Look at this place!” Bess Marvin exclaimed. “This is what I call style.”
Nancy Drew grinned. Her friend was almost dancing across the lobby of the Peabody Hotel as she took in the beautiful decor. Nancy noticed that eighteen-year-old Bess was drawing appreciative gazes, too, from several guests. That was no surprise, she thought, admiring Bess’s bright blue eyes and pretty face, framed with long blond hair.
“I wish I’d worn something dressier.” Bess glanced down at her traveling outfit, an oversized sweatshirt over a short black skirt.
“Well, we can change as soon as we get to our room,” Nancy said. She was dressed in blue jeans and a summery white blouse. Also eighteen, Nancy was a slim five feet seven and had straw berry blond hair, which she’d pulled back in a ponytail.
As they approached the front desk, a tall, lean clerk leapt to attention. A tag on his jacket said his name was Tad Baker. With a hint of a southern drawl he said to the girls, “Welcome to the Memphis Peabody. The Old South at its finest.”
Nancy and Bess smiled in return. “I’m Nancy Drew, and this is Bess Marvin,” Nancy said. “We have reservations for a room for two.”
“You sure do,” Tad said. “But it didn’t say here how pretty you’d be.” Looking up from the computer screen at his desk, he winked flirtatiously.
Bess giggled, then tried to act serious again. Usually she loved to flirt with cute guys, but Nancy knew that Bess wasn’t interested in meeting anyone new at the moment. She had recently started dating Craig Hershing, who lived back home in River Heights. Bess had spent the whole flight to Memphis talking about Craig and how much she would miss him while she was away.
Still, Tad was a good-looking guy, Nancy had to admit — blond, tanned skin, blue eyes. He had a wide, relaxed grin, with gleaming white teeth. But Nancy wasn’t interested in Tad, either, as attractive as he was. Ned Nickerson, her boyfriend, would always be her one and only.
Tad handed two keys to the girls. “Your room’s on the third floor, number three-eighteen. Oh, wait,” he said, checking the computer screen again. “There’s a message for you. It says, ‘Meet us in the lobby at three forty-five.’ And it’s signed — “
“Frank and Joe Hardy.” Nancy’s blue eyes sparkled at the thought of meeting the Hardy brothers again.
“You got it. Frank and Joe Hardy. I hope you enjoy your stay here, and if you need anything, just give me a call.”
Nancy and Bess followed the porter, who rolled their suitcases on a cart into the elevator and pressed the button for the third floor.
When they entered the room they had reserved, Bess said, “This is gorgeous.”
Two queen-size beds were covered with blue spreads that complemented the colors of the floral-print wallpaper, and the ruffled curtains and antique furniture reminded Bess of an old country inn.
“I feel as if we’re miles and miles away from River Heights,” Bess said as she surveyed the view from the window.
Nancy laughed. “You are miles away from River Heights, Bess.”
‘And just think,” Bess went on, “we’ve got time to see everything we want to, since you’re not on a case for a change.”
Bess was recalling the many times she and her friend had put aside their plans to sightsee and relax when their travels had led to a mystery for Nancy to solve. She had cracked many cases in River Heights, too, and had gained the admiration of the police and townspeople for her talent at investigating crimes.
“Who’s first in the shower?” Bess said.
“You go ahead,” Nancy replied. “But we’d better hurry. We’ve got to meet Frank and Joe soon.”
Like Nancy, Frank and Joe were detectives. They’d also made quite a name for themselves for solving some tough cases in their hometown of Bayport. When he’d called to ask Nancy to come along on the trip to Memphis, Frank had said their new case was no big deal. He and Joe wouldn’t need help — but they’d love some company. Nancy hoped Joe and Frank would have time for sightseeing at some of the city’s hot spots — Graceland, Beale Street, the Great American Pyramid. She had asked Ned to join her, but he was busy with final exams. Her friend George Fayne who was Bess’s cousin, couldn’t leave her part-time job. So Nancy took a flight down with Bess.
The two girls unpacked and took turns in the shower. After she had dressed, Nancy surveyed herself in the room’s full-length mirror. The deep blue of her blouse matched her eyes exactly, while the close-fitting white slacks accentuated her slender figure and long legs.
“You look terrific, Nan,” Bess said. She was wearing a black and white loose pullover with her skirt now. With a laugh, she added, “Let’s go see what kind of trouble Frank and Joe want to drag us into.”
“We don’t have to get involved in their case,” Nancy reminded her. “We’re just along for fun.”
