The Case of the Photo Finish (7 page)

BOOK: The Case of the Photo Finish
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“Of course, Mr. Hornby,” Nancy replied.

Hornby took out one of his business cards, wrote something on the back of it, and handed it
to her. “This is a note instructing anyone connected with the games to cooperate fully with you,” he said. “If there's any difficulty, ask the person to speak to me. And good luck.”

The opening parade had come to an end, and the competitors had scattered. Those whose events were early on the day's schedule were warming up, while the rest watched and talked among themselves.

Nancy found George and Bess near the shot-put area, where the first round was about to begin. Ramsay Roberts, the red-haired Canadian Nancy had met the day before, noticed her arrival and waved. She waved back.

“Nancy,” Bess said in a low voice, “you've been holding out on us! Who is that gorgeous hunk?”

“His name is Ramsay,” Nancy replied with a laugh. “He's a shot-putter from Canada. And now you know just about as much as I do.”

“I want to know more,” Bess sighed.
more. It's not very far to Canada, after all.”

“Far enough,” George said matter-of-factly. She watched Ramsay for a moment. “Hmm—he's got pretty good form. I'll be surprised if he doesn't place.” Turning to Nancy, she asked, “What was that commotion at the start of the parade? Cheryl looked pretty unhappy.”

Nancy told them about the confrontation between Helga and Cheryl, and about Mr. Hornby
asking her to investigate. “I can't waste any time, either,” she continued. “The way the incidents are escalating, I'm afraid somebody is going to get seriously hurt before long.”

“Do you have any suspects?” asked Bess.

Nancy rolled her eyes. “Plenty,” she replied. “But first I have to figure out exactly who is the real target of these incidents. If it
Cheryl, then Marta and Helga are obvious suspects, and the so-called threatening calls are just a smoke screen.”

“I saw Marta's face this morning,” George said, “and I can tell you she wasn't faking. She was definitely scared out of her wits by that call.”

“Okay,” Nancy agreed. “But Helga could still have made the call herself, without Marta's knowledge. In fact, if Helga is behind the harassment, I would bet that she'd be very careful to protect Marta by keeping her in the dark.”

“I guess, but—Oh, wait, your Canadian friend over there is about to make his first put.”

Ramsay Roberts walked up to the cinder-covered shot-put circle. Holding the twelve-pound, brass-covered shot easily in his right hand, he stood at the rear of the circle. He brought his hand to his shoulder, and with the shot in his upturned palm, nestled the shot against his neck.

“I wish I had a camera,” Bess whispered.

“Shh!” hissed George. “He's winding up.”

In what seemed like slow motion, the Canadian athlete balanced on one foot and bent over so far that he looked as if he would topple. Suddenly, he whirled around and hurled the brass shot away, putting his arm, his shoulder, and his whole body into the motion. He seemed about to fall, but some fast footwork brought him upright, still inside the circle.

The spectators started to clap. The field judge who was measuring Ramsay's throw stood up and said, “Roberts, first put, sixty feet, four and three-quarters inches.”

Bess turned to George. “Is that good?” she asked.

“You bet,” George replied with an impressed nod. “At this level of competition, anything over fifty-five feet would probably place him in the top five.”

Nancy had watched his performance in silence. Now she commented, “Ramsay seems to hold a real grudge against Cheryl. She told me they had a brief romance that didn't work out. And from what we know at this point, Ramsay could have been behind any of the incidents.”

“No one with his looks could do anything like that,” Bess said emphatically.

George rolled her eyes.

“The problem with this case,” Nancy went on, “is that I have too many suspects. Besides Helga and Marta, there's Barbara, for instance. She may
have been at the track this morning because she got an anonymous tip, as she said. But she and her friend Steve could have put up that trip wire.”

“You mean, if there's no news, make some?” George said.

“I've heard of that happening. Hurting someone just to make a hot story is pretty extreme,” Nancy agreed, “but that means Eric's also in the running as a suspect.”

As the girls were waiting for the next shot-putter, Cheryl and Willy walked over to them. “Hi,” Cheryl said to Nancy. “I was looking for you. Willy and I both have some time before our next events, so we're going for a swim. Want to come along?”

