Where have you been, George? I was about to hang up — the phone must have rung a dozen times,” Nancy Drew said in response to George Fayne’s breathless “Hello?”
“It shouldn’t take a hotshot detective like you long to figure that out,” George teased. “I was running, of course. I always run on Saturdays.”
Nancy glanced out the window. The freezing rain made the late November morning seem more like a day in midwinter. “I know, but I thought that in this weather you’d stay home.”
Her friend snorted. “No way! Got to keep in shape if I want to win the Holiday Marathon next month like last year. So what’s up?”
“I was wondering if you’d like to come over for lunch today,” Nancy said. “I just spoke to Bess, and she’s coming.”
“Sure, why not? You want us to help finish the leftover turkey from Thanksgiving, right?”
Laughing, Nancy said, “You got it. Dad’s completely turkeyed out, and anyway, he left for Seattle yesterday. The Steinbeck trial starts next week, you know.”
“Everybody knows,” George said. “There have been dozens of articles about it in the paper — ‘River Heights Attorney Carson Drew for the Defense,’ stuff like that. Is the trial going to be covered by Court TV?”
“I doubt it,” Nancy replied. “This isn’t a celebrity murder trial or anything. Now let’s get back to lunch. Hannah said she’d make her famous turkey tetrazzini if I could round up a crew to help me eat it.” Hannah Gruen was the Drews’ housekeeper, and a wonderful cook.
“What about Ned?” George asked, referring to Nancy’s boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. “Have you invited him? That guy’s a bottomless pit. He could take care of that leftover problem all by himself.”
“You’re probably right,” Nancy agreed. “But unfortunately Ned took off on a skiing trip with some of his buddies from college.”
“Really? How come you didn’t go with him?” Nancy shrugged. “He didn’t ask me. I got the impression this trip is a guy thing — male bonding, or some important thing like that. So it’ll be just you, Bess, and me. “
“Okay. I’ll pick Bess up on the way. What time should we show up?”
“How about twelve-thirty?” Nancy suggested.
“Sounds good. I’ve already worked up an appetite. By then I’ll be starving.”
“Listen, there’s another reason I want you two to come over, though,” Nancy added. “I got a letter from Angela Chamberlain today, and she sent her designs for her wedding gown and my bridesmaid’s dress. I’m dying to show them to you both! They’re really gorgeous. Angela’s making mine of poinsettia red velvet, to carry out the Christmas theme, and hers will be snow white brocade.”
“Velvet and brocade?” George echoed. “You’re gushing, Nancy, and that’s not like you. It sounds as though you’re coming down with a bad case of wedding fever. Has Ned caught it, too? Are the two of you going to be the next bride and groom?”
“Oh, please!” Nancy protested. “I am not gushing, and neither of us has wedding fever. I’m going to be Angela’s bridesmaid, and Ned’s going to be a groomsman, and that’s absolutely all there is to it!”
George laughed. “Okay, okay! Forget I mentioned it. See you at twelve-thirty, Nan.”
As Nancy hung up the phone in her room, she glanced at Angela’s sketches again. There was no doubt about it: A Christmas wedding was very romantic. For a brief moment she pictured herself in the bridal gown and veil, with a beaming Ned at her side.
Maybe I do have just a touch of wedding fever, she admitted to herself and smiled. But I’m not going to tell George — she’ll never let me forget it!
A few hours later Nancy’s two best friends arrived at her house.
“This weather is the total pits,” Bess Marvin grumbled as she and George took off their wet jackets. She looked at her reflection in the hall mirror, then pulled a comb out of her shoulder bag and tugged it through her damp blond hair. “Yuck! Nice hairdo, eh? Good thing I have an appointment at Hair Dimensions later this afternoon. I have a date with Walt tonight, and if he saw me looking like this, he’d never ask me out again!”
George grinned at her. “Sure he would. Don’t be such a ditz, Bess. When I was running this morning, I passed Walt on the track. He’s pretty cool. A little thing like a bad hair day wouldn’t turn him off.”
