“Talk about sleazy. Look at this headline,” Bess Marvin said indignantly, sliding Today’s Times across the kitchen table to Nancy Drew. “The poor guy’s dead, and all anyone can talk about is his money.”
Nancy pushed her reddish blond hair back from her face and looked up distractedly from the table, which was covered with the components of her car’s tape deck. It kept eating her tapes, and she had taken it apart to see if she could fix it.
Picking up the newspaper, the slender eighteen-year-old glanced at the headline Bess had mentioned. It ran in big letters across the front page of the paper: “Glover’s Millions Up for Grabs.”
“It’s pretty pathetic,” she agreed after skimming the article. “That reporter was so busy writing about how big Mr. Glover’s estate is that he hardly even mentioned his heart attack or any of the many donations Mr. Glover made to charities.” She turned her attention back to the pile of components in front of her.
“I bet everyone in River Heights will be at his funeral tomorrow,” said Bess, her blue eyes shining. “I mean, how often does a multimillionaire die without anyone to inherit his estate? His fortune’s worth over ten million dollars!”
Nancy was fitting two tiny metal components together and pressing an even tinier metal spring between them. Without looking up, she said, “Oh, I’m sure there’ll be somebody. A man with wings of hospitals named after him isn’t going to forget to make a will. Now that I think of it, I remember my dad mentioned one.”
Carson Drew, one of River Heights’s most prominent lawyers, had been Clayton Glover’s attorney. Nancy knew her father was involved with the settling of his estate, but she didn’t know any of the details. “He’ll probably leave most of his money to charity,” she told Bess, “and a nice bit to Mrs. Adams.”
“Oh, the housekeeper, that’s right,” said Bess. “Remember how great it was when we used to spend time out at Glover’s Corners. You know, back when” — she paused uncertainly before finishing — “back when Matt was around.”
Nancy and Bess had been in junior high when Matt Glover was reported missing in Colorado after an avalanche sent tons of snow tumbling into a mountain pass. He had been on a ski trip with four other boys in his freshman college class, Nancy remembered. Four bodies were discovered when the snows melted. Matt’s was never found. It had made headlines in all the major newspapers in the area.
“I haven’t thought about Matt much lately. I used to think about him all the time after he disappeared,” Bess went on.
Something about the wistful note in Bess’s voice made Nancy glance up to study her friend. There was a dreamy look in Bess’s blue eyes, and she was twisting her long blond hair absently in her fingers. “Disappeared?” Nancy repeated. “You almost sound as if you think he could still be alive.”
“I know there’s no way he could be,” Bess said slowly. “But for a while after he disappeared, I used to have this kind of fantasy — you know, where he would reappear, just like that, and we’d go back to skating and stuff out at the Corners. It was just wishful thinking, but I half convinced myself that he really would come back.” She let out a little laugh. “I guess I have a pretty strong imagination.”
Nancy smiled. “Well, it’s understandable. Even though we were five or six years younger than Matt, he invited us all to skate and hang out at Glover’s Corners. He was almost a hero to us.”
“Almost? He was a hero, at least to me. Too bad it was only in my mind that he survived that avalanche.” Bess sighed, resting her chin on her hands. After a short silence, she said, “Speaking of heroes, how’s Ned?”
A familiar warm glow spread through Nancy at the mention of her longtime boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. Ned attended Emerson College, which was several hours’ drive from River Heights.
“He’s fine,” Nancy answered. “He might make it home for a visit next weekend. I hope he can. Since I’m not on a case, I’d be able to spend lots of time with him.”
Nancy’s talent as a detective was well known in River Heights. She wasn’t a professional, but people often asked for her help in solving mysteries. Sometimes it seemed that her detective work took up all her time, though. She was always grateful for free time to be with Ned and her friends.
Her stomach growled, and Nancy realized she was hungry. Giving up on her tape deck, she swept the components into a plastic bag, then went over to the kitchen cabinets.
“Want some popcorn?”
“Don’t tempt me,” Bess said, eyeing the jar Nancy pulled from the cabinet. “I’m trying to lose a few pounds.”
Nancy smiled. Bess was always trying to lose a few pounds, even though she was the only one who thought she needed to. Her curvy figure — now covered with hot pink leggings and an oversize pink- and white-striped sweater — was different from Nancy’s slender, taller build, but it suited Bess perfectly.
Nancy held the popcorn out temptingly, and Bess frowned. “Pretty sneaky plan, Nan, trying to distract me from thinking about Matt with popcorn.”
“Is it working?”
“Well…” The frown was slowly replaced by a big grin. “You bet! I’ll get the popper,” she offered, going over to the cupboard. “Anyway, I read somewhere that popcorn has hardly any calories as long as you don’t add butter.”
Soon they had a heaping bowl of fluffy, butterless popcorn on the table between them. Bess reached for a big handful, popping the kernels one at a time into her mouth.
“I know it’s morbid,” she said, “but I keep thinking about how great it was when Matt was around and we used to go out to Glover’s Corners.”
Nancy nodded. “It was fun.” In the winter, she remembered, there’d been ice skating on the pond behind the house. In the summer the pond was fringed with low-hanging willow trees, and Mrs. Adams, the housekeeper, would bring them ice-cold lemonade after they’d swum.
“Poor Mrs. Adams,” Nancy said. “Now that Mr. Glover is gone, I wonder what she’ll do.”
Rosemary Adams had been more than just a housekeeper to the Glovers. Since Matt’s mother had died when he was only ten, she’d been like a mother to him. It was hard to imagine Glover’s Corners without her.
The girls looked up from their popcorn as Carson Drew came into the kitchen. Putting down his briefcase, he greeted Nancy and Bess, and Nancy saw at once that he was preoccupied. His forehead was creased, and his eyes were red looking.
“Hi, Mr. Drew,” said Bess. She peered at her watch, then hopped up and began putting on her red down coat. “I guess I’d better go. It’s almost time for dinner.”
“I might as well tell you both right now,” Carson said, not listening to Bess. “It’s going to be all over town soon enough.”
Both girls looked at him expectantly.
“I had a call from Rosemary Adams at Glover’s Corners,” he said. “A young man came to the door this afternoon.” Carson hesitated, almost as if he couldn’t continue with what he had to say.
“What did he want?” Nancy prompted.
“He said he was Matthew Glover, and Rosemary nearly fainted from the shock.”
Nancy’s mouth fell open. She started to say something, but her words were drowned out by Bess’s excited cry.
“You see,” she shouted, her face flushed pink. “I was right all along. Matt’s alive, and he’s come home!”