Hot Tracks – First Chapter

chapter 1

“Wow, what a great car!” Nancy Drew exclaimed. She ran her fingers along the shiny hood of the yellow Camaro, then stood back to inspect the sports car.

“After a full year of saving up, it’s all mine,” Bess Marvin said proudly. With a big grin, she held up the keys and jingled them. “Ready for a ride?”

Nancy’s blue eyes sparkled with anticipation. “Definitely!” She had driven Bess over to the used car lot to pick up the Camaro. Now the papers were all signed, and Bess was free to drive the car away.

While Bess opened the driver’s door, Nancy jogged around to the passenger side and climbed in. “Nice seats,” she said. “They’re comfortable, and the color is — ” She had spoken before she really looked. The seat covers and carpet were an ugly brown, but she didn’t want to burst Bess’s bubble.

“I know. The color’s gross.” Bess plucked at the sleeve of her red jumpsuit. “My dream car would’ve been candy apple red with white leather seats. But the dealer said he doesn’t get many used Camaros, and I could never afford a new one. I was so excited when he called about this one that I didn’t even care about the seats. To me it’s the most beautiful car in the world!”

Nancy patted the dashboard. “It is really nice,” she agreed. “George is going to die when she sees it. It’s too bad she couldn’t come today.”

“I understand, though,” Bess said with a shrug. “I mean, if I had a choice between sailing with my boyfriend’s family and going to a car dealership, I’d choose the guy any time.”

Bess’s cousin George Fayne usually did everything with Nancy and Bess. This time, though, she had chosen to go sailing with Kevin Davis, her new boyfriend, and his family for five days.

“So let’s get going,” Bess went on. She turned the key in the ignition, and the motor jumped to life with a powerful roar.

“All right!” Nancy said. “The next time somebody leads us on a high-speed chase we’re taking this baby.”

Bess whisked her blond hair behind her ears and playfully poked Nancy on the arm. “Are you ready for the ride of your life?”

Nancy checked her watch. “You’re not going to believe this, but we don’t have time for a ride,” she told Bess. “I made our dinner reservations for six-thirty, and I hear the Riverside gives them away if you’re late. I’d better just take my car and meet you there.” Stepping out of the Camaro, Nancy smoothed her cotton sweater and short denim skirt.

“See you there,” Bess said, leaning across the seat to speak to Nancy.

After climbing into her blue Mustang, Nancy took a second to comb her reddish blond hair and check her lipstick in the rearview mirror. A squeal of tires made her look out the window in time to see the Camaro buck. It came to a complete stop before Bess restarted the engine and pulled out of the lot. Having Bess behind the wheel of her own car was going to be a real adventure!

Nancy started the Mustang and headed after her friend. She didn’t catch another glimpse of the yellow Camaro until she pulled into the parking lot of the Riverside.

The restaurant was located in a recently renovated area along the Muskoka River. The Scene, a new nightclub, was next to it, and several boutiques and smaller restaurants had opened up along the narrow winding road that led down from the highway. The whole area was bathed in a warm glow.

As Nancy pulled into the restaurant parking lot, she saw that Bess had found a parking space right beside the front entrance, between a Mercedes and a BMW.

“Look at this, Nan,” Bess yelled through her open window. “VIP parking!”

With a wave, Nancy drove the Mustang around the crowded lot. Finally she found an empty spot under a willow tree at the side of the building. After she walked around to the front of the restaurant, she noticed that the door of the Camaro was open. There was no sign of Bess.

“Bess?” Nancy called, feeling a sudden twinge of nervousness.

“In here!”

Nancy stepped up close to the car. Bess was bent low in the driver’s seat, searching for something on the floor.

“My purse fell, and all my junk spilled out.” Bess moaned.

Nancy laughed. “No wonder! You jerked out of the car dealer’s.”

“Did not. I only stalled out once. Oh no! The top of my perfume bottle just came off. The carpet’s getting soaked.” Bess sat up, holding her nose. “Now the whole car stinks.”

With a teasing smile, Nancy said, “At least now you and your car smell the same.”

“True,” Bess said brightly. “Besides, I can’t do anything about it now, so let’s eat. I hear the Riverside has the best seafood. Though it’s too bad we didn’t decide on carryout.” She patted the top of the car before shutting and locking the door. “I hate to leave this baby for even a second.”

“Your car will be fine,” Nancy assured her. She linked her arm through Bess’s, and the two girls walked to the stone steps. The Riverside was built to resemble the quaint buildings in the seaside towns of Maine. It had a wood-shingled roof, weathered natural wood siding, and white shutters.

“It looks crowded,” Nancy commented as she opened the screen door and they stepped inside. “It’s a good thing we made reservations.”

Ten minutes later the girls were seated at a small table on the back porch of the restaurant. A huge glass window wrapped around the porch.

“What a view!” Bess exclaimed, glancing out at the sun as it glinted behind a row of willows on the steep bank of the river. Deep golden reflections streaked the water’s surface. “It’s amazing to think that’s the same muddy river we cross over every day on the highway.”

“Really,” Nancy agreed. “It looks so wild, I feel as if I really am in Maine.”

“Mmm. Maine. That reminds me of lobster, my favorite,” Bess said, scanning the menu.

Nancy picked up her menu and began studying it, too. “Shrimp sounds good to me.”

Ssst.Nancy,” Bess hissed a few moments later. When Nancy raised her eyes, her friend was peering at her around the side of the menu.

“What?”

Bess nodded her head to the right. “Look at that guy, four tables over,” she whispered.

Nancy glanced casually over. A cute guy about their age was just being seated. “What about him?” she asked Bess in a low voice.

“He went to high school with us. I think his name is Dirk Walters. Do you remember him?”