Looking from tall, athletic George in her bright blue sweats to petite, feminine Bess in snug designer jeans and a fuzzy pink sweater,
Nancy commented, “The two of you are so different that sometimes I find it hard to believe you’re cousins! Come on into the living room. You can dry off by the fire and look at Angela’s drawings until lunch is ready.”
When Bess and George were comfortably settled in front of the fireplace, Nancy brought out the sketches and passed them around.
“I love them!” Bess exclaimed. “Angela’s a lot more talented than I thought. The style is so elegant, with that portrait neckline and full skirt. You’ll look terrific in the bridesmaid’s gown, Nancy. It takes somebody tall like you or George to carry it off. Good thing Angela didn’t ask me to be a bridesmaid. I’d probably look like a red mushroom in that dress.”
Nancy laughed. “You would not! Angela’s even shorter than you, Bess, and she certainly wouldn’t design a dress that made her look like a mushroom on her wedding day.”
Sitting back in her chair, George ran a hand through her short, dark curls. “To tell the truth, I’m kind of surprised that Angela’s getting married at all. Let’s face it. When the Chamberlains lived in River Heights, the guys weren’t exactly standing in line to ask her out.”
“That’s for sure,” Bess said.
“I didn’t know Angela very well — hardly anybody did except you and Ned, Nancy,”
George went on. “Most of the kids thought she was stuck-up because her father was so wealthy, but she just struck me as being awfully shy.”
Bess nodded. “Especially around boys. I don’t remember Angela ever having a date. I bet she could have, though, if she’d just fixed her self up a little. She didn’t dress like other girls, either — she always wore those funky clothes she designed.”
“Hey, remember, the only thing she’s ever really cared about is fashion design,” Nancy pointed out. “In fact, she squeezed four years of design classes into three. Obviously she wasn’t a total workaholic, though. She found time to meet Rafe Marino, her fiance, while she was at the art institute. He’s in the fine arts program. “
Nancy was proud of her friend Angela and what she had accomplished. She had recently graduated with honors from the Manhattan Institute of Art and Design. She had enrolled at the school three years earlier when her father, Gordon Chamberlain, relocated the corporate headquarters of Galaxy Computers from Chicago to New York and moved his family to Soundview, the estate he had purchased on Long Island’s exclusive North Shore.
A year later Mr. Chamberlain had died suddenly from a massive heart attack. It had been a terrible shock for Angela, but Howard Tremain, Gordon’s business partner and a close friend of the family, had been a constant source of com fort and support to Angela and her mother, Felicia. No one was particularly surprised when less than a year after Gordon died, Felicia and Howard were married.
Bess heaved a sigh. “Rafe, short for Raphael — it’s such a romantic name, absolutely perfect for an artist. And you told us he actually grew up only a few miles away from Soundview. It seems like fate, doesn’t it?”
George raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know about that, Bess. Sounds more like good planning to me.”
“Good planning? What are you talking about?” Nancy asked, frowning.
George shrugged. “Consider the facts. According to you, this guy is on a full scholarship, which means he doesn’t have any money. Everybody in the area where he lives must know how super-rich Angela’s family is. When Mr. Chamberlain died, it was probably common knowledge that his only child stood to inherit big bucks on her twenty-first birthday — news like that travels fast in a small town. And Angela is twenty now, right? When Rafe marries her and she turns twenty-one, he’ll be set for life.”
“George, you are so cynical!” Bess chided. “I think it’s very romantic. Of course, it’s sad that Angela doesn’t have her father to give her away, but — “
Nancy interrupted. “That’s true, but she gets along really well with her stepfather, so he’s walking her down the aisle.”
“That’s great,” Bess said. “He must be pretty special since he’s flying you and Ned to New York in his private jet.”
Nancy nodded. “First-class all the way.”
Bess sighed. “I am so jealous. Angela’s wedding will probably be the social event of the season on Long Island.”
“It’ll probably make the front page of every newspaper on the East Coast,” George said dryly. Turning to Nancy, she asked, “So, how many bridesmaids and groomsmen will there be besides you and Ned? Ten? Twenty?”
Nancy laughed. “None,” she said. “We’re it.”
