The Case of the Photo Finish (3 page)

BOOK: The Case of the Photo Finish
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kind of honey?” asked Nancy.

“I don't know,” Cheryl admitted. “But who else would pull such a dirty trick on me? You heard the way that Helga talked to me. And it
German honey, isn't it?”

“But they're not the only Germans at the games, are they?”

“I guess not,” Cheryl admitted. “But they're the only ones
know. And I know I'm Marta's toughest rival. When we compete together, one or the other of us almost always wins.”

The telephone rang, and a moment later, Hannah Gruen, the Drews' housekeeper, called up to Nancy. Hannah had worked for the Drews since the death of Nancy's mother, when Nancy was just three. She was almost a member of the family.

“The phone's for you,” Hannah said. “It's George, and she sounds upset.”

“Excuse me a moment,” Nancy said.
“Why don't you take all your things down to the kitchen so we can start cleaning them up.”

Nancy went downstairs and took the call in her father's study. Hannah was right. George
upset. “Can you come right over?” she asked. “I've got an international incident brewing over here. Helga is accusing Cheryl of theft, and she's threatening to call the police.”

“ ‘Theft'?” Nancy repeated. “What kind of theft?”

“I don't know,” George replied. “Every time I ask her a question, she makes another long speech in German. But she's plenty mad, I can tell you that.”

Nancy lowered her voice and said, “I've got a problem here, too. But I think it's under control for the moment. I'll be right over.”

She hung up and went to the kitchen, where Cheryl and Hannah were looking at the honey-coated clothes and discussing the best way to clean them. Nancy didn't want to alarm Cheryl with Helga's accusation until she knew more about it, so she simply announced that she had to go out for a few minutes.

Cheryl, who seemed preoccupied with cleaning her gear, just said, “Okay. I'll see you later.”

Nancy hopped into her Mustang, but a few minutes later she regretted her decision to drive the short distance to the Fayne house instead of
walking. She got stuck behind a sanitation truck that was creeping along its rounds, and it took forever before the truck finally pulled over far enough for her to pass. One of the sanitation men waved as she went by, and she gave him a tap of the horn in reply.

George was waiting for Nancy on her front steps. “Hosting an athlete isn't turning out to be as much fun as I was expecting,” George remarked with a wry smile.

“Is Helga still mad?” Nancy asked.

George rolled her eyes. “Wait'll you hear!”

Nancy followed George into the house. The German trainer was standing in the middle of the living room with a stormy look on her face. Marta was sitting on the couch, looking scared.

Helga took one look at Nancy and said, “You are not the police.”

“No, I'm not,” Nancy agreed, keeping her voice friendly. “But I've worked closely with the police many times. Won't you tell me what the problem is?”

“You are a friend of Cheryl Pierce, no?”

Nancy shook her head. “Not really. Cheryl is staying at my house, just as you and Marta are staying at George's. I met Cheryl this morning for the first time. Why?”

“I wish to accuse her of theft and attempted sabotage,” Helga replied.

“Those are serious charges,” Nancy said. “What was stolen? And what kind of sabotage?”

“Cheryl Pierce is trying to destroy Marta's training regime by taking a most important item from her diet.”

“From her diet?” Nancy repeated, looking at the older woman with new interest. “This item that was stolen—it wouldn't be a jar of honey, would it?” She recalled the jar label.

Helga stared at her. “How are you knowing this?” she asked. “It was not just any honey, but honey with a special food from the queen bee. Very rare, and very expensive.”

“She must be talking about what they call royal jelly,” George said to Nancy. “I've seen articles about it.”

“So have I,” Nancy said. “Ms. Roth, do you have any idea when and where this special honey was taken?”

“It was in Marta's bag—this morning. Now it is gone. Cheryl Pierce must have taken it while the bag was in the bus.”

Nancy frowned. First Cheryl's bag had been tampered with, and now Marta's.

“How could Cheryl have known the honey was there?” Nancy asked.

“Everyone on the bus knew. A person made a joke because Marta takes a spoonful with each meal,” Helga explained in a serious voice. “It is
not civilized to joke about a training regime like that. To try to ruin one is a crime.”

