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Authors: Carolyn Keene

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BOOK: Very Deadly Yours
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“I gathered from what Ned's parents said that you're some kind of detective?” Dr. Meinhold asked.

“Yes, I am. I was working on a case yesterday when Ned was—when that car hit him.”

“I see. I do think it would be best if you avoided talking about your work with him until he's feeling a little stronger. He'll recover faster if we can keep him from getting worried. Will that be too much of a problem?”

“Oh, no,” Nancy said. “I'll just—I'll just talk about other things.”

Then she gathered all her courage and asked the question that had been bothering her the most. “Dr. Meinhold, will Ned still be able to go out for sports when he's recovered?”

She held her breath during the silence that followed. “All we can do is—wait and see,” Dr. Meinhold said at last.

• • •

“How is he?” Lena Verle asked eagerly.

Getting back into her car and driving to the
Record
had been one of the hardest things Nancy had ever done. Her every thought, every emotion was centered on Ned, and she just wanted to sit in the hospital beside him. Now that she was at the paper, though, she didn't want to talk about him—even to Lena.

“He's doing pretty well, considering,” she
said. “But—I hope you'll understand—I just can't talk about it now. If you can give me some kind of work to do, I'll feel much better.”

Lena looked a little disappointed, but she produced a stack of letters cheerfully enough.

“I thought you might want to look through these,” she said. “They're the letters we'll be running this week. I don't know if there's anything suspicious about any of them, but you'll get a good laugh from some of them, anyway.”

“This is perfect,” Nancy said, brightening. “It's just what I need. I've never been involved with a case where it was okay to read other people's mail!”

There was every kind of letter imaginable in the stack, from utterly prim to the complete opposite. Some had been neatly typed on business stationery. A couple were handwritten so crudely that Nancy was sure the writers had been trying to disguise their script—which was kind of silly, she thought, since no one was forcing them to use their real names. One—from someone who was
really
worried about staying anonymous—was made out of cutout magazine letters. The funny thing about that one was that all the writer was looking for was “a loving soul to share cooking classes and cello duets.”

“Where do you
find
these people?” Nancy asked after a couple of minutes.

Lena laughed. “Oh, they find us, and more come in each week. Any clues so far?”

“No, I don't see anything that sounds like it could be the guy I'm looking for.”

Nancy put the stack of ads down on Lena's desk. As she did so, that morning's edition of the
Record
caught her eye. “Could I take a look at this?” she asked. “I didn't have a chance when I left the house this morning.”

“Be my guest.”

Nancy skimmed the news, then picked up the section with the Personals in it. “These are the same as yesterday's, aren't they?” she asked.

“Oh, yes,” said Lena. “We only update them once a week.”

Nancy had already read that column the day before. She was about to turn past that page when something suddenly caught her eye. It was the last ad on the page.

“N.D.,” it began, “I warned you last night. You'd better listen to me. Keep out of my way, or you'll be sorry.”

Chapter

Eight

L
ENA, LOOK AT
this!” Nancy's eyes were bright as she pushed the paper toward the other woman. “How do you think it could have gotten in?”

“I—I have no idea,” Lena said slowly. She looked amazed. “The ads run for an entire week, and we only update them once a week. We're not due to add new ones for another couple of days. And I see all the new ads before they go in! However this was done, it wasn't through the normal channels.”

Obviously not, Nancy thought, at least not if Lena was the “normal channels.” She read the ad again.

“ ‘I warned you last night,' ” she said out loud. “That can only be the guy who called me when I got home. Sure works fast, whoever he is.”

“It sounds like you're in real danger,” Lena said. She sounded more nervous than Nancy.

“Yes, but that's just the way it goes,” Nancy said. “I'm
not
planning to stay out of his way, if that's what you mean.”

“Working hard, or hardly working?” came a bright voice in back of her. Nancy turned to see Lucy Price, the girl she'd met the day before, standing next to the cubicle. “Come on, girls!” she continued. “Stop gabbing.”

Nancy and Lena glanced quickly at each other, and Nancy gave a barely perceptible shake of her head. There was no point in telling Lucy anything, no matter how nice she seemed. Until Nancy had a better idea of who she was dealing with, she'd have to keep as quiet as possible.

“What's the matter? Can't we take a break once in a while?” she asked easily.

“Yeah. What are you—a slave driver?” Lena chimed in. It was a pretty lame comeback, Nancy thought, but at least Lena sounded as if she were trying to be more friendly. Nancy gave her an approving smile and noticed with satisfaction that Lucy Price looked surprised that Lena was responding with something other than a sulky look.

“Well, don't let
me
disturb your party,” Lucy said cheerfully. “I just came over to see if you
have any paper clips. I'm not leaving the office today until my desk is completely organized.”

“I don't,” Lena answered. “And as a matter of fact, I'm out of a lot of supplies. I was just about to go to the mailroom and get some.”

“I'll do it,” Nancy offered. It would give her a chance to do some investigating on her own. “What do you need?”

Both women gave her a short list of the supplies they wanted. “I'm glad you're doing this, not me,” Lucy said. “I go down there so many times that they think I'm hoarding the stuff. Don't tell them any of it's for me, okay?”

“Sure,” said Nancy with a smile. “Just don't ever make me get extra desserts for you in a buffet line. My friend Bess does that already.”

She headed down to the mailroom. Its vestibule was piled high with unopened packages, review copies of books, and office supplies. As she threaded her way gingerly through this obstacle course, Nancy suddenly heard a thud—and a yelp of pain—coming from inside the mailroom.

