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Authors: Carolyn Keene

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BOOK: Rendezvous in Rome
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“Your clothes are on the bed,” Alexa added. “I'm off to the café to wait for Fabio. I don't want to be here if anyone does break in. I hope you'll be very careful.”

Nancy promised she would be. Once she was alone she went into the bedroom and closed the door. She put the velvet bag in the top drawer of the nightstand. Then she slipped into the black turtleneck and stirrup pants she had brought over from the pensione. After lacing up her black sneakers, she looked in the bedroom mirror. The dark clothes would make it difficult for the thief to see her. She gave her reflection a satisfied nod, then slipped out through the French doors onto the balcony.

A full moon hung over Rome, bathing the city in a gentle white light. A band played somewhere in the distance. Nancy was leaning against the side of the building, enjoying the evening air, when she heard a knock on the door. Instantly alert, she crouched down next to the double doors. Through
the windows of the French doors she had a perfect view of the bedroom.

After a few moments the door to the bedroom opened, and a tall silhouette stood in the doorway between the two rooms. It was a man dressed in black, wearing a ski mask. He tiptoed over to the bathroom and looked inside. Then he began to search the room.

It didn't take long before he opened the nightstand drawer and took out the velvet bag. As he did, Nancy opened the balcony doors and stepped into the room.

“Stop where you are,” she said. “The police are downstairs.”

The thief froze for a minute, then broke for the door. Nancy grabbed him, trying to throw him off balance, but he managed to pull away. She then launched a karate kick. The man nimbly jumped to the side, then grabbed Nancy's arms.

Nancy struggled to break free enough to reach his mask. She didn't have to overpower him, she told herself. She only had to see his face.

Suddenly the thief shoved Nancy backward into the dresser. She tumbled, hitting her knee as she fell. Sharp pain shot through her, slowing her down for a moment.

Before she could get up the man stuffed the velvet bag into his pocket and dashed into the living room, swinging the door between the two rooms closed behind him. Springing to her feet, Nancy grabbed the handle. She was locked in!

Chapter

Twelve

N
ANCY HEARD THE
suite's outside door slam. Desperately she tugged at the bedroom door again, but it didn't budge. He was getting away!

The balcony! she suddenly remembered. It opened off both rooms. She raced outside, flung open the balcony doors to the living room, then ran for the suite's outside door.

The hall was empty, but there was a clatter in the stairwell. She had told the thief that the police were downstairs, Nancy remembered. He probably didn't trust the elevator.

As quickly as her painful knee would let her, Nancy ran to the stairs. The thief was about one floor below, swinging downward as fast as he could. She could hear him, and occasionally she caught a glimpse of his ski mask. But she knew she wasn't going to be able to catch him.

The lobby door closed with a bang as Nancy rounded the last flight of stairs. She slammed the door open as she went through after him.

The place was in an uproar. Signor Andreotti was sitting on the floor, his face red. “He went that way!” he yelled, pointing at the main door.

Nancy paused, torn between following the thief and helping Signor Andreotti.

“Don't worry about me, I'm fine,” he roared, seeing her indecision. “Get that little
cretino!”

Nancy ran outside in time to see the thief leap onto a dark-colored Vespa in front of the hotel. A silver decal flashed as he swung his leg over the motor scooter. She ran for her own Vespa, reaching it just as he squealed away.

Nancy's engine roared to life, and she was after him, racing through the streets. He turned onto a cobblestone road, trying, to lose her on the twists and turns. She followed closely, but he was weaving so much that she didn't know which turns he was taking until she was almost on them.

Looking behind him to see where Nancy was, the thief took a turn too tightly. The Vespa hit the corner of a building and smashed its taillight. He wavered for a minute, then regained his balance in time to make another quick turn, to the left.

Nancy followed him and found herself in a tiny piazza. Roads ran off to her right and left, but the dark Vespa was nowhere in sight. She could hear the engine, but the sound bounced around the piazza, and she couldn't tell where it was coming from. She had lost him.

Nancy's knee ached. Sighing in frustration, she drove back slowly to the Belvedere. Bess and Signor Andreotti were gone, but there was a message from Bess saying she'd gone back to their pensione. When Nancy got back, Bess was waiting up for her.

“From the look on your face, your news is as bad as mine,” Bess said.

Nancy sank into the overstuffed chair. “You didn't see him, then?” she asked.

Bess shook her head. “I took a few families up to the top floor, and several couples came down. But I didn't see any guy on his own. And Signor Andreotti didn't get a look at him, either. The guy totally bowled him over.”

“I feel awful about losing that necklace,” Nancy said, resting her chin in her hands. “The thief must have taken the other elevator and walked up the last two flights. I guess I should have called the police. I was just sure that one of us would see his face!”

“So we don't know any more now than we did before,” Bess mused.

“Well, we know the thief is a young man,” Nancy said. “And he has a dark-colored Vespa, with a silver decal on the side. He busted his taillight trying to get away from me, too.”

“Not to mention that he was at the party tonight,” Bess added. “That narrows it down.”

“To Massimo, Sandro, and a few others,” Nancy said. “I guess we know what we're doing in the morning—trying to match dark Vespas with people who were at the party.”

“Not first thing,” Bess said, shooting Nancy a secretive smile. “I have a little surprise first.”

Nancy looked at Bess questioningly. “What?”

“You have to wait until morning,” Bess said mysteriously. “I promise you it's a good surprise.”

• • •

“Okay, Bess,” Nancy said the next morning, casting one last glance in the mirror at the sleeveless white blouse and flowered shorts she wore. “What's the big secret? I can't wait anymore.”