Downstairs, the girls couldn’t help looking around the lobby before finding the Hardys. It was a large open space, two stories high. Tables and chairs, sofas, and large potted plants filled the center area, which was plushly carpeted. On one side of the room a man in a tuxedo played romantic tunes on a grand piano, and a bar with a mirror behind it lined the opposite wall. Over head, a balcony ran around the edge of the room, held up by marble pillars. A wide stairway led to the second floor and the hotel’s ballrooms.
In the middle of the lobby was a small marble pool with a fountain in the center. Ducks swam in it, taking no notice of the people around them. Occasionally the ducks would quack or splash some water onto the rug.
Nancy looked up at the balcony, where several men in white jackets were pushing carts of food. It looked as if they were preparing for a reception or party.
Nancy smiled as she turned in the direction of the voice and spotted Frank Hardy standing near the duck pool. Frank stood an inch over six feet, and had dark hair and brown eyes. His lean good looks were something Nancy had always found attractive, especially after not seeing him for a while.
As soon as she had the thought, Nancy shook it away. She and Frank were good friends, and that was all. Nancy would always have Ned, and Frank had his girlfriend, Callie Shaw.
“Hey! Over here.” This time it was Frank’s brother, Joe, who was calling and waving to Nancy. Seventeen years old, Joe was a year younger than Frank and had rugged blond good looks, blue eyes, and a broad, muscular build.
Nancy and Bess exchanged hugs with the brothers.
“You look great.” Joe held Bess at arm’s length and grinned. “I’ll take midwestern blondes over southern belles any day.”
Frank elbowed him in the ribs. “I don’t know, Joe,” he teased. “You were eyeing quite a few of the belles before Bess arrived.”
“Don’t worry,” Bess said, laughing. “I know all about Joe’s reputation as a flirt.” She was clearly enjoying his attention.
“What’s with the ducks?” Nancy asked, pointing to the pool.
“A Peabody tradition.” Frank laughed. “At eleven in the morning the ducks ride the elevator down from a tank upstairs. A guy rolls a red carpet from the elevator to the fountain. Then the ducks parade across the lobby and climb into. the pool. At four o’clock they do the same in reverse.”
Nancy shook her head. “Sounds kind of hokey to me.”
Joe shrugged. “Hey, it beats ending up on somebody’s dinner table — at least from the duck’s point of view. “
“It’s almost four now,” Bess pointed out. “We might as well stay for the show.”
They sat down on a bench next to the fountain. “While we’re waiting, why don’t we fill you in on our case?” Frank asked.
“I thought you’d never ask.” Nancy grinned.
Leaning forward and speaking in a hushed tone, Frank gave the girls some background in formation. “About ten years ago a high-level Network agent named Grady set up an operation in what was then East Germany.”
Nancy nodded. She and Bess both knew that the Hardys sometimes worked with the Network, a supersecret intelligence agency.
“Grady was convinced there was a traitor in the Network,” Joe went on.
Bess’s blue eyes went wide. “You mean a double agent?”
“Right,” Frank said with a short nod. “Some one who pretended to work for the United States but who was actually spying on us, giving away classified information to East Germany. The double agent reported to a German superspy named Klaus.”
“Why do all these guys have only one name?” Bess asked.
“Shh,” Joe cautioned, and then looked around the lobby to see that no one was listening.
Frank continued. “Grady sent his own agent, code-named the Swallow, into East Germany to find out who the traitor was. He never revealed the Swallow’s identity to anyone, not even to the Network. If the double agent found out who the Swallow was, he’d tell Klaus — and get the Swal- low killed. Grady claimed the Swallow was gathering lots of information, enough to put the traitor — and Klaus — out of business. “
“Wow!” Nancy exclaimed. “What happened?” Frank lowered his voice further. “A few years ago things went wrong. Grady was murdered. And since he was the Swallow’s only connection, the Network lost contact with the Swallow. They couldn’t even get him out of East Germany. The Swallow was trapped. For all anyone knew, he might have been killed.”
“Network agents looked into Grady’s double- agent theory,” Joe added, “but they never figured out who it was — or if there really was one at all.”
“All of this is a long way from Memphis, Tennessee,” Nancy said, frowning.
“It came closer last week,” Frank said. “A guy named Hank Pritchitt called the Network. He’s the house detective for the Peabody Hotel, and he claimed the Swallow was coming home. Since the Berlin Wall came down, traveling out of Germany has become easier. Apparently, the Swallow will meet with someone here in Memphis. Pritchitt has the details. He wants to sell the name of the Swallow’s contact, and the Network wants to buy it.”
