Authors: Carolyn Keene
RE YOU OKAY
?” Nancy called into the darkness. She strained to hear a reply, but it was no use. The dancers surrounding Nancy were making too much noise as they chattered and milled about in confusion.
Just then the floor lights came back on. Etienne Girard leaned down to speak into a microphone that was attached to the side of the DJ's sound booth.
“That little interruption was just to keep you on your toes.” Etienne spoke smoothly in a charming French accent. “This next song will get them tapping on the dance floor.” His words
were followed by a crashing wave of sound that introduced the next set.
Nancy craned her neck to catch a glimpse of Bess. She felt a surge of anxiety. Bess was gone!
“Look, George!” Nancy cried, pointing toward the now-deserted rock. “Bess is goneâand I'm sure I heard her yell for help just as the lights went out.” Her eyes darted around the room, searching in vain for her friend.
George followed Nancy's anxious gaze. “I thought I heard a scream, too, but I figured it was just someone reacting to the lights going off.”
Nancy glanced around, her gaze lingering on the exit door near the rock where Bess had been sitting. “I'm going to look for her,” she said. “George, why don't you go inform Lonnie Cavello that Bess is missing. Maybe he knows something we don't.”
“Good idea,” George said, heading for the front lobby. “I'll check out the rest of the club, too.”
Nancy studied the door next to the spot where Bess had been sitting. A cold draft of air was seeping in around the edges of the door. It wasn't fully closed. The edge of the door was separated from the frame by a good quarter inch. Above the metal handle on the door a sign read: Alarm
DoorâDo Not Open. Nancy hesitated. Then she took a deep breath and pushed on the door.
It gave way easily. She breathed a sigh of relief when no alarm went off. She stepped through the door and found herself standing in a narrow alley lined with trash cans. There was no sign of Bess.
Nancy scanned the area for any clue to her friend's disappearance. A stiff breeze blew a piece of paper flat against her ankle. As she reached down to brush it away, Nancy spotted a small white object glistening in the light from a single bulb beside the door. She picked it upâand her heart skipped a beat. The object was a tiny white shell attached to a hairpin, just like the ones Bess had been wearing in her hair that evening.
“Nancy!” George said, opening the door and stepping out into the alley. She was followed by Lonnie Cavello. The club owner had removed his glasses, and Nancy could see the concern etched across his dark features. “We looked all over the club, but found no sign of her,” George continued. “Did you find anything?”
“I'm afraid so,” Nancy said. She held out the shell on the hairpin for them to see. “This is one of the hairpins that Bess was wearing tonight. This proves that Bess went out this wayâor was forced to.”
“I can't understand this.” Lonnie took the shell and turned it over in his hand. “Maybe she felt sick or something and decided to go home.”
“No way! That's not like Bess.” George shook her head vigorously. “She'd never duck out without an explanation. Besides,” George continued, “how far could she get in that mermaid costume she was wearing?”
“And I know I heard her scream for help just as the lights went out,” Nancy said. “There's no way she'd just wander off because she wanted to go home.” She paused, thinking. “Was that alarm door working earlier today, Lonnie?”
“Yes, I know it was because we just had a fire inspection,” Lonnie said. “Why?”
“Because, obviously, it wasn't working just nowâor when Bess came out this way,” Nancy declared. “We would have heard the alarm.”
Lonnie took in a deep breath. “You're right. I didn't think of that. Let's have a look.”
Lonnie examined the insulated wiring that ran along the inside of the doorjamb. “It's been cut,” he announced in surprise.
Nancy's heart sank. “Which means Bess was probably taken against her will by someone who disabled the alarm system first.” She forced her voice to remain steady.
George's face was white with fear. “I'm scared
for her, Nan. What can we do?” Her voice was barely more than a whisper.
“We're going to have to move very quickly, George,” Nancy said. “We have to call the police, and then Bess's mom and dad.” She dreaded making the call to Bess's parents to tell them what had happened.
“You can use the phone in my office,” Lonnie offered.
The three of them went back into the club and headed for Lonnie's office. As they skirted the dance floor, Nancy was oblivious to the dancers and the pulsating music. A scary word was beginning to echo in the back of her mindâthat word was
Who would want to kidnap Bess, though? she asked herself. And why?
“My office is over there,” Lonnie said, gesturing with his hand. They had reached the lobby of the Edge. On one side of it, Nancy could see a wall of frosted glass that separated it from Lonnie's office.
“Do you know why the lights went out just before Bess disappeared, Lonnie?” Nancy asked, following him over to his office door. “There's got to be a connection between the two events. No one could have grabbed her like that if the lights had been on.”
Lonnie shrugged. “We've been having problems
with the power system ever since Etienne came to work here,” he explained. “He's a fabulous DJ, but I'm afraid his sound system has put quite a strain on this old building's wiring.”
building?” Nancy remarked curiously as the three of them entered Lonnie's office. “From the outside, the Razor's Edge looks brand-new.”
“The former owners gave the old girl a pricey face-lift a few years back to keep up with the times,” Lonnie replied. “But actually, this building is over sixty years old, and we're beginning to have more than our share of problems with the wiring and plumbing systems.” He sighed, and then he gave Nancy a curious glance. “You ask so many questions, you sound like a detective.”
a detective,” George interjected. “A good one.” Although she was only eighteen, Nancy had solved many mysteries in her short career. Now she was praying that her sleuthing skills would help her solve the mystery of her good friend's disappearance.
“I had no idea you were a private eye,” Lonnie said. “I'm sure you'll figure out what happened to Bess.”