Nancy quickly scanned the field. She had been keeping an eye out for Marta since the opening parade but hadn't seen her anywhere. “Okay,” Nancy agreed. Whether Cheryl was a potential victim or a potential suspect, Nancy thought she should stay close to her. She turned to George and Bess. “What about you two? Feel like a swim?”

George shook her head. “I don't have a suit with me,” she said.

“And I'm going to watch my houseguest, Marie-Laure, in the high jump,” said Bess.

“All right,” said Nancy. “I'll look for you after our swim.”

As they walked toward the gym, Willy told Cheryl, “Annelise said she would meet us at the pool, but I do not think she will swim.”

“Why not?” asked Cheryl.

Willy shrugged. “I do not know. I believe she was once a competitive swimmer, but something happened and she gave it up.”

“I wonder why?” Cheryl said. “I can't imagine giving up running.”

Eric caught up with them just outside the gym. “Mind if I come along?” he asked.

“If you want to,” Cheryl replied with a shrug.

Nancy and Cheryl changed into their suits in the locker room, and Nancy led the way to the indoor pool. A dozen or so athletes were already taking advantage of the chance for a swim. Willy was standing near the entrance, talking to Annelise. He waved to Cheryl, who smiled and waved back. Then, suddenly, her smile froze on her face.

Nancy followed Cheryl's gaze. Marta and Helga were standing at one end of the pool.

The stony expression still on her face, Cheryl walked slowly to the opposite end of the pool from where Helga and Marta were. Nancy followed her. Cheryl pulled off her sweatshirt and dropped it, along with her towel, on one of the benches. She paced off six feet from the end of
the pool, took a couple of deep breaths, then sprinted forward and launched herself into the air in a perfect racing dive.

At that instant, every light in the pool room went out. A moment later, Nancy heard Cheryl's cry, followed by a loud splash.

Lights Out!

“Cheryl!” Willy was shouting in the suddenly blackened pool room. At first the only answer was more splashing sounds. Then the other athletes began calling out to one another, some in languages Nancy couldn't understand.

Nancy knew she had to turn the lights back on—fast. She tried to visualize the layout of the room. The light switches were probably near the double doors that led to the locker rooms. She made her way carefully along the wall to the left, moved forward until she reached a corner, then turned right. All the while, frantic splashing echoed in the darkness.

Finally, Nancy saw a dim light filtering in from the corridor. Hurrying over to the doors, she ran her hands along the tiled wall. Nothing on the right side, but on the left—

She flipped the bank of switches up and narrowed her eyes against the sudden glare. A quick glance at the out-of-the-way location of the switches told Nancy that it would have been just about impossible to turn the lights off accidentally. Her gaze then flew to the pool, where Willy was kneeling by the edge. He was stretching out his hand to a shaken Cheryl, who was breathing in huge gulps of air. The other athletes were crowding around, but Willy motioned them back.

“Give me room,” he said. He helped Cheryl up onto the tiled edge of the pool. Eric, a few feet away, was snapping one photo after another.

“Where's Steve when I need him?” someone near Nancy muttered. She glanced over and saw Barbara writing hastily in a little notebook. Helga and Marta were standing where they had been, not far from the pool's edge, near the diving boards. Eric, with two cameras around his neck, stood off to one side, taking pictures. Annelise and some of the other athletes stood in a circle, talking in hushed voices.

“This didn't look like an accident, Nancy,” Barbara said.

Nancy didn't think so, either. But once again, there were almost too many suspects to choose from. Somehow she had to narrow down the list.

“Do you mind telling me where you were standing when the lights went out?” Nancy asked Barbara.

“You've got to be kidding,” Barbara returned. “You don't really think I had anything to do with this business, do you?”

“I was hoping you might have seen something, that's all,” Nancy replied evenly.

“Sorry,” Barbara told her. “I'm afraid I didn't see anything unusual.”

Cheryl was on her feet when Nancy went over to her. “Are you all right?” Nancy asked.