Joe patted the briefcase he was holding. “For a, lot of money,” he added.
“I don’t get it. Wouldn’t the Swallow contact the Network anyway?” Nancy asked.
Frank shook his head. “The Swallow was a free-lance agent. He didn’t work directly with the Network. Grady was his only contact. With Grady gone, he may not know who to trust. But the Network wants the Swallow’s information badly, even if he wants to hide from them.”
“They’re chasing their own spy?” Bess asked, incredulous.
“Well, they want to talk to him,” Joe said, “but they don’t know who he is or where to find him, so they need the name of the Swallow’s contact here in Memphis.”
“That’s where you two come in,” Nancy guessed. “You’re getting the info.”
Frank shrugged. “No big deal. We’re just passing the cash to Pritchitt after he gives us the name of the contact.”
“Network errand-boy stuff,” Joe mumbled.
Nancy nodded sympathetically. Although the Hardys had often done top-notch work for the Network, the agency was reluctant to trust them completely. Nancy knew from her own experience how frustrating it was not to be taken seriously as a detective simply because of her age.
“Hey! It’s starting.” Bess got to her feet.
Looking up, Nancy saw that a crowd had gathered around an old man in a fancy red and white uniform who stood at attention next to the marble fountain. He held a short riding crop. At his orders a big, husky boy about Nancy’s age rolled out a red carpet from the elevator to the fountain. He, too, wore a red jacket and white pants, but his unruly, sandy blond hair fell over his eyes, which were bright green and lively.
Next the boy set up a portable staircase from the fountain to the carpet. He stepped aside when the old man blew a shrill note on a whistle. With his riding crop the man gently prodded the ducks toward the stairs. Protesting with indignant quacks, they climbed down the steps and waddled their way along the carpet.
As the ducks entered the elevator, the crowd burst into applause. The old man beamed, but his assistant looked slightly embarrassed.
Nancy turned as a bellhop appeared next to their sofa and said, “Excuse me, is there a Frank or Joe Hardy here?”
“There’s a message for you.” The bellhop handed over a slip of paper.
Frank looked troubled as he read. “It’s from Pritchitt. He says we should meet him right away at a place called Left-Hand Louie’s.”
“That doesn’t sound good,” Nancy said with a frown. Last-minute changes in plans were usually a bad sign in the world of espionage. “Wasn’t the meeting supposed to be here?”
“That was the plan,” Frank said.
“Where’s Left-Hand Louie’s?” Joe wondered.
“And what is it?” Bess added.
Suddenly a deep voice spoke up behind them. “I know where Louie’s is.”
Turning, Nancy recognized the husky teenager who’d rolled out the red carpet for the ducks. “I’m Beau Davis,” he drawled with an easy grin. Nancy noticed that his eyes lingered on Bess.
“Nice to meet you.” Bess held out her hand, and Beau shook it vigorously. She introduced herself, the Hardys, and Nancy.
Beau’s eyes were even greener up close, Nancy noticed. And he was turning them on Bess full force. Though she blushed a little, Bess didn’t show any sign of flirting with him.
“You know where Louie’s is?” Frank asked. “Sure do,” Beau told him. “It’s sort of a burger joint, with live music, across town. ”
Near Graceland?” Bess asked hopefully. She’d talked about visiting Elvis Presley’s famous home since they’d started planning the trip.
“No.” Beau laughed. “Louie’s is near Sun Studios, though. That’s where Elvis recorded his first records. First and greatest,” he added, with a tone of reverence.
“How do we get to Louie’s?” Joe was eager to get to the business at hand.
“I’ve just finished my shift. I can take you,” Beau offered. “Do you have a car?”
“No,” Frank told him. “We’ll take a taxi. Just tell us where it is.”
“And pass up the pleasure of spending time with such lovely company?” Beau smiled at Bess.
Frank didn’t like the idea of bringing a stranger along to the meet, but he didn’t want to lose valuable time. “Okay,” he said to Beau. “Let’s go. “
As they headed for the hotel entrance, Nancy heard a clattering sound overhead. She looked up at the balcony above.
Teetering precariously on the railing was a metal room-service tray. Ice cubes began to shower down, and then an ice bucket. Even as Nancy opened her mouth to call a warning, the whole tray fell over, heading straight for Frank!