Nancy stared at the guy again. He was leaning forward in his chair, studying his menu. His sun-streaked sandy hair was cropped short, and his arms and face were tanned a golden brown.

“Sort of,” Nancy replied, turning back to Bess. “I’m not surprised that you remember, though. You never forget a cute guy.

“That’s for sure! And Dirk was the cutest in my English class.” She frowned slightly and added, “The trouble was, he was only interested in cars.”

“May I take your order?” the waitress asked, interrupting the girls.

“I’ll have the lobster tail,” Bess said promptly, “to celebrate owning my first car.”

Nancy ordered the fried shrimp. After the waitress left, she glanced back at Dirk Walters. He was sipping a soda, staring at them. Suddenly he stood up and strode directly over to their table.

“You’re Bess, right?” he asked, curiosity lighting up his green eyes. “Bess Marvin from English class.”

Bess flashed him her brightest smile. “Right, and you’re Dirk Walters. How are you?”

“Great!” Dirk pulled out an extra chair, twirled it around and straddled it backward. “How about you?”

“Fantastic. Do you remember Nancy Drew?” Bess added. “She was in our grade, too.”

“Drew, Drew — ” Dirk furrowed his brow as he mulled over the name. “You were in my algebra class in tenth grade.”

“I was?” Nancy asked, surprised that he remembered.

“Yeah. Straight As as I recall.” Dirk laughed, then turned back to Bess, who was blushing slightly as she beamed at him.

Nancy rolled her eyes. She knew her friend well enough to know what that smile meant. Bess was getting another of her instant crushes. Not that Nancy could blame her. If it weren’t for Ned Nickerson, Nancy’s steady boyfriend, she might have been just as interested. Dirk Walters was definitely a hunk.

Nancy listened idly as Dirk explained what he had been doing since they had graduated high school.

“I’ve been crewing for a guy who’s on the drag-racing circuit,” he was saying. “We’ve been all over the state this year.”

“Drag racing!” Bess exclaimed. “I should’ve guessed. You always had a car magazine stuck in your English book.”

Just then the waitress came with the girls’ salads. Dirk reluctantly stood up.

“Well, I guess I’d better let you eat,” he said. “Hey, why don’t you come out to the racetrack Friday at about two? I’ll get you passes into the pit area. I’m racing this weekend, and again in next weekend’s Memorial Day race. It’s kind of a big deal for me — it’s the first time I’ll be running my own car.”

“That sounds neat. We’d love to!” Bess gushed.

Nancy gulped down a tomato. Neat? She couldn’t believe Bess was so excited about the prospect of spending time at a hot, smelly, noisy racetrack. This crush on Dirk Walters must be serious!

“Great,” said Dirk. “I’ll call you with the details.” Bess found a pen in her purse, and he wrote her phone number down on the back of his hand. Then, with a wave, he went back to his table.

Bess gave a dreamy sigh. “He’s more gorgeous than ever. Nancy, I think I’m in love!”

“From the way Dirk stared at you, I’d say it’s mutual,” Nancy said.

“Do you really think so?” Bess asked.

Nancy nodded. Just then the waitress came with their main course. Pointing at Bess’s untouched salad, Nancy said, “You’d better eat before love makes you wither away to nothing.”

“I’m too excited,” Bess declared, picking up her fork. “Though I must say this lobster looks yummy, and — “

Abruptly, she stopped talking. Nancy saw that Bess had focused her attention on Dirk’s table, her fork frozen in midair.

Nancy followed Bess’s gaze in time to see a tall, lithe brunette greet Dirk with a hug and sit down at his table. Dirk motioned to the waitress, then leaned forward and began talking to the brunette, an eager expression on his face.

“I don’t believe it!” Bess said, frowning. She angrily speared her lobster tail with her fork. “He had a date with another girl!”

“Maybe it’s not a date date,” Nancy said, trying to reassure her friend.

“Well, I know one thing — they’re not discussing gear shifts!” She cut off a piece of lobster, swirled it in butter sauce, and popped it into her mouth.

Immediately her expression brightened. “I know another thing, too,” she added. “No guy’s going to ruin my dinner. This lobster is delicious. Let’s enjoy our food, and as soon as we leave, Dirk Walters will be history.”

Forty-five minutes later the girls had paid their bill and were getting up to leave. Through the whole meal, Dirk and his friend had chatted animatedly. Only when the attractive brunette had left the table for several minutes did Dirk look over and smile at Bess.

On their way out, Bess purposefully led them right past Dirk’s table. Nancy overheard Dirk say to the brunette, “It’s a date, then. I’ll see you Friday.” He raised his eyes to Bess and Nancy.

“‘Bye. Dirk,” Bess said coolly before stalking out of the restaurant.

Nancy caught up with her outside on the porch. Even in the dark, she could see that Bess was fuming.

“Do you believe the nerve of that jerk?” Bess asked, her hands on her hips. “He asked us to the races on Friday, too. Who does he think he is?”

“Just be glad you found out about the guy before you started dating him.”

Bess let out a long breath of air. “You’re right,” she agreed. “I hope the Camaro didn’t miss me too much. Come on, I’ll race the Mustang home.”

The two girls started down the restaurant steps. Except for a few pockets of light from outside lamps, the parking lot was dark with menacing shadows.

“Let’s still go to the races Friday afternoon,” Bess suggested, pausing halfway down the steps. “It’ll be fun to see how Romeo Walters handles three dates.”

She began giggling. A moment later laughter died on her lips. She was staring straight ahead, her eyes wide with horror.

“What is it?” Nancy asked. Then she noticed that the parking space between the Mercedes and BMW was empty.

“Nancy!” Bess gasped. “The Camaro’s gone!”

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