“I'm dying!” yelled a man's voice.

Nancy rushed inside the room. It was even more cluttered than the vestibule, if that was possible. In one corner, a thin young man was doubled up on the floor clutching his foot and moaning. Two of his coworkers were looking down at him calmly and making no move at all to help him.

“What's the matter?” she asked, walking right
up to the three men. “Can I do something? Are you hurt?” she asked the man on the floor.

“Oh, Bill's okay,” said one of the men watching him. He grinned at her, his freckled face so good-natured that Nancy couldn't help smiling back. “Mr. Walking Wounded just dropped a stapler on his foot, that's all. We go through this kind of thing all the time.”

“Come on, guys! It's killing me!” groaned Bill. “I don't think I'm going to be able to walk on it.”

“Yeah, yeah.” The second man sighed. “You'd better just forget about him. He always takes a long time to recover from these major injuries.

“Now, can I do something for
you?”
he asked. “I'm Todd Hill, by the way, and the carrot head is Steve Rudman—and the invalid writhing at your feet is Bill Stark.”

“My name's Nancy Drew. I just need some supplies for the woman I'm working with—but are you sure you're okay, Bill?” she broke off to say.

He smiled weakly up at her and climbed a little shamefacedly to his feet. “I'm really not faking it,” he said, shaking her hand. He had the lightest blue eyes she'd ever seen. “It's just that I'm sensitive to pain. I guess I'll live, though.”

“Probably so, worse luck,” said Todd.

Bill ignored him. “Anyway, thanks,” he said to Nancy. “Now, you said you needed some supplies?”

“I'll
get them,
I'll
get them,” said Todd. “You'd
better just sit down and take it easy, Bill. It's not every day such a pretty girl walks in here—might give you some kind of relapse. What do you need, Nancy?”

Nancy handed him the list, and he headed over to the supply closet. “You say you're bringing this to someone you're working for?” he called back to her.

“Yes,” Nancy said. “Lena Verle. I'm helping her for a few days.”

“Helping that crab?” Steve Rudman asked. “What could you possibly do to help
her?”

Nancy was glad she had rehearsed an answer just in case someone asked her that very question. “I'm kind of a temp,” she said. “There's been such an increase in the mail the paper's getting that Mr. Whittaker thought she could use a part-time assistant. I'll probably just be here a few days, until things are a little more in control.”

“Well, you can replace her anytime, as far as I'm concerned,” said Steve. “I couldn't think of a worse person to handle the Personals.”

“Actually, Lena's pretty nice,” Nancy said casually. “But why do you say that?”

Steve snorted. “Writing one of those ads is an art. Why should someone have to hand it over to a woman who has no idea what a personal life even is? I bet she never goes home. She probably lives here.”

“So you read the Personals?” Nancy asked quickly.

“Of course he does,” Todd said, staggering out of the supply closet with his arms full of boxes. “One of these days, he's going to meet the ideal woman. So's Bill. So am I, for that matter. We're taking bets on who'll be first—unless
you
're
the ideal woman. Are you?”

“Obviously,” Nancy said brightly.

Todd clapped her on the back, dropping a whole box of pens onto the floor. “Way to go!” he crowed. “Well, which one of us lucky bachelors wins the dream date?”

This was getting a little out of hand. “Sorry, guys, I'm already taken,” Nancy said. She had to force herself to put Ned out of her mind as she spoke. It was impossible to keep bantering with them when just the thought of him made her want to rush to the hospital to be with him.

“Could you tell me a little bit about what you all do here?” she asked. She didn't think it would have any bearing on the case, but she'd learned to collect information—no matter what kind—whenever she had the chance. She could never tell when it would be useful.

Bill Stark laughed. “We just about run the paper, that's all. Giving out supplies is the least of it. We're really kind of like a little private post office down here. We deliver all the incoming mail to the staff and send out all the outgoing. We
send telexes and telegrams and okay all the overnight deliveries—and you wouldn't believe how often these people say something
has
to get there overnight. Also, we have the best coffee machine.” He gestured toward a scarred old percolator on the counter.

“You say you deliver the incoming mail?” Nancy said. “Do you open it first?”

All three men looked slightly surprised. “Well, yes,” Todd said at last. “We're supposed to. It's not as if we're trying to snoop around or anything.”

“Oh, I didn't mean to suggest that,” Nancy hastened to assure him. “I was just wondering if you read the Personals ads before you take them to Lena.”

“No, no! Anything for her is supposed to be delivered unopened,” said Bill. “Mr. Whittaker wants to keep the Personals as confidential as possible.”

“What about the people who send in the ads to her? Do you ever see any of them?” Nancy asked.

“Wait a minute,” Steve put in. “Why don't you just ask Lena Verle? What are you trying to get out of us, Nancy?”

“Nothing!” Nancy said. “It's just that I'm new on the job, and—” Suddenly she decided to level with them—at least partway. There couldn't be any harm in telling them about the mysterious ad aimed at her.

“I shouldn't tell you guys this, but maybe you can help me,” she said, choosing her words carefully. “I've only been here for two days, and it's starting to look as though someone has it in for me. Have any of you read today's paper yet?”

All three of them shook their heads.

“Well, there's an ad that I think's written to me, and—wait, I'll get a copy.” She dashed out of the mailroom and back to her desk.

“Hey! Where's my stuff?” Lucy Price yelled.

“I'll be right back,” Nancy called back over her shoulder, running out.

BOOK: Very Deadly Yours
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