“Do you see what I see?” Nancy Drew whispered to her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. Bess Marvin, Nancy’s good friend, was standing in front of the Journeys East tour office, and the sight of Bess’s back fascinated Nancy.
“Bess,” Nancy asked tentatively, “what is that sticking out of your head?”
Bess turned to face them, a smile on her face. “Chopsticks,” she answered matter-of-factly. “Black lacquered chopsticks. Japanese women have been pinning their hair up this way for centuries.”
“Oh,” said Nancy, remembering pictures of Japanese women in kimonos, their long black hair swept up and held in place with what looked like chopsticks. Somehow the effect wasn’t quite the same with Bess’s blond bun.
“When in Rome — ” Bess started to quote.
Ned leaned conspiratorially toward Nancy. “Should we tell her she’s going to Tokyo, Japan?” he half whispered.
“I think she knows,” Nancy answered with a laugh. She was glad Bess had agreed to join her on a two-week tour of Tokyo.
Ned unloaded three suitcases from the trunk of his car. As usual the two big ones belonged to Bess. Nancy had managed to fit all her things into one medium-size suitcase. Ned carried the two large bags into the crowded Journeys East office and headed for the check-in counter, where seven long lines stretched back toward the door.
“I hope we get checked in before the bus leaves for the airport,” Bess said worriedly.
“We’ll make it; our flight isn’t for hours, ” Nancy said, brushing her reddish blond hair away from her eyes. “But I wonder if our tour is actually leaving today,” Nancy said.
“What do you mean?” Bess asked. “Of course we’re leaving today.”
“Bess, you and Ned and I are the only people in this room under sixty. This is obviously a senior citizens’ tour.”
“You know, you’d make a first-rate detective, Ms. Drew,” Ned said, his brown eyes sparkling with approval.
Nancy rolled her eyes and swatted him lightly on the arm. She was, in fact, a first-rate amateur detective.
“Well, we’ve got the date and time right. There must be some mistake,” Bess said, worried.
When Nancy and Bess reached the front of the line and showed a weary clerk their tickets, his eyes widened. “There’s definitely a mistake here,” he said apologetically. “Your tour left for Tokyo yesterday.”
He quickly added, “But don’t worry. We can put you on today’s flight with the seniors, and you can join your group tomorrow. All our groups stay in the same hotel.”
With that, Bess and Nancy went to board the bus for the airport. First, though, Nancy found herself in her tall, handsome boyfriend’s arms, gazing into his dark eyes and wondering why she was about to spend two weeks away from him.
“I’m going to miss you,” he said softly.
“Me, too. I mean, I’ll miss you.”
Ned shook his head. “I know it’s useless to say this, but try not to get mixed up in anything dangerous. Okay?”
“Ned, this is a vacation,” Nancy told him firmly. “I’m not going to Tokyo to solve a mystery.”
“Yeah, right,” he teased. “When have I heard that one before?” Ned reached out one hand and lightly ran his thumb along her cheekbone. Then he bent and gave her a lingering kiss. “I’ll see you in two weeks.”
Nancy nodded, breathless. At the moment two weeks seemed like an awfully long time.
“We will be landing in Narita Airport in approximately thirty minutes,” the pilot announced.
Nancy yawned and stretched her long, slender frame. It was almost three o’clock in the after noon on Thursday, Tokyo time. She’d lost track of how many hours they had been in the air, but it felt like forever.
Beside her, Bess opened one eye. “Are we there?” she asked sleepily.
“Another half hour,” Nancy answered.
Bess sat up with a start and immediately began fumbling with her hair. “I must look awful,” she said.
“No worse than the rest of us,” said the gray-haired woman on Nancy’s right. She and Nancy had talked while Bess was sleeping. Her name was Adele Olson, and she and her husband, John, were part of the seniors’ tour. “Besides, I don’t really think it will matter,” Mrs. Olson went on. “We’re going straight to the hotel to sleep off our jet lag.”
“But think of who we might meet on the way,” Bess said.
“Who?” Nancy wondered.
“Someone wonderful,” Bess said in a dreamy voice.
Mrs. Olson laughed and patted her husband’s hand. “I met my someone wonderful thirty-five years ago.”
