Authors: Carolyn Keene
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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THE NANCY DREW FILES is a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
on here.” Bess Marvin smiled and then glanced at her friend Nancy Drew. “Can you figure out what it is, famous detective?”
Eighteen-year-old Nancy Drew stuck her credit card back in her wallet, shook her reddish blond hair back out of her blue eyes, and looked around the River Heights shopping mall. Nancy
famous for her detective work, but at the moment she was more interested in new clothes than a new case.
“I’ve got it,” Nancy said, slipping her wallet into her blue canvas bag. “I wasn’t planning to come shopping today, but for once I’ve spent
more money than you have, Bess. Even George has spent more money than you.”
George Fayne, Bess’s cousin, peered into her shopping bag and quickly looked up, surprised. “Nancy’s right. I
bought more than you, Bess. Now, that is
“It may be weird, but it’s not what I’m talking about.” Bess glanced around the wide corridor of the mall. “This place is practically deserted,” she complained. “Don’t you think that’s strange?”
“Well, what do you expect?” George asked. “It’s spring. It’s beautiful outside. Why should people want to spend time in here when they could be out jogging?”
Bess moaned. “You mean, if I want to see anybody interesting, I might actually have to take up jogging?”
“I’ve finally figured it out,” Nancy said. “It’s not that the mall is empty. It’s just that it’s empty of boys. Right, Bess?”
“Exactly,” Bess agreed. “I haven’t seen a single good-looking boy the entire time we’ve been here.”
“I should have known,” George said with a laugh. “You’re not interested in shopping; you’re interested in
“That’s not fair. I’m interested in both,” Bess
told her, heading for a shoe store. “Come on, help me pick out the right kind of shoes. If I have to go jogging to meet boys, I don’t want to ruin my feet.”
Bess was talking over her shoulder to her friends, so she didn’t see the tall, dark-brown-haired boy coming out of the shoe store until she plowed into him, knocking him back against the plate-glass window. It was Ned Nickerson.
He straightened up and smiled down at Bess. “Hi, there. Fancy bumping into you, as they say.” As he raised his head, his gaze wandered and his eyes met Nancy’s.
When Nancy saw him, she stopped moving and returned his stare. Now what? she wondered nervously. Just a couple of months before, the two of them—who’d been going together “forever” as Bess put it—had split up. Nancy couldn’t believe it had happened, and she also couldn’t believe that they’d gotten involved with other people, but they had. Ned had even fallen in love with someone else.
But his infatuation was over now, Nancy knew, because just a few weeks before she and Ned had gotten back together—sort of, she reminded herself. We’re not really back together; we’ve just decided to try again. It may not even work.
Trying not to look nervous, Nancy smiled and
quickly walked the rest of the way to the shoe store. “Hi, Ned,” she said quietly.
“Hi.” Ned had picked up Bess’s shopping bag, and now he handed it to her, keeping his warm brown eyes on Nancy. “I’m surprised to see you here,” he told her, making conversation. “It’s such a great day, I thought you’d be doing something outside.”
“It’s all my fault,” Bess said with a big smile. “I dragged her here—right, Nan?”
But Nancy and Ned weren’t listening. Bess was wrong, Nancy thought, watching Ned. There is
good-looking guy at the mall today.
“So,” Bess said to Nancy and Ned as she nudged George in the ribs, “why don’t you two walk around while George helps me find some running shoes that won’t give me blisters? We’ll meet you at the car in an hour, if you’re still around and want a ride home,” she added with a knowing smile.
After George and Bess went into the store, Nancy and Ned remained standing still, staring at each other.
Come on, Nancy told herself. We’ll never really get back together if we don’t talk. “Listen,” she said finally. “How about some pizza? I’m starving.”
“I could go for some food,” Ned agreed. “But let’s eat it outside, okay? I’ve had it with being inside for today.”
At the Pizza Spot Nancy and Ned each got a slice and then went out. A low brick wall divided the sidewalk from the huge parking lot, and they sat on it to eat, watching the shoppers come and go. They kept their conversation casual; Ned talked about how college was going. He was home for a short break. Nancy’s father, attorney Carson Drew, had just left for a convention in Boston, so they talked about that, too.
It was not exactly a personal conversation, Nancy thought. But then, she decided, any conversation was better than none at all. At least they were together, and they were talking.