“More or less,” Cheryl said shakily. She rubbed a red mark on her left shoulder. “I must have hit the lane marker when I dived in. And I think I swallowed a couple of gallons of water. What happened, anyway?”

Nancy gave her a concerned glance. “Somebody flipped the switches,” she said. “I'm afraid this wasn't an accident.”

Cheryl's face tightened. She looked around the room and focused her gaze on Marta and Helga. Marta looked frightened, but Helga's face was closed and stern.

Reassured that Cheryl was all right, Nancy made her way back to the spot where she had been standing when the lights went out. She began to create a mental image of where everyone had been. Marta and Helga had been near the edge of the pool before the lights were turned off. Either of them might have had enough time to get to the switches, but Nancy had to admit to herself that she couldn't be sure of that. Her
attention had been on Cheryl, not on the area near the door where the switches were. Willy and Annelise had also been present.

Still, the incident had narrowed the field of suspects a little. Ramsay Roberts was probably still out on the field. Unless he was conspiring with someone else, he was obviously innocent. And Cheryl herself could be crossed off the list. She couldn't have staged this incident, although it was still possible that she was responsible for the phone calls to Marta.

Cheryl started to walk over to the bench where she had left her towel and sweatshirt, but she stopped herself. “I came here to swim,” she announced. “And that's what I'm going to do. What about you, Nancy?”

“I've changed my mind,” Nancy replied. “I'll just watch.” Something told her she should keep a sharp eye on things.

Nancy noticed that Marta had gotten into the pool and was doing slow laps. Cheryl apparently noticed at the same time, because a tight smile flashed across her face and she stepped over to a free lane right next to Marta's. She dove in, surfaced, and started down the length of the pool in a strong, fast crawl stroke. She drew even with Marta, then easily passed her. A moment later Marta noticed, and she picked up her stroke to keep pace with Cheryl.

By the time the two rivals drew close to the far
end of the pool, they were both swimming full-out. After a quick racing turn, they were on their way back to the end where Nancy was standing. Cheryl still held a lead, but Marta was narrowing it.

Everyone had stopped along the side of the pool to watch the match. Some of the athletes were cheering. Helga was shouting, too, but the flood of German sounded angry, not encouraging. Nancy couldn't tell if the anger was directed more at Cheryl or at Marta.

The two swimmers reached the point in front of Nancy at exactly the same instant. For one moment, Cheryl and Marta grinned at each other, but then the grins faded.

Helga, hands on hips, had come over and was talking sternly to Marta in German. Then she turned to Cheryl.

“You will never be a great athlete without self-control,” Helga said. “You and Marta have an important contest this afternoon. You know this. It is the reason you came here. Yet you risk everything to put on a childish show. You should both be ashamed. Marta, come!”

Her face bright red, Marta climbed out of the pool and followed her trainer in the direction of the locker room.

Cheryl watched them silently, a sober, sheepish look on her face. Hoisting herself out of the
pool, she walked over to the bench where Nancy sat.

“Helga's right,” Cheryl confided, picking up her towel and drying off. “If my coach back at school had just seen what had happened, she'd probably suspend me from the track team. I guess I got carried away.”

Nancy gave her a sympathetic look. “You've been under a lot of strain,” she pointed out.

“A big meet is always a lot of pressure,” Cheryl replied, rubbing her hair with the towel. “And it doesn't help to have to keep looking over my shoulder, wondering who's out to get me. But what if my dream comes true, and I get the chance to compete in the Olympics? There'd be hundreds of millions of people from every part of the world watching me. I'd have to be able to handle that.”

She pulled on her sweatshirt and added, “No, Helga's right. I've got a lot of growing up to do.”

Willy came over. “How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Wiped out,” Cheryl told him. “But I'll get over it.”

“I must go. The fifteen-hundred-meter run is coming up.”

“But that's your best event,” Cheryl wailed. “And I haven't been thinking about anything but me!”

Willy smiled. “Neither have I,” he said. “But there's still plenty of time to warm up.”

“Could I ask you a couple of questions before you go?” said Nancy.

BOOK: The Case of the Photo Finish
5.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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