“Frank Hardy! What are you doing here?”
Nancy Drew looked up at the young man’s handsome face with an inquiring smile. She hadn’t seen her friend in ages, and here they were, bumping into each other on the deck of a luxury cruise ship. “This is truly incredible.” Nancy laughed.
The offshore breeze was whipping her reddish blond hair across her face, so Nancy set her luggage on the deck and tucked the unruly strands behind her ears. Just then a group of passengers slowly filed by them, checking out the ship and talking quietly.
Frank gave her a friendly but distant look. “I think you’re mistaking me for someone else,” he said politely.
Nancy looked at him again. He was about six feet tall, lean, and muscular. An expensive camera dangled around his neck, and he was wearing a blue and white T-shirt with a picture of the cruise ship they were on — the S.S. Duchess. A small plastic tag pinned to his shirt read Crew Member.
Still, that smiling face was definitely Frank Hardy’s. It wasn’t the kind of face any girl could forget.
Nancy glanced into Frank’s deep brown eyes again. This time she caught a wink.
“Oh. Sorry,” she murmured coolly. “You really do look exactly like someone I went to high school with. By the way, my name is Nancy Drew. My girlfriend George Fayne is the assistant social director on this cruise. Perhaps you know her.”
“Well, you’ve got the first name right, any way. I’m Frank Bresson, the ship’s photographer.” Frank extended his hand and squeezed hers warmly. “Nice to meet you, Nancy.”
Behind them, the crowd had scattered. Nancy looked around and saw that they were alone. “What’s going on, Frank?” she asked softly.
Frank’s eyes darted around the deck and he nodded his head toward one of the halls leading off it. Nancy followed him down the hall.
“The captain of this ship hired Joe and me to work undercover. Joe’s a busboy in the dining room — would you believe it? He doesn’t seem to mind. There are lots of pretty waitresses for him to hang out with.”
Nancy laughed. Frank’s younger brother, Joe, was a notorious flirt. “Same old Joe, huh?” she said.
“Same old Joe.”
“How’s Callie?” Callie Shaw was Frank’s longtime girlfriend.
“She’s great. She — “
Frank was about to say more, when the elevator doors opened behind them and a crowd got out. There were a party of elderly women and a few staff personnel. Nancy watched as Frank scanned the group.
Then, just as the elevator doors were closing, a group of five young people about Nancy and Frank’s age, eighteen or so, came up behind them.
“Rats — we missed it,” muttered a thin, blond-haired girl. She pressed the call button repeatedly.
The five were obviously together — two girls and three guys. They were laughing and jostling one another, but when they noticed Nancy and Frank, they stopped fooling around and stood in silence.
Well, thought Nancy. Might as well make friends. We’re all going to be spending five days on the same boat. “Hi, there,” she said with a smile.
She was greeted with five stony stares.
“How’s it going?” Frank asked, trying to lighten the atmosphere.
“Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to talk to strangers?” the blond girl asked sarcastically, glaring at Frank.
The look of surprise on Frank’s face flashed on like a neon light and then quickly flashed off again. Wonder what I did to set her off, he thought. But all he said was, “Sorry, just doing my job.”
The five friends stared at the camera hanging around Frank’s neck. Then one of the guys — the one with glasses and a university sweatshirt — held up a make-believe camera to his face and pretended to snap Frank’s picture. The others all giggled.
“Come on, let’s take the stairs,” a blond guy suggested. “Leave the guy alone, Connor. You heard him — he’s only doing his job.”
“Yeah, okay,” the others said.
They all moved away from the elevator at the same time. Frank and Nancy stared after them as they headed for the companionway.
“Talk about an attitude problem,” Frank said when the five kids were gone and he and Nancy were alone again.
Just then, another passenger appeared in the hallway. Nancy and Frank turned away from each other and pretended to be strangers waiting for the elevator.
When the passenger had passed them, Nancy leaned toward Frank. “I’m staying with my friend,” she whispered, to let him know where to contact her.
“Oh, yes. The assistant social director. I saw her name on the ship’s log when I signed on today. She’s in Cabin Thirty-seven, I believe,” Frank whispered back. Then, in a louder voice, he added, “Well, have a good trip, miss.”
A moment later the elevator doors opened again, and Frank got on with a secret wave and a wink.
Nancy turned away from the elevator as the public address system came to life. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard the Duchess,” a gruff but friendly voice said. “This is Captain Helgesen speaking. We’re off on a five-day Caribbean Sea cruise from Miami to Cozumel, Mexico, home of the ancient Mayan ruins. We hope you have a pleasant journey, and please remember, we’re here to serve you! Bon voyage!”
