The Case of the Photo Finish (12 page)

BOOK: The Case of the Photo Finish
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“Where is it, you dirty thief?” Eric demanded. “What did you do with my film?”

“Get your hands off me!” Steve scoffed, pushing Eric away. “I never touched your film!”

“You knew you couldn't win the contest fair and square, right?” Eric continued, his fists
clenched. “So you cheated and stole instead. I ought to flatten your nose!”

“Eric,” Nancy said calmly, taking his elbow. “Getting into a fight isn't going to help you find the missing pictures.”

Willy had stepped in between the two photographers and was talking in a low voice to Steve, who said, “You think I'm going to let him call me names like that?”

Willy kept talking, and finally Steve said, “Okay, okay!” He took a step forward and said, “Listen, Eric, I didn't steal your film, and I'm sorry it's gone.” He took his camera bag and opened it so Eric could see its contents. “Here. Take a look if you don't believe me.”

Nancy handed Eric the flashlight. He looked in the bag, but his film wasn't there. “If I was wrong in saying you did it, I'm sorry,” he said grudgingly. “But I'm warning you, I still mean to win the
Athletics Weekly
contest. I have all my black-and-white shots in a safe place, and some of them would knock your socks off!”

The tension had eased, and once again everyone began to get ready to leave.

Nancy went over to Eric and took him aside. “What exactly was on those rolls?” she asked.

“I told you, all the color shots I've taken since arriving in River Heights.”

Nancy thought quickly. That meant the rolls he'd shot during the ceremony at City Hall were
gone—including any pictures of someone pushing Cheryl off the stands. “Would the missing pictures include Cheryl winning the hundred-meter sprint today?” she asked. “Could you have gotten a picture of someone doing something they shouldn't?”

Eric shook his head. “No. I'm planning to shoot tomorrow's final with high-speed color film, but today I used black-and-white.”

“What about this morning, at the swimming pool? I remember you were using two cameras. Was one of them loaded with color?”

“Sure,” he replied.

“Did you take any pictures just before the lights went out? Is there any chance you got a shot of the person who turned them off? That would be solid proof of who's been harassing Cheryl.”

Eric thought for a moment, then shook his head. “Nope,” he said. “No way. I remember I was focusing on Cheryl, hoping to get her in middive. I had my back to the entrance at that point.”

“Oh, well.” Nancy sighed. “It was an idea, anyway.”

“Maybe this is just more harassment,” Eric said. “Maybe somebody simply doesn't want Cheryl to have the kind of publicity she'd get if I win the contest.”

“Nancy?” Carson Drew called from the car. “We have to go.”

“Right, Dad,” she replied. “Okay, Eric, thanks. And don't worry too much. I have a feeling that you'll get your film back.”

“I hope so,” he said in a gloomy voice. “There are a lot of shots I'd hate to lose. See you tomorrow.”

A few minutes later, Nancy waved goodbye and then got into her father's car. Carson Drew pulled up in front of the house where Willy was staying.

“I'll get out here, too,” Cheryl said, “and walk back later.”

“Are you sure you know the way?” Mr. Drew asked.

“I still have my map,” she replied. “Don't worry, I won't be very long. Remember, I'm in training.”

“All right,” Nancy's father said. “But be careful walking home. We'll leave the front door open. Be sure to lock it after you come in.

After she and her father returned home, Nancy sat down at the desk in her room and made up a chart. Down the left margin she wrote the names of all the people who had any connection with the case: Helga, Marta, Cheryl, Barbara, Steve, Eric, Ramsay, Willy, and Annelise.

Across the top she listed all the important incidents, beginning with Cheryl's near-fall from the stands during the welcoming ceremony at.
City Hall and ending with the theft of Eric's undeveloped film.

Next Nancy began to fill in the boxes on the chart. For each incident, all of the people got a check if they could have been responsible for it, an
X
if they couldn't have, or a question mark if she wasn't sure. She had planned to circle the boxes where she didn't know what to put, but to her surprise, there weren't any. She knew more about everyone's whereabouts and actions than she had realized.

