“I can’t wait to see Kamla again,” Nancy Drew said to her father, Carson, as they pulled into the parking lot of the River’s Edge Day School. “She really loves her teaching job, and she credits you with getting it for her.”
Mr. Drew smiled. “That’s complimentary, but not exactly true. All I did was see that her immigration status was in order. It was a nice change from the criminal work I usually do. She got the job on her own merits. She’s a smart young woman.” He reached over and patted his daughter’s hand. “Like somebody else I know!”
Nancy undid her seat belt and flipped her long reddish blond hair over her shoulder. “Does this look careerish enough for Career Day?” she asked her father as she got out of the car. Nancy was wearing a new electric blue linen suit that showed off her slim figure and highlighted her blue eyes. The short skirt and long one-button jacket were complemented with a matching silk blouse.
She and her father had been invited to come to the school that afternoon to talk to the third-grade class. It was Career Day, an annual event in which prominent people from River Heights visited and discussed their occupations with the elementary school children.
“You look perfect,” said Carson, beaming at Nancy with pride. “I’m so glad you could come with me. I want the kids to know that teamwork is important. The best lawyer in the world can’t win a case without someone like you researching the facts.”
They entered through the heavy double doors of the elegant private school, its red brick walls barely showing through the heavy covering of ivy. The school had once been the residence of a wealthy doctor in River Heights. Here, Kamla Chadi, a twenty-three-year-old native of Bombay, India, had obtained her first teaching position after graduating with honors from the University of Michigan with a degree in education.
Nancy had met Kamla through Carson, and had introduced her to her friends Bess Marvin and George Fayne. Through the summer the three young women had included Kamla in some of their activities, taking her to the River Heights Street Fair and the raft races and waterskiing on the river. But when fall came, each had become busy with her own plans.
Kamla met the Drews in the principal’s office. She shook hands with Mr. Drew and gave Nancy a hug.
She was dressed in her native sari, a length of cloth in bright reds and oranges that covered one shoulder and set off her dark hair and complexion. Her long hair was drawn back with a red silk scarf, and she wore delicate silver bangles on her wrists.
“Thanks so much for coming,” she said. “The children are very excited about meeting you.” Kamla grinned and shook her head. “If only I could bottle their enthusiasm.” Her dark eyes twinkled mischievously. “They just spent an hour with an accountant.” She lowered her voice. “I don’t think any of them are ready to choose that career! But they are really looking forward to meeting a criminal attorney and a private investigator.” She turned to Nancy as they walked down the long hall to her classroom.
“Are we still on for an early dinner tonight?”
“Yes. George has my car today,” Nancy replied. “She’ll pick us up here at four.”
“Good thing,” Kamla replied. “Mine can’t be relied on to get us anywhere. I had to hitch a ride this morning. I’m furious at that mechanic at the garage. Three hundred dollars and it still won’t run!” She dismissed the topic with a wave of her hand. “What about Bess? Will she join us?”
Nancy shook her head. “No, Bess left for Florida yesterday to visit her aunt. She’ll come back with a good tan, and we’ll all be shivering.”
“And she’ll have a new boyfriend to talk about,” Kamla added, her eyes twinkling. “Bess falls in love very easily.”
“That she does,” Nancy answered with a grin. The children were chattering excitedly when the trio entered Kamla’s room. She held up her hand for silence, and immediately the room was quiet. Nancy could tell that the children loved and respected their teacher.
Kamla’s third-grade class was small — about fifteen students. Their desks were arranged in a circle, and two extra chairs had been added for Mr. Drew and Nancy. Kamla’s desk, at the front of the room, was neatly stacked with papers.
The time went quickly. After Carson and Nancy had explained their work, the children bombarded the father-daughter team with questions. Mr. Drew was asked about one of his more sensational cases — a robbery in which hostages had been taken — a case that had received a lot of publicity nationwide.
One sandy-haired, stocky boy raised his hand. “Is a hostage like being kidnapped?” he asked.
“Yes,” Mr. Drew replied.
The boy, freckle-faced and precocious, had asked several probing questions during the hour and appeared to be extremely bright.
“I know about kidnapping,” he volunteered.