Nancy threaded her way back to her luggage, through the passengers who were coming on board, curious about what Frank Hardy had said. Frank and Joe were excellent detectives, with many tough cases to their credit. Their dad was a well-known private investigator and a super sleuth himself. If the Hardys were on a case, that meant there was trouble on board the Duchess.
But then, Nancy had to remind herself, she was there to have fun in the sun. And this time she’d leave the detecting to the Hardys and concentrate on relaxing. That’s why George had invited her, and that’s just what she intended to do. Still, she couldn’t help being a little curious about what the Hardy brothers were up to.
“Cabin number thirty-seven,” Nancy said to herself as she walked down the hall, checking the numbers on the door. She pulled the door to number thirty-seven open and set her luggage down on the lower bunk. The room was tiny but spotless, and the bright white of the walls made it seem larger than it really was. Colorful plaid bedspreads added a cheerful note.
On the pillow of her bed Nancy saw a note from George welcoming her aboard. In it she told Nancy to meet her on the Crown Deck, where she was working.
Nancy unpacked quickly, pulling a card from Ned Nickerson out of her purse and putting it on top of her bureau, where she could look at it. She read it once again.
“My Dear Ms. Detective,” it said. “While you’re sailing off into the sunset, how am I supposed to solve a not-so-mysterious case of loneliness? Miss you, and see you when you get home. Love, Ned.”
What a guy. Ned Nickerson had to be the greatest boyfriend a girl ever had or ever could have. Nancy promised herself that no matter how good-looking the guys were on this cruise, she wasn’t even going to think about romance.
And especially not with Frank Hardy. She’d crossed paths with Frank and his brother before, and every time she did, Frank had the same powerful effect on her. Nothing had ever happened between them, though, and it wasn’t going to this time, either. She had a boyfriend, he had a girlfriend — and that was that.
Nancy quickly changed out of the clothes she was wearing into a more casual outfit.
“Now to see George,” she said, checking herself out in the mirror. The starched white shorts and bold red-and-white-striped cotton sweater were perfect.
So long, Nancy Drew, detective, she thought, making her way out of her cabin and up to the Crown Deck. Nancy Drew, luxury-cruise passenger, is all ready for the sailing party to begin!
At the railing on the Crown Deck, Nancy watched a crowd of passengers toss confetti and streamers down onto the well-wishers below as the crew took up the gangplank.
“Hey, Nancy!” shouted a voice from behind.
Nancy turned and saw her friend George Fayne rushing toward her with open arms. George was the perfect example of all four of the summer Ts — tall, tan, thin, and terrific. Her dark hair was cut short, and her sun-bronzed skin looked fabulous against a short white skirt and blue T-shirt. The T-shirt was just like Frank’s — it said S.S. Duchess Crew Member, in white letters.
The two friends gave each other a big hug as a greeting.
“I can’t believe I haven’t seen you for two whole months,” Nancy said. “How’s the job going?”
“It’s great!” said George. “I mean, think about it: three Olympic-size swimming pools, a gym and health spa, a sauna, plus tennis, volleyball, even archery and skeet shooting. I’m in heaven!”
“I can tell,” Nancy said. “But — ” She was interrupted by the long, low, and deafening sound of the ship’s foghorn. The ship was pulling out of port now, away from Miami’s shore. The crowd of well-wishers at the dock was growing smaller and smaller.
“Uh-oh — got to run,” George yelled, trying to be heard above the powerful horn. “That’s my cue to get down to the Princess Deck and start the social activities. We’ll talk tonight, after the scavenger hunt, okay?”
“Sure,” Nancy agreed as George started to dash off. Then she suddenly caught George by the arm. “Oh, George, wait!” Nancy lowered her voice. “Did you know that Frank and Joe Hardy are on board as crew members?”
“You’re kidding! They must have just signed on, because I run into everybody,” George reported.
“They’re on a case, so don’t blow their cover,” Nancy said. “They’re not even supposed to be brothers.”
“Got it,” George called as she slipped away through the crowd. “I never saw them before in my life.”
“May I have your attention, ladies and gentlemen?” George was standing in the front of the enormous dining room, a microphone in her hand.
“I’d like to explain the rules of tonight’s scavenger hunt. To start: the color of your napkin will decide which team you’re on.”
“I must be on the cherries-jubilee-stain team!” someone shouted, and everyone roared with laughter.