Bess only said, “All in good time.” Nancy was dying of curiosity as Bess led her to the outdoor café down the block. Bess murmured something to the waiter, and Nancy was surprised when he showed them to a table where someone else was already sitting. A blond guy was there, turned away from them so that Nancy could see only his profile and dark glasses.

Then he turned his head and slipped the glasses off his nose. It was Mick Devlin!

A smile spread slowly across his handsome face as he watched Nancy come toward him. Then he stood up, opened his arms, and scooped her into them, hugging her tightly.

“Mick,” Nancy gasped, pulling away. Her heart was pounding wildly. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to do this,” he said. His eyes held her as he curled one hand around the back of her neck and covered her mouth in a kiss that seemed to go on forever.

Bess noisily cleared her throat. “If I had known you'd get so lost in each other, I wouldn't have come along!” she teased.

Nancy blushed and untangled herself. She smoothed her hair, then took the chair next to Mick, while Bess sat on his other side.

“So really,” she said, composing herself, “what are you doing here?”

Just then their waiter came over to take their order. Mick waited until he was gone before answering Nancy's question. “Really, I came to see you.” He couldn't seem to stop smiling. “I was tired of Geneva, and I missed you guys.”

Nancy was still feeling stunned. “But how did you find us?”

“I remembered Claudia's name, so I called her up. Don't worry, no strings attached,” Mick added quickly. “But we had a good time in Geneva, right? And we made a good team while you were solving your mystery.”

“Well, we've stumbled into another one,” Bess told him. “Funny how that happens when Nancy's around. Maybe you can help us with this one, too.”

Over pastries and fruit Nancy and Bess filled Mick in on the events of the past week. Nancy could hardly keep her mind on what she was saying—her heart skipped a beat every time Mick smiled.

When she was done, Mick took her hand in his and fixed her with his deep green eyes. “Looks like I have a lot of lost time to make up for,” he said. “And a few bumps on the head that someone needs to pay for. What's your next step? Are you going to see this Massimo character?”

Nancy nodded. “And call Signor Andreotti to make sure he's okay.”

“Well, we might be wrapping up this mystery any second,” Bess pointed out. “Maybe we should wait until we have some news for him.”

“Massimo first, then,” Mick said, signaling for the waiter. “And I hope you won't mind if I come along for the ride.”

Nancy returned Mick's grin and caught Bess looking at her. Romance was the best part of life to Bess, Nancy knew, regardless of whose romance it was. And right now, Nancy had to agree!

The teenagers unlocked their Vespas and set off for Piazza Navona, with Mick riding behind Nancy. Feeling Mick's arms wrapped loosely around her, Nancy resisted the urge to lean her head back into his shoulder. Get a grip on yourself, Drew, she told herself sternly. Yesterday you had written this guy off. Today the least you can do is keep your head long enough to catch the jewelry thief.

The two Vespas buzzed down to Piazza Navona. Nancy spotted Massimo right away. He was sitting on his stool, watching the tourists.

“I'll take Mick over and introduce him,” Bess offered after the girls had parked their Vespas. “Kind of a diversion, you know. That way you can look around for Massimo's Vespa.”

Mick gave Nancy a thumbs-up sign. “She's separating us already,” he joked, heading toward the jewelry stand.

Nancy nosed around in the rack of motor scooters, looking for Massimo's. She had no trouble
identifying the black Vespa by the license plate, which read Bianco 1. The Vespa was dirty, but even as she rubbed the dirt from the body she couldn't find any trace of a decal. Then she checked the taillight. It was intact and very dirty, Nancy saw. This definitely wasn't the Vespa she had chased the night before.

The sound of another Vespa motor made Nancy look up. Claudia was just pulling up on her moped. Bluish circles under her eyes clearly showed her lack of sleep. She looked upset.

“I have to talk to you,” she told Nancy, not even bothering to say hello. “I have some news.”

“If you tracked us here, it must be important.”

“Actually, you were gone, so I was coming to see Massimo.” Claudia paused and gazed at the jewelry stand. She didn't seem to know how to begin.

“I have some news, too,” Nancy said. “We set a trap for the thief last night, but he got away.”

Claudia didn't look surprised. “What happened?” she asked.

Briefly Nancy told her about the trap and the chase through the streets. “I thought it was Massimo, but his Vespa isn't the one that the thief was riding,” she concluded.

Claudia gave a half nod. “Is that Mick Devlin with Bess?” she asked, changing the subject. Nancy turned and saw Bess and Mick heading back their way.

“Yes,” Nancy replied. “I heard he called you to find us. Thanks for keeping his call a secret. I was really surprised.”

A cloud crossed Claudia's face as Nancy said the
word
secret.
She greeted Bess and gave Mick two air kisses, then turned back to Nancy. “I want to show you something,” she said, getting back on her Vespa. “Follow me.”

Nancy exchanged puzzled looks with Bess and Mick. They all got on their bikes and rode away from the square, with Claudia out in front. Soon Nancy recognized the route Claudia was taking. Within minutes they rode up the ramp of the Theater of Marcellus and pulled into the parking lot.

The first thing Nancy saw was a midnight blue Vespa next to where Claudia had parked. The taillight was broken. Nancy ran her hand over the seat as she walked around it. A shiny decal on the body proclaimed
Roma
in silver letters.

“This is it!” she said excitedly, digging in her purse to write down the license plate number. “Claudia, you're brilliant!”

Nancy pulled out a piece of paper and started to write, but Claudia stopped her.

“There is no need for that,” Claudia said.

“What do you mean?” Nancy asked, looking up.

A tear trickled down Claudia's cheek, and she spoke so softly that Nancy could hardly hear her. “The bike belongs to Sandro.”

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BOOK: Rendezvous in Rome
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