False Impressions – First Chapter

Chapter 1

“What’s tonight’s movie?” Bess Marvin asked, plopping down on the living room floor beside her friend Nancy Drew.

“Good question.” Brushing her reddish blond hair back from her face, Nancy turned to her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, who was standing behind them. She wasn’t able to prevent a grin from spreading across her face as she took in Ned’s muscular build and soft brown hair and eyes. A romantic evening at home with him was just what she needed, even if they did have their friends Bess and George for company.

“What did you pick out, Ned?” she asked.

“See for yourself,” he answered, returning her smile and holding out a tape in each hand.

Nancy hopped up and reached for the tapes just as Ned playfully hid them behind his back. She stood back and with a wry smile remarked, “What’s wrong? Afraid we won’t like what you picked out?”

“Actually, I was hoping for a reward for braving this storm before I showed them to you.” He nodded toward the snowflakes swirling outside the Drews’ living-room window.

Reaching up and twining her arms around his neck, Nancy gently pressed her lips against Ned’s. “How’s that for a token of appreciation?”

“Hmmm.” Ned folded his strong arms around her and pulled her closer. “I think I need to be convinced,” he murmured, returning her kiss.

“Whoa, guys!” Bess’s cousin, George Fayne, was standing in the doorway to the living room, holding a bowl filled with popcorn. “I thought we came over to watch a movie, not a real-life romance!”

Nancy grinned at her friend and unwrapped herself from Ned. “Well, we have a choice,” she said, reading the labels on the cassettes Ned had handed over. “Dreamboatsor Take-down with Kirk Sheridan and Stuart Palmer.”

“Okay, I’ll bite,” George said, sitting down on the floor next to her cousin. “What’s Take-down about?”

“It’s an action movie,” Ned explained.

“American agents chase gunrunners in the Florida Keys.”

“Forget it!” Bess said. “Who wants to watch boats blowing up?” She patted the rug next to her for George to sit down next to her with the popcorn. Seated beside each other, the two cousins looked as if they couldn’t possibly be related. Bess was a pretty girl, five feet four inches tall, with long blond hair. George, three inches taller, had a slender, athletic body and short, dark, wash-and-go hair.

Nancy walked over to the VCR. “Anyone disagree? I guess that decides it. Romance it is.”

“Outvoted again,” Ned said good-naturedly.

“Well, you didn’t have to give us a choice, you know,” Bess pointed out. “You did pick the movies.”

Sitting down, Ned grabbed a handful of popcorn and said, “What can I say — I’m just a nice guy.”

Nancy took a seat beside Ned just as the opening credits began. She felt Ned’s arm brush her shoulders as he reached behind her to dim the lamp. Snuggling against him, she lifted her eyes and smiled.

“I’d say we’re getting this semester break off on the right foot, wouldn’t you?”

Ned pulled her closer. “That’s for sure. I’m sorry the snow spoiled our plans to go to that party in Bedford.” His lips brushed Nancy’s ear. “But not too sorry.”

“Me neither,” Nancy said, sinking even deeper into Ned’s arms. It felt so right being with him that she hoped the movie would last forever. As the credits ended, Nancy had to force herself to pay attention to the plot. Being with Ned, she decided, could be distracting.

“Look, Nancy,” George said, pointing to a close-up of a beautiful dark-haired woman. “Isn’t that Lucinda Prado?”

“It sure is!” Nancy said. “This must have been her last movie,” she added, shaking her head slowly.

“Sorry, Nancy,” Ned whispered softly. “I should have remembered — “

“It’s okay, Ned.” Nancy had recently solved the case of the South American movie star’s death. It had been a tough case, especially since she’d gotten really close to the star’s daughter, Bree Gordon.

“At least you solved the case,” Bess added. “It would have been even worse if you hadn’t.” She shifted her eyes from the TV to Nancy and back to the movie again.

Nancy smiled at her friend’s vote of confidence and squeezed Ned’s hand tenderly. “I sure wish you could have come with me that time, Ned.”

“Well, for once, one of your cases isn’t keeping us apart.” Ned cuddled her close. “Believe me, I’m looking forward to spending the next couple of weeks with you.” His brown eyes twinkled. “Unless, of course, there’s a mystery in Bora Bora that needs your immediate attention.”