As George spoke, Nancy’s eyes wandered around the huge room, taking in the beautifully dressed cruise passengers, who were talking and laughing at their tables.
She spotted Joe Hardy not far from her, busily clearing dessert dishes from a table. Blond-haired, blue-eyed Joe had a smile for everyone, but especially for everyone female. Balancing dishes in a precarious stack, he joked with a group of giggling girls, “Hey, you hardly touched those eclairs. Remember, there’s no such thing as a diet on this ship.”
The girls blushed and giggled even more. Nancy smiled with amusement. Joe Hardy really knew how to flirt.
As Joe approached Nancy’s table, she whispered to him, “You’re going to do great on tips this week, Joe.”
Joe winked. “Nancy! Hi!” he said softly so no one else could hear. “Did Frank tell you about the case we’re on?”
Nancy shook her head. “No. And I’m dying of curiosity. Maybe I can help you solve it.”
“Never mind,” Joe said with a laugh.
“We’ve got our reputation to protect. Can’t have you making us look bad.”
“No chance of that,” said Nancy. “But I guess it’s just as well. I’m here on vacation. I was curious, though — “
“Better watch that stuff, Drew,” Joe teased. “It killed a cat once, or so I heard.”
Suddenly Nancy’s full attention was directed back to George. “And if your napkin is yellow,” George was saying, “you’re in luck. You have an ace detective on your team. Her name is Nancy Drew — and she happens to be my best friend!” George announced proudly, pointing to Nancy.
“Oh, great, George,” Nancy murmured under her breath as she nodded to the crowd. “Now everyone knows I’m a detective.”
Joe shook his head with a smile. “I’d better get out of here before she blows my cover. See you later, Nancy.”
“You’ve got five minutes to meet and divide up your lists before the scavenger hunt begins,” George said. “First team to bring back everything on its list wins.”
Nancy looked over the list George handed her. An ashtray from the ship’s discotheque. A wet towel from the men’s locker room. A queen of hearts card from the ship’s gambling casino — and those were the easy ones. Then there was a tear-stained love letter, a raw onion, a massage (how was she going to get that?), a hot water bottle, a wilted flower, and more. There were twenty things in all on her team’s list.
After her team met, they split up, and Nancy’s first assignment was to go up to the Palace Deck to find a tie line from a life preserver. This sure beats real detecting, she thought to herself.
The calm sea and quiet, breezeless night were beautiful in the moonlight. Nancy paused under a metal-grating stairway to gaze at the light shimmering and dancing on the water and half imagined that it smiled back at her. Dear Ned, she thought to herself, composing an imaginary letter. If only you were here…
Footsteps on the stairs above her interrupted her thoughts. First there was the squeak of rubber soles. Then the tap of leather heels. “Hi,” she heard a woman say softly.
“Hello,” a man replied in an accented voice. Ah, yes, Nancy thought with a smile. Cruise magic. They had probably met just a few hours ago….Maybe they had found this dark stair way to meet for a kiss….Nancy didn’t want to chase them away, so she remained perfectly still, hidden below them.
“I see your shopping bag is from Plummer’s,” said the man. His accent was definitely Spanish.
“That’s what it says,” the girl replied nervously. Her voice was American, and she sounded young.
“Then you are Pipeline?” he asked.
“Yes,” said the girl.
What in the world was going on? Not exactly romance, Nancy thought.
“And tell me, what precisely is on these disks?” the man asked.
“I’ve already told you — codes, maps, covert operation plans — everything.”
They were both quiet for a moment. Finally the man asked another question. “Your father works for the CIA — that is how you got this information?”
Craning her neck, Nancy tried to look through the small grating holes of the stairs. She couldn’t see the girl, and all she could see of the man were white trouser cuffs and white shoes. They had to be from a ship’s uniform, she realized.
“Yeah, he works for the CIA. That’s what I said,” the girl answered. Then she got angry. “Look, I don’t want to play Twenty Questions. Take this. It’s the sample disk you wanted. If you like what you see, meet me tomorrow morning at six on the Princess Deck. And don’t forget to bring the money.”
Nancy couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Someone was selling a computer disk full of CIA secrets! She had to find out who they were and stop them.
Just then, a man’s strong arms reached out and grabbed Nancy by the shoulders — not harshly but forcefully. Was he trying to keep her from following the two people on the stairs?
“Hey!” Nancy’s cry of surprise was cut off as his arms went around her back, drawing her to him. Then his warm lips were pressing hers in a dizzying kiss as the footsteps on the stairs sped up and began to run.
They were getting away!