I think Quebec must be the most romantic city on earth,” said Bess Marvin, her blue eyes wide with excitement. “I can’t believe we’re going to spend New Year’s Eve here and get to watch a movie being made.”
“I thought Christmas was over two days ago,” said Nancy Drew, “but coming here is the best present of all.”
Both girls had dressed in jeans and heavy sweaters under their parkas, but an icy breeze still chilled them. Nancy tugged her blue beret farther down over her reddish blond hair and moved her long, slender legs to keep them warm. Bess was completely bundled up in a violet parka and pink scarf, hat, and mittens. Only her blue eyes and red nose were visible beneath a fringe of blond hair.
“It’s so great to get to see Emily, too,” said Bess. She waved to a tall, slender woman with large brown eyes, who was talking to one of the camera crews. “I’m glad she thought to call us when they started having all those accidents on the set.”
Nancy nodded. “You guys were so busy catching up on each other’s lives that we still don’t know what’s really going on,” she teased, pulling the collar of her red down jacket tighter around her neck.
Nancy and Bess had flown to Quebec, Canada, that morning after Bess’s second cousin, Emily Anderson, had called. Emily had started working in television a few years earlier. Now she was the production coordinator for Dangerous Loves, a Canadian/American television movie about a young French Canadian woman who falls in love with a champion race car driver.
All Nancy knew so far about the trouble on the set was that the filming was behind schedule and way over budget because of a series of setbacks — wrong costumes being delivered, camera dollies that suddenly didn’t work, lights falling and breaking. The accidents weren’t serious, but there had been enough of them that Emily had become suspicious.
“Just look at that view!” Bess exclaimed, gesturing up and over Nancy’s shoulder with a mittened hand.
Nancy glanced back from the bank of the frozen river where she and Bess were standing. Behind them a steep slope led up to the stone walls that encircled Quebec’s old Upper Town. Quebec had first been colonized in the 1600s, and the Upper and Lower towns resembled drawings of medieval towns.
“The city is gorgeous,” Nancy agreed, wishing she could share it with her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. “But right now I’m more interested in what’s going on down here, on the set.” She gestured to the dozen or so recreational vehicles that served as dressing rooms, offices, and equipment rooms for the movie company.
“What do you suppose they’re doing now?” Bess asked.
Fifty yards away, out on the frozen surface of the river, members of the film crew were placing bright orange traffic markers.
Emily broke off from talking with one of the crew members and started toward Bess and Nancy. She was wearing a black hooded parka with Dangerous Loves embroidered across the back in red and white. Her name was stitched across the front.
“Brr!” Emily said, tightening the drawstring on her hood. “I can’t stand this cold. I still haven’t gotten used to it.”
“I’m too excited to be cold,” Bess said. “What’s happening out there now?”
“We’re setting up for an ice-racing scene,” Emily explained. “The movie takes place during Quebec’s Winter Carnival, and ice racing is one of the Carnival’s big events.”
“Ice racing?” Nancy repeated. “You mean, with cars?”
Emily nodded. “I know, it sounds a little strange, but it’s really exciting to watch. I saw a test run yesterday, right here on the Saint Charles River.”
“Saint Charles?” Bess echoed, sounding puzzled. “I thought the river in Quebec was called the Saint Lawrence. “
“That’s what I thought, too,” Emily said, laughing. “But the Saint Lawrence is over there to the right. The icebreakers keep it open most of the winter, so you can’t drive a car on it. This is the Saint Charles. It’s a lot smaller.”
“Is the ice really thick enough to support cars?” Bess asked, dubiously staring out at the river.
A worried look crossed Emily’s face. “I hope so. Our local experts say there are only a few spots we have to avoid.”
Nancy pointed to a nearby sign marked Danger. “You mean, like that one?”
Emily nodded. “Uh-huh. Somebody told me that there’s a spring under that patch of ice, so it doesn’t freeze as quickly. You see how it’s a lighter color, sort of bluish? But out in the middle, where they’re marking off the race course, there shouldn’t be any problems. “
“I hope not,” Bess said. “You’ve already had more than your share of accidents on this film.”
“We sure have,” said Emily. “I’m counting on you and Nancy to find out why, and stop them.”
Nancy was about to ask a few questions, but just then someone shouted for Emily.
“Oops, that’s David Politano, the director,” Emily said. “I’d better run. David’s a very talented guy, but he’s got a temper you wouldn’t believe. I didn’t tell him the reason I wanted you guys on the set, by the way. He did agree to let me ask you up, but he didn’t much like the idea. Stay out of his way if you can. “
“We will,” Bess promised.
