I’d realized that a friend and fellow model to Syd, Candy Kaine, was the most likely suspect for wedding saboteur. When we’d questioned her, she’d admitted it: she had sent the RSVP card, given Syd the ant-infested lei, and even wrapped up a scary reminder of a stalker Syd had dealt with in the past—a Mr. Silhouette—as a “present” for the blushing bride. Oddly, though, she claimed not to know anything about the e-mails or the jet fuel incident. At first I had assumed she was lying and just didn’t want to be charged with any serious crimes, but then, after Candy had been questioned by the police and had her cell phone taken away, another creepy text arrived for Syd:
R UR FEET GETTING ANY COLDER?
And we’d known it wasn’t over.
“Maybe whoever’s trying to destroy the wedding got scared off by what happened to Candy,” Bess suggested.
“What?” George asked. “You mean how the police determined she hadn’t committed any serious offenses, and how she
just flew back to New York today because she felt awkward? I don’t know if that’s going to scare anyone off.”
Bess shrugged. “No, I mean that she was caught at all.” She glanced at me. “Whoever’s doing this must know that Nancy’s on the case. You know, that someone’s paying attention. That might be enough to convince them to cool it.”
I pulled into a parking space as close to the front door as I could get, which wasn’t very close at all. It looked like this was going to be a huge party. “Maybe,” I allowed. “But if this person is Mr. Silhouette, I don’t think attention will be enough to scare him off. That’s exactly what stalkers want: attention. And if he can’t get the good kind—befriending Syd, or getting her to fall for him—he’ll take the bad kind, by just scaring her to death.”
George shuddered. “Gosh, this has to be so weird for Syd. It’s one of the happiest times of her life, and this totally creepy thing is taking away from that.”
I nodded grimly, unclipping my seat belt. “That’s why we’re going to catch whoever’s behind this A-S-A-P.”
We got out of the car and started strolling over to the entrance. As we got closer, I saw that the entire restaurant was surrounded by security guards watching every exit and even the big windows! At the front door, where members of the production crew were already clustered, trying to make sure only wedding party members and invitees got in, a group of security guards were further examining all the entrants. I noted that a large metal detector had been installed in front of the entrance, and guards were forcing all partygoers through it, as well as examining the contents of all their bags and pockets. Donald, the geeky production assistant we’d met before, was checking people’s names off of a list.
“Jeez,” George murmured. “They’re really taking this threat seriously!”
Bess nodded. “Yeah, I think that’s how they convinced Syd to go ahead with this party at all,” she replied. “After all, she and Vic didn’t really want bachelor or bachelorette parties, but the producers were pushing hard for it. When Syd told them what happened after her shower, they agreed to guard this place like Fort Knox if Syd would just agree to attend the party.”
Fishing our invitations out of our pockets and purses, we began the long process of being vetted by production and then again by the security crew. Finally we were able to make our way inside.
“Wow,” breathed Bess as we entered the main restaurant—a huge room, complete with jousting ring, that had been decorated in a soft rose-pink, Syd’s color. Hundreds of tiny lights twinkled in arrangements hanging from the ceiling, and small votive candles made every table glow. Gorgeous floral arrangements graced each table, and larger ones circled the jousting ring and dining area.
“I guess we should be used to TV-budget-decorating by now,” George observed. “But you know, it never gets old.”
We walked in among the tables, glancing down to locate our names on the place cards. The three of us were at a table with the three other remaining bridesmaids and their dates. But most of the partygoers who’d arrived so far were wandering the room, enjoying some mouthwatering-looking appetizers, and chatting. Bess, George, and I put our things down and walked over to a group of familiar faces.
Ellie Marvin, Syd’s mother and Bess and George’s aunt, smiled when she saw us approach. “Well, my favorite bridesmaids have made it.” She greeted us with a smile, pulling each of us toward her in turn for a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “How are you girls? Ready to celebrate?”
“We’re all doing well,” Bess replied. “How’s Syd? She’s not here yet, is she?”
Ellie’s smile seemed to flicker. “She just called—she’s on her way from the hotel.”
I asked with a frown. Syd had been staying at her parents’ house—at least up until the disastrous shower.
Ellie nodded, her mouth tight. “The producers felt it would be best.” She glanced around, then leaned in toward us and dropped her tone to a whisper. “Safer. They felt they could keep a better eye on her there. With, you know, all this…”
Her voice ran out, and Ellie shook her head as if she were shaking off a terrible thought.
“The person sending these messages,” George supplied in a whisper, placing a comforting hand on her aunt’s shoulder.
“You know Nancy’s on the case, don’t you?” Bess asked her aunt, gesturing grandly at yours truly. “It’s only a matter of time till we catch this mystery joker. Nancy never lets a crook get away!”
Ellie nodded, smiling at me warmly. “Well, you did find out the truth about Candy,” she said. “Not that
got what she deserved…”
“The police decided she hadn’t committed any major offenses, right?” George asked.
