Riddle of the Ruby Gazelle – First Chapter

“I had no idea the view from the Brooklyn Bridge was so amazing!” George Fayne said. Her brown eyes sparkled as she turned to grin at her best friends, Nancy Drew and Bess Marvin. She flung out one arm and pointed across the East River. “The Empire State Building, the World Trade Center, South Street Seaport. You can see it all from here.”

“The view is gorgeous,” Nancy said. She flipped up the collar of her parka and leaned against the railing of the pedestrian boardwalk on the bridge. Far below, past the rushing cars, sunlight danced on the water while a tugboat pulled a barge down the river. The Staten Island Ferry was moving with the Statue of Liberty in the distance. A cold wind whipped up from the water, sending Nancy’s red dish blond hair flying around her face.

“Photo op!” Bess called out. “Over there, you guys, with the World Trade Center behind you.æ She snapped a shot, then turned to the tall young woman who was with them. “You don’t know how lucky you are, Zoe. You get to look at the Manhattan skyline every day.”

“You get used to it when you live here,” Zoe said, letting out a laugh. Her wavy black hair spilled over the collar of her red wool coat, and her laugh was so infectious that Nancy couldn’t help grinning back.

Zoe Krieger lived in Brooklyn Heights, right across the river from Manhattan. Nancy, Bess, and George had gotten to know her the summer before, when Zoe was visiting relatives in River Heights. When Zoe invited them to stay with her in Brooklyn, all three young women had jumped at the chance. They’d arrived just that morning, and Zoe had decided to start their visit with a walk partway across the famous bridge.

“Anyway, we’re here to see Brooklyn, not Manhattan,” George pointed out.

Nancy, Bess, and George usually stayed with Nancy’s aunt Eloise in Manhattan when they visited New York City. “It’s too bad that Aunt Eloise is on a cruise, and we won’t get to see her,” Nancy said. “But I’m glad to get to know a different part of the city and help out with the benefit you were telling us about, Zoe. Didn’t you say you’re trying to raise money to renovate a park in your neighborhood?”

Zoe nodded. “The Heights Gardens,” she said. “It’s a small but beautiful old park. With city funding being cut back all the time, it’s gotten run down. A lot of people want to destroy it and put up new buildings.”

More buildings? It seems as if there’s already enough concrete around.” Bess shot a surprised glance at the Brooklyn side of the bridge. Docks, industrial buildings, and a highway lined the river. The ground rose up sharply behind them, and on top of a bluff sat row after row of townhouses, apartment houses, and a long promenade overlooking the river. Cars roared on a highway under the Promenade. “You’d think people would do all they could to save a park.”

“Unfortunately, not everyone in Brooklyn Heights feels the way you do,” Zoe said, frowning. “A theater group wanted to build a new theater there. Local businesses wanted a parking garage. The neighborhood hospital planned to use the space for a new wing. You can see the Heights Gardens from here, actually,” she went on. “Where all those trees are.”

Nancy looked in the direction where Zoe was pointing and saw, amid the buildings on the bluff, a patch of green that took up half a city block. Brick and brownstone houses ringed the park on three sides.

“How could anyone think of destroying it?” Bess asked.

Nancy had to agree. “A hospital wing and a new theater sound like good causes, but couldn’t people find room for those things without wrecking the park?”

“They’ll have to now,” Zoe said with a determined nod as she led the girls back toward Brooklyn on the walkway. “Luckily, we have a strong neighborhood association, the Brooklyn Heights Coalition. They signed petitions, held rallies, called our local politicians. Students from my high school got involved, too. We went door-to-door to talk to people about it, and in the end we won. The city council voted to save the park.”

“That’s great!” Bess said.

“Definitely.” Zoe grinned, then raised an eye brow at Nancy, Bess, and George. “The only problem is, the city didn’t give us enough money for the renovation.”

“Which is why you’re throwing the benefit, right?” George asked. Her cheeks were ruddy from the cold, and the ends of her curly brown hair blew out from beneath her beret.

“Yup. There’s going to be a concert on Friday and an auction Saturday. Since my school’s on vacation this week, we’ll have lots of time to help get every thing ready,” Zoe answered. “There’s going to be tons of local memorabilia at the auction. But what I’m really looking forward to is the concert. The Raving Lunatics are playing, and it’s going to be great!”

“The Raving Lunatics?” Bess echoed. “I think I’ve heard of them. Aren’t they the ones who just came out with that song ‘Gravity to Go-Go’?”

Zoe nodded proudly. “That’s them. They’re from Brooklyn Heights. They’ve been playing in cafes and clubs around here for years, but they just signed a recording contract. ‘Gravity to Go-Go’ is their first song to make it to the national charts. Randy told me that their recording company might even arrange for them to do a tour with a major band.”

“Randy?” Nancy asked.

