“Star Quest 2!” Nancy Drew whispered to Bess Marvin. “Isn’t that super wonderful?”
“Super excellent!” Bess answered. It was Friday afternoon and the end of the school week. Ms. Spencer had just made an announcement to her third-grade class. She had twenty-five free passes to a special preview of the movie Star Quest 2.
“A friend of mine got the passes,” Ms. Spencer said. “I’ll give them out when you settle down, class.”
Ms. Spencer tried to look stern, but she couldn’t help smiling. Her students were too excited to sit still or stop whispering.
Jenny March waved her hand in the air. “Ms. Spencer,” she said, “is there an extra pass for my cousin Nina? She’s coming to visit me this weekend. She loves Star Quest.“
Ms. Spencer shook her head. “I’m sorry, Jenny,” she said. “I was given just one pass for each of my students.”
The school bell rang.
“Line up for the passes,” Ms. Spencer said. “And don’t forget — the movie is at four-thirty on Sunday afternoon at the River Heights Cinema.” She glanced out the window and added, “Please hurry home. I didn’t expect rain today, but now it looks as if we might have a storm.”
As the class filed out of the room, Ms. Spencer gave each student a movie pass. The passes were small cards with a purple border.
Nancy and Bess waited near their cubbies for another classmate, George Fayne. Then the three best friends hurried down the crowded hallway.
George’s real name was Georgia. She and Bess were cousins. But they looked very different. George was tall with dark curly hair. Bess was shorter and had long blond hair.
Nancy was taller than Bess and shorter than George. She wore her straight reddish blond hair long.
“I can’t wait to see Star Quest 2,” Bess said. “I wish it were Sunday right now.”
“Me, too,” Nancy said. “I love the first movie. I’ve seen it a zillion times on video.”
“If the new one is just half as good, it will be great,” George said. “And we get to see it a week before the regular opening!”
Along with all the other students, the girls left the building. They started walking across the schoolyard. Friday afternoons were always noisy. Every one was laughing and shouting.
Nancy took a close look at her special movie pass. “Wow, I just noticed some thing,” she said. “Our movie passes are like Star Quest trading cards. There’s a different character on the back of each one. I have star-fighter pilot Zyle. George has the robot dog RFF.”
“Ha!” Bess said. She waved her pass at Nancy. “I have my favorite character — Kema, the android.”
“Brrr,” George said. “It’s gotten a lot colder.” She shivered in her red sweatshirt.
Bess stopped walking and began to button up her jacket. A strong gust of wind whipped around the girls.
“Arghh!” Bess screamed. “My pass!” The wind had torn Bess’s pass out of her hand. Nancy quickly stuffed her own pass into the pocket of her pants and dashed after Bess’s. George did the same. Bess starting running, too. The girls chased the pass all the way across the schoolyard. Each time they came near it, another gust of wind snatched it away.
“Oh, no!” Nancy said. “It’s starting to rain.”
The first large drops quickly turned into a downpour. Almost everyone in the schoolyard raced for cover. Some students dashed back to the school building.
George made a running jump and landed on Bess’s pass. “I’ve got it!” she yelled.
“Great!” Nancy said. “Let’s get out of the rain. We can go to the Bell.”
The girls ran toward the small store that stood by itself next to the school yard. The store windows displayed school supplies, toys, and candy. The red, white, and blue sign over the door read The School Bell.
A man with light brown hair and glasses held the door open. He owned the Bell. His name was Charles Pitt, but everyone called him Charlie.
“Come one, come all,” Charlie called. “Just be careful not to slip on the wet floor.” His blue eyes twinkled with laughter as the dripping kids crowded inside.
Nancy, Bess, and George squeezed into the shop with the other students who had run there to get out of the rain. Like everyone else, they were laughing and trying to catch their breath.
Nancy looked around. She loved the Bell. The counters and shelves were made of dark wood, and the wood floor was polished. An old-fashioned fan hung from the ceiling. Nancy’s father used to come to the School Bell when he was a boy. Charlie Pitt’s grandfather had run it then.
“I’ve never seen so many kids in here,” Nancy said to Bess and George. “We’re like sardines in a can.”
“Sardines?” George said. “That’s gross.”
The girls squirmed past the cash register. They pushed forward until they reached the middle of the store. They stopped near a display rack that held paper clips, rolls of tape, colored pencils, and markers. It was too crowded to go farther.
“Ouch!” Bess cried. “Someone stepped on my toe.”
“Not true,” a boy in front of her said. It was Jason Hutchings. He and a few other students from Ms. Spencer’s class were standing near the shelves. “You put your toe right under my foot. Right under it.”
“You’re wrong as usual,” Bess answered.
“Whew!” Nancy said. She pushed her dripping bangs off her forehead. Then she reached into the pocket of her pants and took out her movie pass. “Yuck,” she muttered. “It’s almost as wet as I am.”
“Look at my pass,” Bess said, holding up a dirty, limp card. “George really mashed it.”
“Yeah, but at least I kept it from blowing away,” George said.
“I’m going to put mine inside my notebook,” Nancy said. “Then it will dry flat.” She took off her backpack, unzipped it, and pulled out a small notebook with a shiny blue cover.
“Can you put mine in, too?” Bess asked.
“Mine, too,” George said.
Nancy took their passes. She stuck all three of them between blank pages in the middle of the notebook.
“Ooooh,” Jason teased Nancy. “The famous notebook of the world’s greatest detective.”
“You just wish you could be a great detective like Nancy,” George said to Jason.
Nancy loved to solve mysteries. She was good at it, too. Her father had given her the blue notebook. In it she wrote about suspects and clues.
“I could be a detective if I wanted to be,” Jason told George. “And I’d be better than Nancy. I’d be the best detective!”
Another classmate, Brenda Carlton, joined the conversation. “You don’t need to be a detective to solve mysteries,” she said. “Newspaper reporters like me solve mysteries all the time.”
Brenda had her own newspaper, The Carlton News. She wrote it herself and handed it out at school. Her father was a newspaper publisher. He helped Brenda design it on their home computer.
“If you’re all such great detectives, help me,” Jenny March said. “I’ve got to find another pass for Star Quest2. If I don’t, I’ll miss the movie.” The rain had soaked Jenny’s short dark hair. Even her eyelashes were dripping wet. She did not look happy.
“Why?” Nancy asked.
“My cousin Nina is coming from Chicago to visit me,” Jenny explained. “It’s her birthday. My mom will never let me go to the movie without Nina.”
“So solve that if you’re such a super duper incredible detective,” Jason said to Nancy. “Come on, you have ten seconds.”
Nancy shrugged. “I don’t need ten seconds because it’s not a mystery. You have to learn what a mystery is before you can be a detective.”
“I don’t need to learn anything,” Jason said. “I’d be the best detective if I could just get my hands on one thing.”
“What?” Bess asked.
“That notebook!” Jason yelled as he jerked it out of Nancy’s hands. “Ha! I — “
Nancy moved quickly. Before Jason could finish his sentence, she grabbed back the notebook. She unzipped her backpack again. As she stuffed the notebook inside, lightning flashed in the windows of the Bell. Thunder shook the building.
Suddenly the lights went out!