Nancy grinned, shaking her head slowly. “No danger of that. My suitcases are in storage. My passport’s filed away. I’m not budging from River Heights while you’re home on vacation.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Hannah Gruen, the Drews’ housekeeper, had appeared in the doorway. “You need to spend more time with this wonderful boy,” Hannah added. She walked into the living room, carrying a tray with cups of steaming hot chocolate.

“That looks great!” Ned said, hitting the Pause button on the remote control.

“Why don’t you stay and watch the movie with us, Hannah?” Nancy asked. “It’s a romantic thriller,” she added. Nancy knew Hannah’s soft spot for love stories.

“In that case I think I will,” Hannah said with a twinkle in her eye.

They turned their attention back to the movie, and soon they were all engrossed in the story. Lucinda Prado played a lawyer whose daughter was accused of a crime she hadn’t committed. Finally, with the help of a young police officer who fell in love with her daughter, Prado was able to prove her child’s innocence and track down the real culprit.

“That was great. I never realized until now what an incredible actress Lucinda Prado was,” Hannah said with a sigh.

“And that guy who played her daughter’s boyfriend — what a hunk!” Bess said, shaking her leg vigorously. She had sat with it tucked under her and now it was asleep.

George glanced out the Drews’ living room window. “We’d better get home, Bess. It’s snowing really hard now.”

“You’re not kidding, George,” Bess agreed, glancing up. “I hope your dad will be okay driving tonight, Nan.”

“Dad’s not coming home tonight,” Nancy replied. “He’s staying in Chicago for a few days.”

“What’s he doing there?” George asked, stacking the empty mugs on the tray. Hannah took the tray from George and started toward the kitchen.

“Dad’s working on a fraud case. He was asked to help by the county DA.”

George followed Hannah into the kitchen, carrying the popcorn bowl and napkins, while Bess stood up gingerly and continued to shake her leg. Nancy and Ned went off to get the coats.

After placing his coat over the hall banister, Ned turned and scooped Nancy up into his arms. The warmth of his embrace sent a delighted tingle through Nancy. They had had a wonderful day together, and she was reluctant to see it end.

Ned’s good-night kiss was lingering. Drawing his lips away, he murmured, “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“I’ll be here.” Nancy stood on tiptoe and brushed her lips across Ned’s one last time.

Bess and George slipped into the front hall just then, breaking the romantic spell that had taken hold of Nancy and Ned.

Bess announced, “We’re all set!”

“Take it slow and easy, you three,” Hannah advised, joining them to say good night. “They haven’t started plowing — “

A loud, brisk knocking on the front door interrupted her. Nancy exchanged a puzzled glance with Ned. Who could it be at this time of night?

As Nancy reached for the doorknob, she called out, “Who is it?”

“Chief McGinnis,” a male voice replied.

Nancy looked more perplexed. Chief McGinnis was the head of the police department in River Heights, and she had helped his department solve more than one case.

Nancy opened the front door to the chief, who was standing on the snow-covered welcome mat. The police officer was a rugged-looking, middle-aged man clad in a black police slicker. Beside him stood a younger man in a trench coat and snow boots.

Nancy zeroed in on the newcomer, taking in his square jaw, deep-set blue eyes, snub nose, and grim mouth. Snowflakes sparkled under the porch light and dusted his unruly flaxen hair.

“Hi, Chief.” Nancy smiled and opened the door wider. “Come on in. I’m sure Hannah has a cup or two of hot chocolate left.”

The chief stomped the snow from his boots and stepped inside past Nancy with the other man trailing him. Chief McGinnis’s expression was a blend of chagrin and embarrassment. As the other man pulled the front door closed, McGinnis cleared his throat uneasily. “Nancy, this is Lieutenant Pete Kowalski of the Mapleton PD.”

Glancing at the lieutenant’s face, Nancy thought he looked awfully serious. Lieutenant Kowalski turned away from Nancy’s look to glance at the chief. “She does match the description.”

Nancy exchanged a look with Ned. Hannah, Bess, and George stood by expectantly. Before Nancy could ask the chief what Kowalski meant, McGinnis spoke up.

“I know you’re making a big mistake, Pete,” he said, frowning.

Bewildered by this exchange, Nancy spoke up. “Excuse me, but what’s this all about?”

Lieutenant Kowalski took a folded paper from his breast pocket. His blue eyes narrowed icily as he showed it to Nancy.

“This is a warrant, Ms. Drew. You’re under arrest!”

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