“It’s all your fault! I’ll never forgive you. Ever!” Bess Marvin shouted at her cousin George.
Big tears filled Bess’s eyes. She kicked at a pile of leaves. They had fallen from the biggest maple tree in the park.
“Don’t be stupid!” George yelled back. “It’s not my fault.”
“It is, too!” Bess yelled.
“Is not!” George shouted. “I didn’t do anything!”
“That’s right!” Bess cried. “You didn’t do anything! And now my locket is gone!”
George brushed a leaf out of her dark curls. “Oh, yeah? Well, ask Nancy,” George said.
She pointed to their best friend, Nancy Drew. Nancy was hurrying across the grass toward the playground. “Go on and ask her. She’ll tell you it’s not my fault.”
Eight-year-old Nancy held the straps of her bright blue backpack in her right hand. She swung it back and forth as she walked through the park.
The cool October air blew through Nancy’s reddish blond hair and made her feel good. It was Friday. Now she had the whole weekend to be with her friends.
“What’s going on?” Nancy asked as she came up to her friends.
“George lost my locket,” Bess answered. Tears streaked Bess’s cheeks.
“I did not!” George said. She put her hands on her hips.
“Did , too!” Bess yelled.
“But what happened?” Nancy asked. She dropped her backpack at the base of the huge maple tree. That was where everyone always put their things when they came to the park after school.
“Tell me everything,” Nancy said, looking from Bess to George. They were her two best friends. She had never seen them fight. “Is your locket really gone, Bess? The beautiful one — the fancy gold heart?”
“Yes!” Bess cried. Her voice almost cracked.
Nancy put her arm around Bess. No wonder Bess was so upset! Bess’s aunt Sarah had given the locket to her for her birthday.
The locket was a gold heart that opened. Bess’s name was engraved on the front. There was a tiny pearl in the middle.
“That’s terrible if it’s gone,” Nancy said. “But will somebody just tell me what happened?”
“I’ll tell you,” Bess said. She pulled Nancy to one side by the arm. “Don’t listen to George. She won’t tell you the truth.”
Bess brushed her blond hair out of her face and adjusted her navy blue headband. When she was all set, she took a deep breath.
“I was wearing the locket,” Bess said, looking only at Nancy. “And I didn’t want anything to happen to it. But all the girls were taking turns jumping rope. I wanted to jump rope, too. So I took off my locket and handed it to George. I asked her to hold it for me while I jumped. But she didn’t hold it! She put it in her backpack instead. Now it’s gone.”
Nancy looked at George to see what she would say. George looked unhappy.
“I didn’t lose it on purpose,” George explained. “I only put it in my backpack because I thought it would be safer there.”
“Well, maybe it’s not even gone,” Nancy said. “Maybe it just fell out of your backpack into the leaves.”
Nancy walked over to George’s backpack near the big tree. She started to look through the leaves. But Bess stopped her.
“No. It’s not in the leaves,” Bess said. “I looked. It’s been stolen. And look what the thief left instead.” Bess picked up a plastic sandwich bag with a soggy sandwich inside. “This was in George’s backpack.”
“Yuck!” Nancy said. She could smell relish, even before she opened the bag. Relish, ketchup, and mustard were leaking all over the white bread.
“It’s really gross,” Bess warned her.
Nancy took the sandwich out of the bag, anyway. She held it far away from her. Then she peeled the layers of bread apart to see what was inside.
Peanut butter? With ketchup, mustard, and relish? It was all mushed together between the bread. It was the grossest sandwich Nancy had ever seen.
“Whoever stole my locket was trying to be mean,” Bess said. “They left this sandwich just to make me sick!”
Nancy thought about that for a minute. It was a mean trick. But who would do it? And why?
Nancy looked inside George’s backpack again. She checked every pocket. But the locket was not there. The only thing Nancy found was George’s new notebook. The notebook was red with a silver stripe on the cover. It matched the stripe on the backpack flap.
“Don’t worry,” Nancy said, getting excited. “This is a mystery. And I’m good at mysteries. Maybe I can figure out who stole the locket and get it back.”
“Good,” Bess said. “Because if you don’t, I’m never speaking to George again.”
Nancy frowned. That would be terrible!
“Where exactly did George put the locket?” Nancy asked Bess. “In the big main part? Or in the little pocket?”
“Don’t ask me,” Bess said. “George? George! I don’t believe it. Look! She’s not even listening!”
Nancy looked. George had moved away. She was standing by a bench with some girls from her soccer team. She had a newspaper clipping in her hand.
Nancy could guess what it was — the picture of George that had been in the River Heights newspaper a few days earlier. It showed George kicking the winning goal in Monday’s soccer game.
“George!” Bess yelled. “Get over here!”
George glanced over at Bess. “Just a minute,” she called to her cousin. Then she went on talking to her other friends.
Bess stamped her foot and marched over to George. Nancy followed.
“Georgia Fayne, don’t you dare ignore me!” Bess said, using George’s full name. No one ever called her Georgia. Bess knew it would make her mad. “Nancy is trying to find my locket — the one you lost! How can you stand there reading that stupid newspaper?”
“Stupid newspaper?” George said. “Oh, sure. My soccer game is stupid. But your stupid locket is the most important thing in the whole world!”
When George said that, Bess’s face turned bright red. It was exactly the color of George’s backpack — except that it didn’t have a silver stripe down the middle.
Bess grabbed the newspaper clipping. “I hope your team loses every game for the rest of the year!” she yelled. Then she tore the newspaper into a dozen tiny pieces — and threw them on the ground!