“Oh — sorry. I forgot that you don’t know him yet,” Zoe said. “Randy La Guardia. He’s the Lunatics’ lead singer. He and the rest of the band are seniors with me at Bradley Prep.”

Nancy knew that Bradley Prep was the private high school Zoe attended. “Sounds great. I can’t wait until Friday’s concert to hear them,” she said.

“We don’t have to wait that long,” Zoe told her, her brown eyes sparkling. “The Lunatics are practicing in the Anchorage right now, as a matter of fact. Do you want to go?”

“Definitely!” Bess crowed.

“Sure,” Nancy said. “But what’s the Anchorage?” Zoe pointed toward the end of the Brooklyn Bridge. “The Brooklyn Anchorage — where the support cables of the bridge are anchored,” she said. “A network of cables, metal girders, and stone support walls are built inside the base of the bridge. It sounds weird, but it’s amazing. Inside it’s big enough for performances, skateboard competitions, stuff like that. The city schedules different events.”

“Sounds great,” George said.

“It is,” Zoe said. “Usually, the Anchorage isn’t open during the winter, but Mrs. O’Neill got permission to hold the benefit concert and auction there. She’s the president of the Brooklyn Heights Coalition, and she’s in charge of organizing the benefit.” Zoe shook her head in amazement, brushing back her hair. “Actually, Mrs. O. is one of the reasons so many kids from Bradley Prep got involved trying to save the Heights Gardens. She’s interested in teenagers volunteering in youth groups, organizing programs for students to work for charities and all kinds of local businesses. But you can see for yourself how great she is. She’s probably at the Anchorage.”

When they came to the end of the bridge, Zoe led Nancy, Bess, and George off the pedestrian walk way. A side street sloped down a hill back toward the river, and the girls followed it for several blocks. Thick walls of stone stretched to the ground beneath the bridge while traffic roared overhead. Nancy spotted metal double doors set into the wall of the base of the bridge. A metal sculpture stood in front, along with the frozen remains of a small garden. The doors were open, and rock music blared from inside.

“They’re playing ‘Gravity to Go-Go’!” Bess said.

“Then we’d better go-go inside,” George said.

As soon as they stepped through the metal doors, out of the wind, Nancy felt warmer. All around were windowless golden brick walls that rose up, curving into vaulted ceilings. Electric lights were anchored into the brick.

“Wow. This place is amazing,” she said.

“You haven’t seen anything yet,” Zoe said.

“There’s a maze of rooms and tunnels that never get used. I’ve heard that you could spend hours exploring and still not see it all. “

Zoe headed left through an arch to a cavernous open space. At the far end of it, a stage was set up against another brick wall. Nancy spotted a ramp that led deeper into the Anchorage. Three young men and a young woman were on the stage amid a jumble of amplifiers, microphones, guitars, drums, and an electric piano. They were playing and singing so intently that they didn’t seem to notice the teenagers who had gathered to hear them. Dozens of folding metal chairs were stacked against the walls. Space heaters had been set up, as well. They gave off just enough warmth to take the chill from the air.

“Fantastic,” George said under her breath.

“I don’t know whether you’re talking about the music or the Anchorage,” Nancy said, grinning. “As far as I’m concerned, they’re both awesome!” As they joined the other spectators, she couldn’t help nodding her head to the beat. When the song ended, she clapped and hooted along with everyone else.

“Looks like they’re taking a break,” Zoe said. “Come on. I want you guys to meet Randy and the rest of the band.”

Once they were up on the stage, she led them over to the lead singer. He had dark brown hair and wore jeans and a plum-colored corduroy shirt. He was just unplugging his electric guitar. When he looked up at them, Nancy saw that he had bright blue eyes that contrasted with his dark brows and olive skin.

“Hey, Zoe,” he said easily. Then he smiled at Nancy, Bess, and George. “Let me guess. You three must be the friends Zoe was telling me about. Nancy, George, and…” He closed his eyes and snapped his fingers a few times.

“Bess,” Bess said, grinning. “You must be Randy La Guardia. You guys sound terrific!”

“Thanks. I just hope we raise enough money to fix up the Heights Gardens,” Randy said.

Zoe punched him playfully on the arm and said, “You will. We’ve already sold most of the tickets. This place is going to be packed on Friday night –“

She broke off as she was pushed to the side by a young woman who elbowed her way toward Randy. She was petite, with blue eyes, chin-length blond hair, bangs, and an angry look on her face.

“Um, hi, Allison,” Randy said, looking uncomfortable. “How’s it going?”

Allison jabbed a finger toward him. “You’ve got a lot of nerve, Randy.”

Nancy exchanged uneasy glances with Bess and George. What was going on?

“Look, Allison,” Randy began, holding up his hands defensively. “I don’t know what — ”

“You sleazoid,” Allison cried. Her fists were clenched, and her face grew redder every second. “I’m going to make you sorry for what you did to me. Sorrier than you’ve ever been in your life!”

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