“Well,” Ned said, tossing his pizza crust into a nearby trash can. “What do you—”
His words were drowned out by a blast from a loudspeaker. Looking up, Nancy saw a red, white, and blue van moving slowly through the parking lot. The voice from its loudspeaker urged everyone, “Come meet your next state representative, Todd Harrington!”
“I didn’t think there were any Harringtons left in politics,” Ned commented.
“I guess there’ll always be a Harrington running
for something,” Nancy said with a laugh. “River Heights wouldn’t be the same without the Harrington family.”
Harrington was a famous political name in Nancy’s hometown. Maxwell Harrington, a wealthy and ambitious businessman, had started the political dynasty years before by getting himself elected to the town council, which he ran with an iron fist. But he had pinned his real political hopes on his son, John. And it was John who had made the Harrington name a household word.
While running for governor of the state, an election everyone was sure he’d win, John Harrington had died. His body was found at the bottom of the cliffs outside Harrington House, the family’s enormous stone mansion overlooking the river. No one was ever sure how or why he’d died—the police had ruled it an accident or a possible suicide, but there was no note, and no reason why he’d kill himself. He was young, he was successful, and he was close to being elected governor of the state of Illinois.
Maxwell Harrington had died not long after his son, and after that, Harrington House was closed up. Because John Harrington’s wife had died in childbirth, Todd was raised by his paternal grandmother in another town. Only a caretaker remained—the kind of caretaker who walked the
grounds with guard dogs, chasing all trespassers from the property.
“Remember that time we took that walk in the moonlight at Harrington House?” Nancy asked.
Ned smiled. “Yeah. We saw the caretaker’s flashlight moving through the trees and decided it was John Harrington’s ghost. You ran halfway down the road before you remembered we had a car.”
“Well, I seem to remember you were right on my heels,” Nancy replied, playfully punching his arm.
Laughing, Ned grabbed her hand and pulled her toward him. As they came closer together, Nancy thought he was going to kiss her. Maybe that was what they needed, she thought. Maybe a good kiss would fix everything.
But just as Ned’s face moved close enough to Nancy’s to kiss, another blast from the loudspeaker made them both jump apart.
“Come and hear Todd Harrington speak!” the voice boomed. “Find out why we need a Harrington in the House!”
As Nancy and Ned watched, the slowly cruising van pulled to a stop. Two men jumped out and began setting up a small, portable platform while a small crowd gathered.
When Todd Harrington jumped out of the van
and stepped onto the platform, even more shoppers came out to watch him. Nancy could see why. Todd Harrington was extremely good-looking, young and tall, with thick dark hair and a charming smile. Nancy was sure he would have Bess’s vote if she were there.
“It’s great to be here today,” Todd Harrington said. “As many of you know, I was born in River Heights. Even though I didn’t grow up here, I still think of it as my hometown.”
The crowd clapped politely, and Todd Harrington went on to give a short speech about why he wanted to be their representative. When he finished, he asked if anyone had questions.
“Mr. Harrington!” a voice called out. “I’d like to know if you have any plans to reopen the investigation of your father’s mysterious death!”
Everyone turned to see who had asked the question. It was Brenda Carlton, a reporter for her father’s newspaper,
, and a pain in the neck in several of Nancy’s cases.
“Trust Brenda,” Nancy muttered to Ned. “You can always count on her to ask an embarrassing question.”
look embarrassed, but he gave Brenda Carlton a quick smile. “I’m afraid I don’t see a connection between my campaign and my father’s death thirty years ago,” he said. “But
since you asked, the answer is no. The River Heights police closed that case, and I don’t see any reason to reopen it. I’m here as a candidate, not as a detective. Anyone interested in my father’s death can read about it in back issues of the newspapers. Anyone interested in my campaign is welcome to ask me about it now.”
No one else seemed to have any questions, though. And when Brenda realized she didn’t have any competition, she went right on asking about the strange death of John Harrington.
Nancy felt a little sorry for Todd Harrington. She could tell he was fed up with Brenda, but he couldn’t come right out and tell her to be quiet. After all, he was running for office and had to be polite, even to someone as pushy as Brenda Carlton.
“Brenda’s going to keep at him forever,” Nancy said to Ned. “Poor guy. By the time she’s through, he’ll wish he’d never come to River Heights.”