“Right.” Ellie sighed. “But more than that, Syd told them that she didn’t want to press charges. Candy was her friend, she hadn’t caused any lasting damage…” Ellie waved her hand in the air, shaking her head as though she couldn’t make sense of her daughter’s decision.
There was some truth to what Sydney decided: Candy’s offenses were more annoying than actually harmful. She’d caused headaches for Syd without permanently hurting anyone. Whoever was behind the rest of the attacks, though, was anything but harmless. He or she had tried to poison Vic with jet fuel, and their messages for Syd were creepy and threatening.
“Oh well,” Ellie concluded. “That’s just one of the many things Syd and I have disagreed on as we’ve prepared for this wedding. If it was up to me, you know…” She gestured dismissively to the decorations and camera crew, which was still setting up. “I wonder if this whole reality TV business has made Syd
Bess looked confused. “I thought you and Syd had both changed your mind about that,” she said quietly. “I know in the beginning, neither of you liked the TV idea, but…”
think it’s in Syd’s best interest overall,” Ellie replied, but her face remained skeptical. Strangely, it almost looked to me as if she were reading off a cue card. “I didn’t like the idea at first, but…but…” Ellie sighed and shook her head. “Ignore me,” she said finally. “I’m just a stressed-out mother of the bride at the end of her rope. But I’m sure the wedding will go beautifully.”
With that, she smiled, patted each of us on our shoulders, and walked away.
“Hmm,” I murmured, glancing at each of my friends. “There’s something strange about Ellie and this whole television business, isn’t there?”
George nodded. “I know, officially, she’s happy the TV crew is here,” she replied. “I just wish you could have heard some of the terrible things she said about TV weddings before she changed her mind.”
“And then,” Bess added, “she pulled a complete one-eighty. The TV show went from the most despicable thing in the world to this great idea.”
I nodded, thinking. “I know what motivated Syd to go along with it,” I said. “Money. She and Vic will be able to buy a house and more with what they’re making off this wedding. But Ellie…I just don’t understand why she’s suddenly okay with it.”
George caught my eye, looking suspicious. “Do you think she’s
really okay with it?” she asked.
I shrugged. “Someone’s trying to stop this wedding,” I said. “If she still wanted Syd to have a small wedding in a church…”
“But Aunt Ellie would never hurt Syd,” Bess insisted.
“Whoever’s doing this never really did,” I pointed out. “They’ve sent messages to convince her to stop the wedding…but the only person they’ve tried to hurt is Vic, with the jet fuel.”
George shook her head. “I still just can’t see Aunt Ellie hurting anyone,” she said. “I don’t think she was crazy about Vic at first, but…I just can’t picture it.”
At that moment a cheer went through the crowd, and the three of us turned to see the happy couple-to-be, Vic and Syd, beaming as they walked into the room.
“Look at her,” Bess said with a smile as we watched Syd take in the room, exclaiming over every beautiful decoration. “You’d never know she wanted to cancel this party.”
“Maybe she changed her mind,” I suggested.
“Or maybe she’s just becoming a better actress,” George guessed.
Syd looked beautiful in a green silk wrap dress that accented her eyes, her long hair pinned up in a loose bun. As she moved through the room, greeting guests and accepting compliments, she truly seemed to be glowing with happiness.
Until she reached us. As soon as Syd spotted me, her blissed-out expression seemed to melt into one of concern verging on panic. “Nancy,” she hissed, taking my hand. “Thank goodness you’re here. I’m so worried our little friend is going to strike again!” She glanced around, trying to hide her fear from the other guests, then turned back to me. “Have you learned anything new? Is there anything you can tell me?”
I shook my head regretfully. Despite tons of Internet research and a whole lot of thought, I still had no idea who was threatening her wedding. “But I’ll find the person,” I promised her. “Just you wait.”
Syd squeezed my hand and nodded. Just then Donald Hibbard, the mousy young production assistant, stepped into the middle of the room and raised his hand to get everyone’s attention. “Hello?” he asked, his voice barely audible in the huge space. “Can I have everyone’s attention?”
It took at least five minutes, but with people in the crowd helping out, finally everyone quieted down enough to hear what Donald was trying to tell us.
“We’re going to begin filming the party,” he explained. “First we’ll all eat dinner, and then we’ll enjoy Mead’s medieval-themed floor show. After that the men and women will break into two separate groups and enjoy their bachelor and bachelorette parties in the event rooms downstairs.”
“Whoopee,” George whispered sarcastically.
“I think, in this case, ‘bachelorette party’ just means, you know—a party,” Bess explained. “Syd and Vic wanted this to be the kind of event people could bring their kids to.”
Donald was still trying to urge people to their seats, but everyone had started chatting after he announced the plan, and it seemed he had lost control of the room. I felt a little sorry for him as he gestured and yelled and tried to get everyone’s attention back with his soft-spoken voice. Finally Hans Eberhart, the very talented but impatient director of the reality show, spoke up.
“Everyone sit down!”
he shouted, his voice loud enough to cut through the chatter. “That is, if you want to get any sleep tonight. And I know