From the couch, Marta suddenly said, “This is very upsetting. I depend upon my diet. How will I run my best now?” She looked as if she were about to cry.

George went over to Marta and patted her shoulder. “Hey, no problem,” she said cheerfully. “There's a health food store a few blocks from here. I'm pretty sure I've seen honey with royal jelly there. Who knows? It might even be your brand.”

“Is this so?” Helga asked. She pulled a map of River Heights out of the pocket of her warm-up suit. “Will you please show me where? I will go at once.” A few moments later, she was on her way out the door.

“You must not mind Helga,” Marta said after her trainer had left. “She would do anything to help me become champion.”

“We noticed,” replied George with a laugh.

Nancy looked closely at the German girl, then exchanged a significant look with George. She knew George was wondering the same thing she was: Did “anything” include sabotaging Cheryl? Still, that didn't explain why Marta's things had also been tampered with.

Nancy was mulling over this when the Faynes' doorbell rang.

“Helga must have forgotten something,” George said, leaving the room. She returned with a young woman who was carrying a briefcase.

“This is Barbara Williams,” George said. “She's a reporter from
United Sports News.”

“Really?” said Nancy, regarding the young woman curiously. Although she was dressed in a suit, she didn't look old enough to be out of high school yet.

A blush rose to Barbara Williams's cheeks. “I'm not exactly—” she began. “I mean, I'm really freelance. But
said they were very interested in my project. I'm interviewing a lot of the athletes who've come to River Heights to take part in the high school games. Are you”—she pulled a list from her pocket and glanced at it—“Marta Schmidt?”

“I am Marta Schmidt,” Marta replied, standing up. “But I am not permitted to give interviews without my trainer present. I am sorry.”

“Oh, that's all right,” the reporter said quickly. “I understand. Different countries, different customs, right? When will your trainer be available?”

“She left for only a little while,” said Marta. “If you can come back in half an hour—”

The telephone rang before the reporter could reply. George answered it, pressed a button to put the call on hold, then beckoned to Marta. “It's for you,” she said.

Looking surprised, Marta took the receiver. George pushed the button a second time to release the hold, but her finger accidentally pressed the speaker button at the same time.

“Marta Schmidt,” a thickly accented voice said from the phone's built-in speaker.

George reached to turn off the speaker, but Nancy grabbed her arm.

“This is a warning, Marta Schmidt. Pay close attention.” The voice was drowned out for a few seconds by a loud grinding, scraping noise. Then it continued. “You will quit the games and go back to Germany. If you do not, the results will be very bad for you. This will be your only warning. Quit the games . . . or else!”

New Information

The menacing voice fell silent. There was a click, then the sound of a dial tone.

For a moment, Marta continued to hold the receiver so tightly that her knuckles were white. Finally she replaced the receiver in its cradle, but the look of fear on her face remained.

Barbara Williams broke the tense silence. “Wow!” she exclaimed. “Was that supposed to be some kind of joke?”

“If it was, it's not a very funny one,” George commented.

“This is horrible,” Marta said in a tight voice. “Who is this person to tell me to quit the games and go home? He has no right!”

“He?” asked Nancy. “Or she? What did the rest of you think? Could that have been a woman's voice as well as a man's?”

“It sounded like a man to me,” Barbara replied.

“I'm not so sure,” George said. “I guess it could have been a woman. What kind of accent was that? German?”

“I think not,” Marta said. “It is not easy to tell in a foreign language, but I think that person was not German.”

“Wait a minute,” Nancy said. “That noise in the middle of the call, remember? It sounded like some kind of machinery, and there was a sort of scraping sound. What could it have been?”

Suddenly Nancy snapped her fingers. “Of course!” she exclaimed. “I've got it.”

She started for the door, and George called after her, “Where are you going, Nancy?”

Nancy looked over her shoulder and gave her friend a mysterious smile. “To catch up to some garbage,” she replied.

As she pulled her Mustang out of the Faynes' driveway, Nancy saw Helga walking down the block. In her hand she was carrying a small paper bag.