Once she completed the chart, she sat back and examined it closely. Whom could she eliminate? Ramsay, certainly; he hadn't been anywhere nearby during some of the major incidents. What about Steve? He had several check marks. For that matter, Cheryl, Marta, Helga, Eric, Barbara, Willy, and Annelise all had some X's, too.

Nancy tossed her ballpoint down on the desk in disgust. The only thing the chart proved was that there were plenty of suspects! To make matters worse, if more than one person was involved—if, for instance, Cheryl was harassing Marta and Helga was harassing Cheryl—then no one person could be eliminated just because he or she couldn't have committed
all
the tricks. She hoped the magazine George had would provide some concrete proof, but she wouldn't know that until the next morning.

A yawn that felt as if it would crack her jaw reminded Nancy that she had been up and active since daybreak. After taking another long look at the chart, she put it away and started getting ready for bed.

• • •

The following morning, the weather was perfect—sunny and clear, with just enough of a breeze to keep it from being too warm. For a moment, Nancy turned her face up toward the sun, eyes closed. Then a burst of applause from the stands called her back to reality. A hurdles race had just ended. Even before the results were announced, a dozen uniformed aides scurried onto the track to remove the hurdles and prepare the track for the next event.

“Oh, there you are,” Barbara said, coming up to Nancy. “I was looking for you. I hear from Steve that I missed a pretty exciting evening last night.”

“I guess you could say that,” Nancy replied. “How are you doing?”

“My interviews are going pretty well but the reason I was looking for you . . .” She paused to clear her throat, looking embarrassed. “You know that story I passed along to you yesterday?”

“About Helga and the Olympics, you mean?” Nancy leaned forward.

“Uh-huh. I thought it was a terrific story, especially the way it tied in to what's been going
on here. So I've been going around talking to people, trying to dig up more material.” She fell silent.

“And?” Nancy prodded.

“And it looks like it's just a lot of nasty gossip,” Barbara admitted. “The guy who told me about the accusations—the sportswriter? He seems to have a long-standing grudge against Helga. I couldn't find out why.”

“But what about the accusations themselves?” asked Nancy.

“The word is that they were made by a runner whose father is a very important politician in her home country. Apparently, she's not much of an athlete, but the others on her team, including the coach, were very eager to find excuses for her poor showing. The accusation against Helga was one of the things they came up with.”

“I see,” Nancy said, disappointed. That meant the case was just as open-ended as ever. Excusing herself, Nancy set off across the field to look for George. She must have arrived by now with the magazine, but Nancy hadn't seen her yet.

She turned in surprise as a hand touched her arm. “Just the person I'm looking for,” Nancy said, smiling.

“I just got here,” George explained. “I stayed home until after Helga and Marta left. I didn't want to take the chance of them seeing me with their magazine.”

“Do you have it with you?” Nancy asked.

George patted her oversize shoulder bag. “Right here.” George reached into her bag, pulled out the magazine, and handed it to Nancy. On the cover was a dynamic color photo of four men charging down a track, knees high and arms pumping like mad. Across the top, in big red letters, were the words
Der Läufer.

Nancy thumbed through to page twenty-three. Just as George had said, the page had been torn out, so roughly and hastily that a large corner of the photo of Cheryl still clung to the center of the magazine.

Nancy stared at it. “But—” she began. Then she thrust the magazine back into George's hands, opened her own shoulder bag, and found the brown envelope that contained the previous day's threatening notes. “Look at this,” she told George.

“It's the same, all right,” George said, “I guess that proves it.”

“If it proves anything, it proves that Helga and Marta are innocent,” Nancy proclaimed. “This photo was neatly cut from the magazine with a pair of scissors, not torn out. And this corner of the picture is still inside Marta's copy.”

George stared at Nancy. “Then who—”

“Someone else who had a copy of the magazine,” Nancy cut in. “Someone like Eric, who got a copy because his photo was in it. Or any of the
German-speaking runners could have brought a copy.”

“And anyone else might have stolen it from them,” George pointed out, “if they wanted a picture of Cheryl and knew one was in it.”