Emily walked carefully across the ice toward a group of people. At the center of the group was a short, stocky man in his forties whom Nancy assumed was David Politano. His black hair was pulled back into a small ponytail, and a long, bright red scarf was wrapped around his neck. Nancy was too far away to hear what the director was saying, but he was obviously giving a series of orders.
Finally, he clapped his hands once and shouted, “Places!”
A young woman lifted a bullhorn to her mouth and repeated, “Places, please!”
“Look, there’s Dennis Conners,” Bess whispered, tugging excitedly on Nancy’s arm. “He’s the male lead. Isn’t he luscious? I saw him on TV in ‘Thunderstruck,’ but he’s even more gorgeous in real life.”
Nancy found herself agreeing with Bess — Dennis Conners was luscious. He was fairly tall, with broad shoulders and a muscular build. His black hair and black eyebrows made a striking contrast to his pale skin and startling blue eyes. He was wearing a white coverall and a thick down parka.
Nancy heard a click and a whir behind her. Glancing back, she recognized tall, lanky Jack Parmenter, Emily’s boyfriend. He was the still photographer for the film crew. His job was to take pictures that could be used later for publicity.
He lowered his camera and raked a hand through his spiky blond hair as he surveyed the scene. He gave Nancy and Bess a wink. Then he followed Dennis out onto the ice, snapping pictures as he went.
“Wow,” said Bess. “Check out that car!” A bright red race car was being wheeled into position, about thirty feet from where Nancy and Bess were standing. All the window glass had been removed, Nancy saw, and a row of steel bars installed in place of the windshield.
Dennis, standing by the driver’s side of the car, put on a crash helmet. Then he grabbed the upper edge of the door and did a feet-first jump through the window opening.
“Why did he do that?” Bess wondered aloud.
A man standing a few feet from them over heard. “The doors are welded shut,” he explained. “For safety.”
Bess frowned. “Doesn’t that make it hard to get out, if anything goes wrong?”
The man shrugged. “They figure the driver is usually better off inside the car. He wears a lot of protective gear, you know.”
“Silence, please,” the bullhorn sounded. “Silence on the set!”
Emily rejoined Nancy and Bess as a young man stepped forward with a clapper board and said, “Dangerous Loves, scene thirty-eight, take one. And . . . action!”
Dennis pulled himself out of the car until he was sitting in the window. He unbuckled his helmet and took it off, triumph written all over his face. Then he looked to the left, and his expression changed to one of anger.
While one of the cameras caught Dennis’s expression in a close-up, another camera dollied in toward the front of the race car. Nancy looked where the camera was pointed. A lovely young woman was standing close to another driver. Her light brown hair fluffed out around her face like a halo. Her hand was on his arm.
“That’s Marguerite Laforet,” Emily whispered to Nancy and Bess. “She plays the female lead, a French Canadian lawyer. The guy she’s talking to plays her ex-boyfriend in the movie. He and Dennis are racing rivals.”
Just then Nancy was distracted by the roar of a souped-up engine. She turned in time to see a purple-and-gold race car round one of the many bends in the river. It sped straight for the film crew.
“Uh-oh,” Emily said, frowning. “That’s not in the script. Who is that idiot? He’s going to ruin the scene.”
“Cut!” Politano yelled. “Whose car is that? Get him off my set!”
The approaching car began to slide sideways across the ice, right toward Dennis’s car. The actors and crew members scattered. Only Jack stood his ground and snapped one shot after another.
Just when it seemed that nothing could prevent a terrible crash, the car spun around twice and came to a stop, only a few feet from Dennis’s car. A moment later the driver, a man with shaggy brown hair, a square face, and a nose that looked as if it had been broken more than once, climbed out. He gave the shaken crowd a smug smile.
“Good morning, everyone,” he said, in a thick French Canadian accent. “I have come to see you work and let you profit of my expert counsels.”
“Now, listen to me, Junot,” Politano shouted angrily.
“This looks like trouble,” Emily murmured. “I’d better get over there.”
Nancy pulled Bess onto the ice behind Emily. “Come on, we don’t want to miss anything important.”
“Good morning, Monsieur Politano,” Junot said, with a taunting grin.
