Exhibition Of Evil – First Chapter

Chapter 1

First we’ll spend the day at Big Splash Water Park,” Bess Marvin told her best friend, Nancy Drew. “I want to ride the Triple Thrill Turbo Pipeline, and Jungle Falls looks totally cool, too.”

“Bess.” Nancy shifted her eyes from the Virginia highway to glance at her friend. Bess was sitting in the passenger seat, a dozen colorful brochures scattered on her lap.

“Next we’ll head to Jamestown for some history,” Bess continued, waving one of the brochures. The windows of the Mustang were down, and the humid air had blown her hair into a blond whirl. “Then off to Busch Gardens for pure fun.”

“Bess!” Nancy tried again, louder this time. The humming tires and rushing air made it hard to hear.

Bess looked startled. “What?”

“Aren’t you forgetting something?”

Bess’s blue eyes widened. “No! Don’t tell me I forgot my bathing suit!”

Nancy laughed at her friend’s horror-stricken expression. “No. I mean, aren’t you forgetting that we’re going to Williamsburg, Virginia, on a case?”

“Oh, that. ” Bess waved her hand in dismissal.

“Yes, that. ” Pulling a scrunchie off her wrist, Nancy bunched her reddish blond hair into a ponytail with one hand while steering the Mustang into the slow lane with the other. Both girls were dressed casually in shorts and T-shirts. Still, Nancy didn’t want to arrive at Big Splash Water Park looking completely disheveled. “Mrs. Somers wants us to keep an eye on her daughter, not ride the waves.”

“True, but your father said that Mrs. Somers can be overly dramatic,” Bess reminded Nancy. “I bet that when she told you someone was sending letters to Dana, she just meant an overzealous fan. “

Nancy shook her head. “An overzealous fan wouldn’t send a threatening letter that said, ‘Hotshot divers lose.'”

“Maybe not,” Bess agreed. “But Dana is the star of the diving exhibition, so she’s bound to attract attention — good and bad. We just need to solve this case in a jiffy so we can start playing tourist.”

“I hope it’s that easy.” A sign caught Nancy’s eye. “Our exit’s coming up. Do you think you can put away your brochures for a second and get out the map?” she asked, a teasing glint in her eye.

“Sure.” Bess unfolded the map of Virginia and peered at it. “Uh — where are we?”

Nancy laughed. “You’re holding it upside down.”

“Oh, right.” Bess flipped the map over.

“Wait, there’s a sign for Big Splash and Virginia Gardens.” Nancy steered the car down the off ramp and into traffic. Up ahead she could see a billboard with a picture of a water slide and an arrow pointing to the entrance of Big Splash.

Bess bounced in her seat. “Ooooh. I can’t wait to hit the Paradise Wave Pool.”

“Unfortunately, you’re going to have to wait,” Nancy said. “Our first job is to meet Dana and her mother. Dana’s afternoon diving show is at one o’clock, so we should just make it.”

“That sounds like fun, too.” Bess plucked at the front of her T-shirt. “Only I want to change into my bathing suit first. These clothes are too hot.”

Nancy followed the line of cars into the parking lot. Behind a high wall, she could see the tops of brightly colored slides and tubes. At the gate, Nancy flashed a special pass that Mrs. Somers had sent her.

She pulled into a reserved parking slot near the main entrance, then turned off the car. She checked her watch. “The show starts in twenty minutes. I’m curious to see what the star of a diving exhibition does.”

“Probably all sorts of daring flips and somersaults,” Bess mumbled, hanging over the back of the seat and searching through her beach bag. “I’ve got lotion, an extra suit . . .”

“Sunglasses,” Nancy interjected. When she climbed out from the Mustang, she found the glare from the asphalt blinding. Like Bess, she felt hot and sticky from the long car ride.

“There!” Bess stood up, her arms overflowing with stuff. “I’m ready.”

“For what? A week in Hawaii?” Nancy laughed as she pulled her neatly packed beach bag out from the backseat. She locked the car doors, then went around to join Bess, who was bent over, trying to retrieve a dropped sandal.

“Here, let me take something,” Nancy offered. “Thanks.” Bess plopped two beach towels into Nancy’s free arm, then topped it off with her purse.