Carson smiled. “Good,” he replied. “The more you know about it, the better.” He looked at the eager faces around him. “How many of you know how to protect yourselves against kidnappers?” Hands shot up in the circle. “Don’t get into a car with a stranger.”
“Don’t talk to people you don’t know.”
“Don’t take candy from people.”
“Walk home from school with a friend.”
“Don’t let strangers into your house.”
“Yell real loud.”
“Very good!” said Carson.
The boy who had started the conversation put his chin in his hands and frowned, as if he was weighing the information.
When the bell rang, signaling the end of the school day, the children called out their thank yous and filed out.
Mr. Drew consulted his watch. “I think I may have enough time to get to the courthouse before it closes,” he said. He looked over at Nancy. “Thanks for your help. I couldn’t have held their attention without you. Are you sure George is coming to pick you up?”
Nancy nodded. “Positive.”
“Okay,” Mr. Drew said. “Then I’m on my way. Have a nice dinner, ladies.”
“We will,” Kamla said. “Thanks for coming.” She turned back to the room with a puzzled look on her face. “Jeremy,” she said, “is something wrong?” The boy who had asked about kidnapping was still sitting at his desk.
Jeremy grinned. “Nope. I had some questions for Nancy, but they’re sort of private.”
“Oh,” Kamla said in an understanding tone. “I’m sure Nancy won’t mind answering your questions…but first, I’d better introduce you.” She turned to Nancy. “This is Jeremy Wright. You may know his grandfather Edwin Wright. He’s a prominent criminal attorney here in River Heights. Jeremy is living with his grandfather while his dad is on a scientific expedition in the Amazon.”
“I’ve heard my father speak of Edwin Wright,” Nancy said. She held out her hand to Jeremy. “I’m pleased to meet you, Jeremy. What questions did you want to ask me?”
“Well, I guess they’re not really questions,” he said. “But I didn’t want to say anything in front of the other kids.”
“Say anything about what, Jeremy?” Nancy smiled at him as she sat down at the next desk.
“Well, I mean it’s all good stuff about not talking to strangers, and yelling loud, not opening the door, and not taking rides from people, but I’m not going to do any of those things, and I’m still going to be kidnapped. Really soon.”
Kamla stopped cleaning off her desk and walked over to Nancy and Jeremy. “Why do you think that, Jeremy?” she asked with concern.
“Because I just know I am. Because I’m a good private investigator.”
“Remember what I said to the class?” Nancy said gently. “Private investigators deal with facts. Do you have any facts to prove that?”
“I really do,” Jeremy said. “I heard them planning it. None of the things you talked about is going to happen. No strangers, no candy, no cars. But it’s really going to happen!”
“Tell me more about this,” Nancy said.
Jeremy held up his hand to signal “stop.”
“What’s the password?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
Jeremy gave her an I-can’t-believe-you’re-asking-me look. Patiently, he explained. “For access to the information superhighway, you need to give the password.”
“Oh, dear,” Nancy said. “The password?”
“That’s it!” Jeremy shouted. “Password!” He leaned forward and whispered. “But it won’t work the next time. The password keeps changing.”
“Okay,” Nancy said. “I understand the need for secrecy. But I’m on the highway now, right? So you’re going to give me the information.”
“Right!” Nancy heard the door open and glanced over. George had entered the room and was standing quietly by the door, not wanting to interrupt.
But her appearance distracted Jeremy. He peered around Nancy and waved at the newcomer. “Hi,” he yelled. “I’m Jeremy Wright.”
“Hi!” George replied. “I’m George Fayne.”
“But you’re a girl,” Jeremy said. “Girls aren’t named George.“
“This one is,” George replied, covering a grin with her hand. “Good to see you again,” she said to Kamla. She lowered her voice. “Am I interrupting something?”
Kamla shook her head. “No, it’s okay,” she said softly. “Jeremy had some questions for Nancy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s asked her for a job. He told me this morning he was already at work as a private eye!”
“Sounds like a live wire to me,” George said. Kamla was about to speak when Jeremy stood up and pushed some books into his backpack. “I’ve got to hurry,” he said. “Darcy’s waiting and she’ll be mad.”
Kamla smiled. “See you tomorrow, Jeremy.”
“Okay,” he replied brightly. “That is, if my grandfather doesn’t have me kidnapped during the night!”