“Well, thank you,” said Mr. Olson, who was seated next to his wife in the wide center section. He peered at Bess and said, “Nancy tells us you’re quite a shopper.”
Bess grinned. “Born to shop, that’s me.”
“Well, maybe you can give us some advice. We’re looking for a gift for our daughter, who’s graduating from medical school this fall,” Mr. Olson said. “Adele thinks we should bring back a camera for her, but I was thinking that maybe a strand of pearls — “
Nancy listened contentedly as Bess and the Olsons discussed shopping until they landed safely.
As the girls emerged from customs, a handsome young man who was about twenty approached them. His hair was worn long in back, and he had on jeans, a button-down striped shirt, and an earring in one ear.
“Ms. Drew, Ms. Marvin?” he inquired in unaccented American English.
“That’s us,” said Bess, who was struggling with her suitcases. “I’m Bess Marvin and this is my friend Nancy Drew.”
“May I?” the young man asked, holding out his hands for Bess’s bags. “My name is Hiro Katayama. I’m the guide for your tour group. Since Journeys East goofed on your reservations, I’ve been sent to escort you to the hotel.”
Bess smiled at him. “If you’ll carry my bags, you can escort me anywhere.”
Hiro smiled back at her, and Nancy marveled at Bess’s ability to charm any good-looking guy she met.
“Were you born here?” Nancy asked Hiro as they boarded the bus for the hotel. “You speak English like an American.”
“I grew up in Kyoto,” he replied. “But our next-door neighbors were Americans who had twin sons my age. I spent so much time playing at their house that I soon spoke fluent English. Now I’m in college in Tokyo, studying English and history.”
“You run tour groups in your free time?” Bess asked. “You must be pretty busy.”
Hiro grimaced. “I ran out of money, so I took half a year off from school to work. It’s been fun. I especially think this tour will be great because all the people are about my age. “
Nancy found her attention drifting away from the conversation because she was captivated by the glimpses of Japan through the bus windows. When the bus pulled into the heart of Tokyo, she was in awe. The city was bigger, more crowded, and even more hectic than she’d imagined. Giant neon signs flashed from every building, and gleaming modern skyscrapers towered over tiny shops. The streets were mazes of traffic and people.
“This is crazier than New York,” Bess murmured.
“Probably,” Hiro said. “Tokyo is a city of contradictions — the very old and the very new exist side by side. It’s totally modern, and yet a lot of what happens here is guided by traditions that go back to our medieval period.”
The bus stopped at a traffic light, and Nancy idly watched a group of young men in business suits leave one of the modern office buildings.
“Bess,” she said, her eyes wide with disbelief, “do you see who I see?”
“Frank and Joe Hardy!” Bess exclaimed. The Hardy brothers were two young detectives who were friends of Nancy and Bess. Nancy had teamed up with them to solve mysteries more than a few times.
“Friends of yours?” Hiro asked politely.
“Yes,” Nancy answered. She didn’t mention that the Hardys were probably working on a case. Nothing but a case could usually get Joe into a suit. I hope I can contact them, she thought.
Hiro escorted the girls into the lobby of their hotel. “All you have to do is check in,” he told them. “Someone will see you to your room and we’ll send up some dinner. That way you can go right to sleep. Our tour begins at eight tomorrow morning,” he went on. “We all eat lunch together, but breakfast is on your own. The hotel coffee shop is fairly trustworthy.”
“Sounds good,” Nancy said, stifling a yawn. She was feeling more jet-lagged than she’d expected and couldn’t wait to sleep.
“Where did the Olsons go?” Bess asked after Hiro left them.
Nancy took in the crowded hotel lobby. “Maybe they’re over there,” she said, nodding to the concierge’s desk, where a group of seniors was gathered.
“No,” Bess said. “The sign over there says To Narita Airport. That group must be going back to the States.” She turned around. “There they are!” she cried, waving to them before going to the desk to check in.
Nancy’s attention had remained on the concierge’s desk, where a frail, elderly woman was handing a beautiful blue-and-white ceramic vase to the concierge. Her hand trembled and the vase slipped from her fingers.
Nancy’s mouth fell open in amazement as the vase shattered against the floor and dozens of perfect, round white pearls skittered across the lobby.