Nancy shook her head, her blue eyes twinkling. “Let’s hope they have lockers.”

“And someplace to eat,” Bess said over her shoulder as they headed for the entrance. “I’m starving.”

They showed the guard their passes, then followed the arrows and crowds to the locker rooms. By the time Nancy had changed into her bathing suit, perspiration dotted her forehead.

“You’re right, Bess, the wave pool sounds great.”

“Good. Let’s take a quick dip.” Bess stuffed her shorts and shirt into her bag. She was wearing a red-striped bikini that accented her curves.

Nancy found an empty locker. “First, Dana’s show. Second, meet Dana and her mom.”

“Third, go swimming?” Bess asked hopefully. “Right.” After taking out a towel, Nancy shoved her bag into the locker. She had opted for a figure-hugging one-piece suit in bright blue. Around her slim waist, she belted a fanny pack that held her money.

“The Splash-a-Rama Theater is to the left,” Nancy said, consulting the brochure as they left the locker room.

Bess pointed to a concession area. “And burgers and fries are on the right.”

The girls grabbed a quick bite, wolfing down their food as they filed into the theater with the gathering audience. Nancy chose seats close to the front so she could watch Dana.

While she sipped her lemonade, Nancy glanced around the Splash-a-Rama. It was an outdoor amphitheater with curved rows of seats overlooking two circular pools and a trampoline. A ten-meter platform towered over one pool. Two springboards jutted out over the other.

When the music started, six divers — three guys and three girls — jogged in from a building behind the platform. Smiling and waving, they lined up in front of the pools and bowed. Their slim, tanned bodies were clad in red, white, and blue Speedo suits.

Nancy recognized Dana from the photo Mrs. Somers had given her. She was petite, with sun- streaked short brown hair and a confident smile.

Earlier, when Mrs. Somers met Nancy in River Heights, she had not only referred to Dana as the “star of the show,” but she’d boasted of her daughter’s many wins at collegiate and national competitions. As Nancy checked out the other team members, she wondered if maybe Dana’s achievements had rubbed some of them the wrong way.

The six divers split up and jogged around the pool to the tune of “Yankee Doodle.” Bess leaned closer to Nancy. “Look how skimpy those guys’ suits are,” she whispered. “Do you think they’ll stay on?”

Loud clapping drowned out Nancy’s laughter as the divers took their positions. “Big Splash Water Park is proud to introduce our diving team,” the announcer said over the loudspeaker. “Team captain Tommy Waldhauser partnering with Susan Li on the springboards. Grant Homan and Angelina Regalio on the trampolines. And climbing the ten-meter tower is Dana Somers, with Phil Yancey waiting below. Give them a big hand, folks. Tommy and Susan will now wow you from the springboards.”

“Wow me is right!” Beth said breathlessly. “That Tommy Waldhauser is cute with a capital Q.”

“Bess.” Nancy bit back a grin. No matter where they went, her friend managed to fall for some guy. “We’re here to keep our eye on Dana, not the team captain.”

“Right,” Bess murmured, her gaze glued to Tommy as he and Susan simultaneously bounced high on the springboards, somersaulted, and shot like arrows into the pool.

Next a drum roll sounded, and a blue and red spotlight focused on Dana. She looked tiny, perched high on the tall tower, but she had a confident smile. Nancy held her breath. The platform Dana stood on was thirty-three feet above the pool.

“That’s as high as a three-story building,” the announcer said. “Which means our divers will hit the water at speeds of more than thirty miles an hour.”

Gasps rose from the crowd. Bess clutched Nancy’s arm. Even Nancy’s mouth went dry. No wonder Mrs. Somers was worried about the threatening letters. The slightest slip, and Dana could be injured seriously.

The music broke into a popular tune. Nancy’ gaze was riveted on Dana, who was poised high above the pool. For a second, Dana stroked the pendant she wore around her neck. Then, with one last wave, she raised herself on her toes in preparation for her dive.

As she stepped gracefully to the end of the platform, her right foot suddenly shot out from under her. Arms flailing, Dana flew awkwardly off the tower and plunged into the pool below.

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