“Junot, I told you yesterday, no deal,” Politano said loudly. “I don’t care if you are the ice-racing champion of Quebec. You can do stunt driving for us, as we agreed. But we don’t need another technical advisor. We have an excellent one already, Francois Volnay.”
Junot gave a loud sniff. “Volnay?” he said. “A good driver once, before his accident. Now he is good for nothing.”
“I understand why they call you Snake, Andre.” Someone in a deep voice had spoken. A tall, thin man of about thirty limped forward. “You hide in the grass, like a snake,” the man continued. “Then, when you are sure it is safe, you strike.”
“Remember who you are, old man, and who I am,” Junot replied with a sneer. “And remember, too, that when these Yankees finish their work and leave Quebec, Volnay, you will again be nothing, but I will still be the champion. “
“We shall see,” Francois Volnay said, but Nancy noticed that his face had reddened. He turned and limped back to the riverbank.
“Now, listen here — ” Nancy heard Politano begin to tell Junot. Her attention was distracted, however, as another car, a sleek-looking sedan, drew near on the ice. The driver carefully skirted the orange markers and came to a stop a dozen feet from the crowd. All four doors opened. A man with a gray mustache, wearing a fur cap, got out of the passenger seat. Another man, in a leather jacket and beret, climbed out from behind the wheel.
From the backseat two teenage guys got out and studied their surroundings with interest.
Nancy stared at them, looked away, and then snapped her head back as she realized who they were.
“Nancy, look!” Bess exclaimed. “Isn’t that Frank and Joe Hardy? What are they doing in Quebec?”
There was no mistaking handsome Frank Hardy’s six-foot-one frame, dark hair and dark eyes, or the slightly shorter, more muscular build of his blond, blue-eyed brother, Joe.
“And in a car in the middle of the Saint Charles River,” Nancy added with a smile.
The Hardys were walking with the two older men, but they stopped when they spotted Nancy and Bess.
A grin lit up Joe’s face as he and Frank hurried over. “Hey, what are you doing here?” he asked, as the boys gave Nancy and Bess big hugs.
“We were just wondering that about you,” said Bess.
“We came up this morning to get a behind-the-scenes look at ice racing,” Frank explained.
Nancy felt the familiar thrill as he bent to kiss her cheek. She knew nothing would ever happen between them because she had Ned, and Frank had a girlfriend, Callie Shaw.
“Henri Dussault, the man in the fur hat,” Frank went on, “is an old friend of our dad’s.
He invited us to stay with him for a week of R and R. Dussault Motors, his company, sponsors the ice race during Winter Carnival, in February.”
“The guy with him is Pierre Desmoulins, ” Joe added. “He’s coordinating the February race, and he and Henri are planning the race course now.”
With a laugh, Frank added, “None of us realized we’d end up in the middle of a movie set.”
“Hey, listen,” Joe said. “We’re planning to get a few days’ skiing in the Laurentian Mountains while we’re here. Why don’t you guys come, too?”
Nancy glanced around to make sure no one was listening. Then, lowering her voice, she said, “We’re here on a case.”
Frank raised an eyebrow. “Got it,” he said quietly. “Why don’t you come and meet Henri and Pierre?”
Nancy didn’t respond. She was looking past the Hardys at the tense scene between Junot and Politano a dozen yards away.
Henri Dussault, Joe and Frank’s host, had his hand on Junot’s shoulder and he was talking to the race car driver in a low voice. Junot, sullen and stubborn-looking, finally nodded. He climbed back into his car and backtracked across the ice the way he’d come.
“Well, that’s a relief,” Bess said. “I wonder if Mr. Politano is planning to shoot that scene now or wait until after lunch.”
The director had turned away and was walking across the ice toward the riverbank.
Nancy followed him with her eyes. “Bess?” she said urgently, scanning the ice. “Do you remember where that patch of thin ice was?”
“Sure,” Bess said. “Right behind the Danger sign.”
“Great, ” Nancy said. “I see a patch that looks bluish, but I don’t see any sign there now. And David is heading straight for it!”
Nancy opened her mouth to yell a warning, but the sound was drowned out by a loud cracking sound. As Nancy watched, horrified, David Politano tried to jump back, but a web of cracks appeared in the ice under his feet, and he lost his balance.
Bess screamed as the director fell backward. A series of popping noises rang out into the crisp, cold air, and water began seeping through the cracked ice under his feet. David Politano’s body was flat on the cracking ice, but his boots were soon covered with water.
Within seconds, all the ice would break and his whole body would plunge into the frigid river!