Nancy pounded her thigh with her fist. “Every time I think I'm starting to get somewhere with this case, the evidence turns out to point fourteen different ways instead of one! And the awful part is, I'm sure I'm forgetting or overlooking something crucial. It's right here”—she tapped her temple—“but I just don't know what it is.”

“It'll come to you, Nancy,” George remarked. “It always does.”

“Hey, listen!” Nancy said excitedly. “The announcer is calling the finals of the girls' hundred-meter sprint. That's Cheryl's and Marta's big race. Come on!”

Nancy hurried across the field toward the starting line, with George close behind her. The finalists were already starting to take off their warm-up suits. After the uniform white suits, it was almost a shock to see jerseys and shorts in a rainbow of colors.

Nancy stopped so suddenly that George bumped into her. “Pink,” Nancy muttered to herself, looking at Cheryl's pink running shorts. “Pink . . . and white. Of course! I'm an idiot!”

George looked at her as if she were crazy, but Nancy paid no attention. Looking quickly toward
the track, Nancy saw that the runners were moving toward the starting blocks. Even from twenty feet away, Nancy could sense the tension between Cheryl and Marta.

“Come on!” Nancy cried, dragging George by the arm. “Let's get down to the finish line before it's too late!”

They raced toward the little crowd of officials and spectators, but before Nancy could ask the head finish-line judge to postpone the race, he blew his whistle. A split second later, the starter's pistol went off with a bang.

Nancy let out a cry of dismay. “George, I have a feeling something terrible is about to happen, and there's nothing we can do to stop it!”

16
Winners and Losers

The pack of girls dashed up the track toward the finish line. Soon they were close enough for Nancy and George to recognize faces. Cheryl and Marta were so evenly matched that it was impossible to tell which one was ahead. The crowd in the stands was on its feet and cheering wildly.

Suddenly, Nancy thought she saw Marta and Cheryl glance at each other instead of staying focused on the finish line. Apparently their concentration broke for a split second, and with it, their stride.

“Oh, no!” George wailed.

She and Nancy watched in amazement as the runner in third place surged into the lead. Two ticks of the clock later, and she was raising her arms to breast the tape.

Annelise had won the gold medal!

Marta and Cheryl were only inches behind her, still so evenly matched that Nancy had no idea which of them had reached the line first. Nancy had to speak loudly to be heard over the applause of the crowd. “I'll be right back,” she told George.

Nancy hurried toward the gym. She wanted to be sure to get to the locker room before the runners did. As she made her way across the field, she heard the announcer give the results of the race. The winner, of course, was Annelise Dumont, of Basel, Switzerland. Nancy noted that Annelise's time was a few hundredths of a second slower than Cheryl's time of the day before. That was surprising since in finals athletes usually turned in better times than in preliminary heats.

When Nancy entered the locker room, it was empty. She paused for a moment, trying to recall the location of the locker she was looking for. About halfway down the left side of the aisle, but which? The corner of one of the doors was slightly dented, and the paint was scratched. That was it! She rummaged quickly through her shoulder bag, found her lock-picking tools, and set to work on the locker door.

Just as the lock snapped open, she heard footsteps in the corridor. Glancing briefly over her shoulder, she tugged the locker door open.
Right in front of her, in a heap at the bottom of the locker, was the proof she was looking for!

She picked it up, gave it a quick inspection, shoved it into her shoulder bag, then slammed the locker closed. She hurried out of the locker room just as a woman wearing a security-guard uniform was coming in. The guard looked closely at Nancy but didn't stop her or ask any questions.

Nancy raced back to the track. Lionel Hornby was standing near the finish line, and the dismayed look on his face told Nancy that things weren't going smoothly.

Cheryl and Helga were arguing hotly with each other and with the finish judges and referee. Eric and Steve were taking picture after picture, and Barbara's pen raced across her pad. Willy was talking softly to George and Bess, while Marta stood by silently, a look of misery on her face. Annelise, alone, was hovering nearby as well. Her face looked almost as unhappy as Marta's.

BOOK: The Case of the Photo Finish
9.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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