Nancy picked up the phone that was on Lonnie's walnut desk and put in a call to the River Heights Police Department. She spoke to the desk sergeant, briefly describing what had
happened, including Bess's scream, the shell hairpin, and the severed alarm wire. Then she pressed down the receiver. “They're sending a patrol car over right away,” she told Lonnie and George. “Now for the hard part.” She punched in another number.
“Calling my aunt and uncle?” George asked. Nancy nodded her head silently.
Mr. Marvin answered the phone. He took the news of Bess's disappearance calmly, although Nancy could hear his voice thicken with concern. “It sounds like you've done everything that can be done so far, Nancy,” he said. “I'll tell Bess's mother. What do you suggest we do?”
“Just stay by the phone, for now,” Nancy said, “in case Bess contacts you. I'll follow up here with the police when they arrive.”
“Thank you, Nancy,” Mr. Marvin's voice cracked just a bit. “I am grateful for everything you're doing.”
“Try not to worry, Mr. Marvin,” Nancy said, mustering as much reassurance as she could. “We'll find her.”
“I know you will,” he replied before saying goodbye.
Nancy's heart felt heavy as she hung up the phone. “I'd like to talk to some of your staff people, including Etienne, the DJ,” she said to
Lonnie. “I want to ask him about the blackout, if his sound system caused it. I'd also like to check Bess's coat and other things.”
Lonnie thought for a second. “I told her to stow her stuff in the dressing room,” he replied. “It's just down the hall. I'll show you the way.” He led the two girls out of his office.
Crossing the lobby, Lonnie paused to speak with a waiter. “Go get Etienne,” he told the young man. “Tell him we're in the dressing area.” Then Lonnie reached for the knob of a door hidden in the paneling. The doorway led into a narrow, tiled hallway that was lined with several more doors. “Here's her dressing room.”
The cramped room was just large enough for a makeup table and a small bookcase. The walls were bare except for a latched access window. Nancy could hear a sound like gurgling water coming from the other side of the window.
“Where does that window lead?” Nancy asked.
“Into a utility room,” Lonnie replied. “It holds the water tank. Why do you ask?”
Nancy paused before answering. “I've learned to observe everything about the place I'm in,” she explained. “Sometimes the smallest detail can turn out to be an important clue.”
“I see,” Lonnie said, sounding impressed.
Nancy spotted some folded clothes that she
immediately recognized as belonging to Bess. She spread them out on the makeup table.
“There's not too much here,” Nancy said, disappointed. “Just some of her clothes and jewelry.” As she refolded the jeans Bess must have been wearing earlier that evening, Nancy noticed a piece of crimson paper sticking out of one of the pockets. Nancy smoothed out the paper and read it. “It seems to be a flyer about another dance party,” she said, showing the paper to George. “An underground party.”
“I've got a friend who goes to underground parties,” George said. “They're very spontaneous, and you can only find them if you're invited. They're impossible to get to if you don't know the right people.”
Lonnie's face reddened as he scanned the flyer. “Those underground parties are really hurting my business,” he fumed.
“How so?” Nancy asked.
“With my club I have to pay a lot of overheadârent, salaries, taxes, and so on. Underground dance organizers just open wherever they please, put the word out, then sit back and rake in the money,” Lonnie explained bitterly. “It's really galling.”
Nancy looked at the flyer more closely. It was advertising two underground dances: one for
that night at an abandoned amusement park on the outskirts of River Heights, and the other for the next nightâin the warehouse district. A girl's name was scrawled in purple ink across the top of the paperâCharity Freeborn. The name was written in Bess's handwriting, Nancy noticed.
“Do you happen to know who this Charity Freeborn is?” Nancy asked.
“Unfortunately, I do.” Lonnie's words were clipped. “I had to fire her just last week. She was my theme hostess before I hired Bess, but she was unreliable. She got angry when I insisted that she show up for work on time, so I let her go. She threatened to get back at me when I hired Bess to replace her.”
Nancy stuck the flyer into her pocket. “Perhaps Charity planned to get back at the club by staging an incident involving Bess,” she said to Lonnie. “In any case, I definitely want to ask her some questions.”
“I'd stay away from Charity Freeborn, if I were you,” a man with a soft French accent said behind Nancy. “She's trouble!”
to face Etienne Girard standing in the doorway next to George. Etienne's shaved head and funky clothes heightened the impact of his handsome, fine-boned features.
Etienne stuck out his hand to shake Nancy's. “I am Etienne Girard, the club's DJ. Why did you send for me, Lonnie?” he said to the club owner.
“That new girl I hired, Bess Marvin, has disappeared. We think she may have been kidnapped,” Lonnie told him. “Her friends want to ask you a couple of questions.”
“Bess, the mermaid girl? Kidnapped?”
Etienne's eyes widened. “I never actually met her, but I would be glad to help, if I can.”
“I'm Nancy Drew, and this is George Fayne,” Nancy said, shaking his hand. “What did you mean when you said that Charity Freeborn is âtrouble'?”
Etienne hesitated. “Charity's a littleâhow do you say in English? Volatile. She comes from a very wealthy family, but you'd never know it to look at her. And what a quick temper! She reminds me a little of a French girl I used to know,” he said with a sheepish smile. “She has actually quarreled with customers and ended up in fistfights!”
“She sounds like the sort of person who could be capable of seeking revenge,” Nancy observed, remembering how Charity had threatened to get back at Lonnie for firing her. Nancy showed him the flyer. “Bess must have had contact with Charity at some point, because she wrote her name on this flyer. And now we know that Charity resented Bess for being hired to replace her. She even vowed to take revenge against Lonnie and the club. I'd like to track her down and ask her some questions. Do you know where she lives?”