“You’re kidding!” Bess exclaimed. “I thought Angela’s wedding would be like a Charles and Diana rerun, with dozens of attendants!”
George gave her a look. “Yeah, right. And you know how well that turned out.”
“It’s going to be a very small wedding be cause Angela’s mother hasn’t been well lately,” Nancy told them. “Mrs. Chamberlain — I mean Mrs. Tremain — definitely isn’t up to making arrangements for the extravaganza she’d originally planned. That’s okay with Angela, though.
She never wanted a big wedding in the first place, but she was willing to go along with it to please her mother.”
“What’s wrong with Angela’s mom?” George asked.
“I don’t know. Neither does Angela,” Nancy replied. “Apparently nobody does, not even Mrs. Tremain’s doctors. They’ve been running all sorts of tests, but nothing conclusive has shown up. She’s just very weak and tired, and Angela says she’s lost a lot of weight. She hardly eats anything because her stomach is upset all the time.”
“Gee, that’s too bad. My aunt Ruth had the very same symptoms, and it turned out that she had an ulcer,” George volunteered. “Maybe that’s Mrs. Tremain’s problem, too.”
“Well, there’s nothing wrong with my stomach except hunger pangs,” Bess joked. “I’m surprised you can’t hear it growling, ‘Feed me, feed me!’ That turkey smells delicious. When do we eat?”
Hannah Gruen marched into the living room. “Any minute now, if Nancy ever gets around to making the salad,” she said, winking at Bess and George.
“Oops!” Nancy leaped to her feet. “Sorry about that, Hannah. We’ve been talking about Angela Chamberlain’s wedding, and I completely forgot about everything else.”
Hannah shook her head. “I feel so sorry for that poor girl, with her father dead, her mother sick, and her fiancé a fortune hunter.”
“Oh. Hannah, give me a break.” Nancy laughed. “You sound like George. Just because Angela’s an heiress doesn’t mean that Rafe is marrying her for her money.”
“It doesn’t mean he isn’t, either,” Hannah said. “Remember when the heiress to the Fontaine fortune was murdered on her honeymoon and her new husband was the prime suspect?”
Nancy rolled her eyes. “Of course I remember,” she said. “Dad was the attorney for the defense. He proved that the husband was innocent. What does that have to do with Angela and Rafe?”
“Well, nothing, I guess,” the housekeeper admitted. “But if anything should happen to Angela after they’re married, who stands to benefit? Rafe Marino, I bet!”
Nancy stared at her. “Hannah, what’s gotten into you? We have no reason to believe Rafe is anything other than a perfectly kind and loving guy. And you’ve already got him in the murder lineup. “
“I just can’t stop thinking about that Fontaine case, that’s all.” Hannah put her hands on her hips. “Now, are you going to make that salad or what?”
“I’ll do it right now. Turkey a la Hannah and salad a la Nancy coming right up,” Nancy promised.
“I’ll give you a hand,” George offered.
“Me, too,” said Bess.
They followed Hannah into the kitchen, where Nancy made the dressing, Bess washed and dried the greens, and George sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.
When Hannah took the casserole out of the oven and carried it into the dining room, Bess said, “I can’t believe that Hannah thinks Angela’s in danger from Rafe. You don’t believe it, do you, Nancy?”
Nancy smiled. “Of course not. Hannah’s been with us so long that she tends to see everything as a case to be solved.”
“So, where are Angela and Rafe going on their honeymoon?” George asked.
“Paris first, then the south of France.” Nancy poured the dressing over the greens and tossed the salad. “They’ll stay there for a while, and then spend another few months in Italy so Rafe can study art and Angela can hook up with some designers in Milan. They’ll probably be gone for about a year. “
“Wow!” Bess breathed. “Most newlyweds Just get a week.”
“True, but Angela and Rafe are different from most newlyweds,” George said. “They’ll have all the time in the world, and plenty of money — Angela’s money. “
Nancy frowned at her. “Why do you keep trashing Rafe, George? Angela’s crazy in love with him. Don’t you want her to be happy?”
“Sure I do. I’m not trashing Rafe. I just hope for Angela’s sake that he’s in love with her, not with the mega-bucks she’s going to inherit!”