Hmm, Nancy thought, peering at the older woman. She had obviously found the health food store. Had she also had time to find a telephone and make the threatening call to Marta? It seemed unlikely that Helga would do anything to upset Marta during a competition, however—
unless she wanted to divert suspicion from herself and her prize pupil.

After circling the neighborhood twice, Nancy finally spotted the sanitation truck coming toward her. She passed it and continued down the block. Just as she had hoped, there was a pay phone on the next corner. Making a quick U-turn, Nancy caught up to the truck and pulled over to the curb.

“Hi,” she said as she walked over to the guy who had waved to her earlier. “I was wondering, did you happen to notice anyone making a call from the pay phone back on the corner, about five minutes ago?”

“Hey,” the man said with a smile, “I know you. You're Nancy Drew, right? I saw your picture in the paper a while back. You out detecting again?”

Nancy smiled back. “Something like that,” she replied.

“Way to go! Now, let me think.” He rubbed his chin and stared up into space for a moment. “Pay phone on the corner . . . Yeah, there
somebody there. I remember because I noticed whoever it was was wearing an all-white jogging suit. Not what you'd call super-practical, huh?”

Nancy nodded. “Did you notice anything else about the caller?”

He shook his head. “Nothing.”

“Was the person male, female, young, old, short, tall? What color hair?”

“Sorry. All I really saw was a couple of legs and elbows. The rest was hidden behind the phone. I wasn't really paying attention, anyway. You understand, I was busy doing my job.” He shrugged. “Look, I'm sorry, but we still have half the run to do. I've got to go.”

“Sure. Thanks for your help,” Nancy said.

As the truck started moving, the man called out, “Good luck with your case!”

Before driving off, Nancy thought over this latest development in the case. The white warm-up suit made it a safe bet that Marta's threatening caller was involved with the high school games, either as a competitor, an official, or a trainer.

She started her car and drove back to George's house. Barbara Williams was coming down the walk as she pulled up, and the young reporter looked depressed.

“You didn't get your interview?” Nancy guessed.

“Nope,” the reporter replied. “I tried every argument I could think of, but Marta's trainer flatly refused. She wouldn't let Marta say a single word. Just claimed she was tired and sent her to bed for a nap.” Barbara shrugged. “Oh, well, on to the next interview.”

She pulled a sheet of paper from her briefcase and consulted it, then looked around. “Whit-worth Drive. Have you ever heard of it?”

“I think it's in that new development near the country club,” Nancy replied. She looked curiously at the sheet of paper. “What is that? May I see?”

“It's just a list of the athletes and their hosts. It was in my press kit. I think all the athletes got one, too.”

Barbara held it out to her, and Nancy quickly glanced at it before handing the list back. “I see. I was wondering how you knew where to find Marta.” And how Marta's mysterious caller got George's phone number, she added to herself. The list was further proof that the caller was someone connected to the games.

“Well, I'd better get going,” Barbara said. “By the way, I didn't catch your name.”

“I'm Nancy Drew.”

Barbara's eyes widened. “The detective? I should have guessed! Say, are you planning to track down the person who threatened Marta Schmidt?”

“I'm going to try,” Nancy admitted.

“What a dynamite story! Will you let me in on what you find out? ‘Terror Stalks High School Games'—I can see the headlines now!”

Nancy grimaced. She wasn't sure she wanted the case getting a lot of publicity. It would only alarm the contestants and make everyone edgy, and that might interfere with her investigation.

“Maybe later,” Nancy hedged, “but for now I'd like to keep this quiet.”

• • •

As she drove home, Nancy drummed her fingers on the rim of the steering wheel, going over in her mind everything that had happened that day: Cheryl's “accident,” the spilled jar of honey that turned out to be stolen from Marta, and now the menacing call to Marta. Each girl seemed convinced that the other was out to ruin her chances in the meet. And maybe that was exactly what was happening, but somehow Nancy didn't think so. The question was, who else would want to hurt them?

BOOK: The Case of the Photo Finish
8.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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