“Ned? It can’t be!” Nancy Drew gasped in disbelief as she caught a glimpse of a guy rushing past her in the crowded hall of the Hewlitt Performing Arts Center. Nancy had wandered over to the arts complex after her Thursday afternoon classes to pick up a schedule for the Focus Film Society’s movie screenings. Now all thoughts of the film society were dashed from her head as she stared blankly at the space where seconds before her ex-boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, had been.
“What is Ned doing here at Wilder?” Nancy asked out loud as she felt herself being bumped and jostled by other students. Suddenly she felt ridiculous standing and staring at nothing in the middle of a jammed hallway. Nancy started moving again.
All right, get a grip and think this through, Nancy told herself sternly as she made her way to the small theater in the arts complex where the film society held its screenings.
That guy wasn’t Ned — he had light brown hair. You’ve been putting in some big-time hours studying, so you’re just sleep deprived, Drew. And for some reason you’ve got Ned on the brain and you’re letting your imagination kick into overdrive.
When Nancy reached the theater, she took a film schedule from a rack outside the door. After settling into a chair in a corner grouping in the hallway, she began browsing through the list of films. Soon she’d forgotten about Ned and had started circling screenings she thought she’d like to attend.
“Hello.” A deep, masculine voice floated through to her brain, breaking her concentration. Nancy’s head snapped up, and she found herself peering up into a familiar face. She nearly jumped. The same guy she had spotted in the hall earlier was staring down at her. Nancy felt a powerful jolt surge through her. Ned — with light brown hair! She closed her eyes, then reopened them quickly.
The owner of the voice was tall and good-looking, who did resemble Ned very closely. He had the same angular facial structure, strong jaw, and athletic build. He was also tall, over six feet, just like Ned. Nancy struggled to find something to say.
“Uh — h-hi,” she stammered.
The guy smiled easily. “I see you’re interested in the Focus Film Society.”
Nancy fought to regain her poise. “Well, yes. I don’t know that much about classic films, but I want to learn,” she admitted, wondering if her voice was shaking. “I’ve been to one screening, and I really enjoyed it. So I’ve decided to go more often.”
“Well, you’ve picked a good time to check out FFS,” the guy said. “We’re sponsoring a film festival this weekend. If you’ve got a minute, I can tell you all about it.” He shrugged and indicated the noisy hallway jammed with people. “It might be quieter if we sat in a corner of the lobby.”
“That’d be great,” Nancy said, smiling. Forget studying; forget the library, she thought as they threaded their way through the crowds.
“By the way, my name’s Terry. Terry Schneider,” the guy said.
“Nancy Drew,” Nancy answered. “Have you been involved with the group for long?”
“I help run it,” Terry said, seating himself on a bench in the lobby and making room for Nancy. “I don’t think I’ve seen you at any of our screenings.
“I came last week for the first time,” Nancy said. “I don’t remember seeing you there.” She didn’t add that she’d definitely have noticed him.
“I had a big English paper due,” Terry said.
“I think it was the first time I missed all semester. Anyway, let me tell you about the festival that starts this weekend. Have you ever heard of Sebastian Fletcher?”
Nancy frowned. “The name sounds vaguely familiar, but I’m not sure. Who is he?”
Terry leaned forward. “Well, you’ve heard of Sean Fletcher, haven’t you?”
“The actor? Who hasn’t?”
“Sebastian Fletcher was his father. He was a pretty big director in his day.”
“I don’t think I know about him,” Nancy said.
“You’ve probably heard of his films though. He made a bunch of movies in the sixties that are popular cult films today — Voyage Beyond, Candlelight Vigil. We’re screening Road to Nowhere on Friday. That’s his most famous.”
“I have heard of that one,” Nancy said. “But I’ve never seen it.”
“Then you have to come on Friday. Sean’s going to be here to introduce the film. And I had to work really hard to get him. He usually distances himself from his dad’s work, but this film is special. It’s one of only a few films his mother, the actress Lauren Fletcher, had a part in.”
“Wow, I can’t believe you actually got him to come to Wilder. That’s great,” Nancy said.
“The art director, Robert Delucca, and one of the actresses, Erika Swann, will be here, too. And so will you, I hope.”
“Are you kidding? I wouldn’t miss it,” Nancy replied. Especially not after meeting you, she thought. She ran her fingers through her reddish blond hair and flipped it behind her shoulders. She stood reluctantly. “I guess I’d better head out. Thanks for telling me all this, Terry.”
“My pleasure,” Terry said, smiling warmly. “You’re sure you’ll be there?”
Nancy nodded and saw the invitation in Terry’s eyes. “I promise.”
“See you then,” Terry said. He turned and disappeared into the crowd, leaving Nancy wondering if she’d only imagined him.
Bess Marvin stood in the wings waiting for her cue to go onstage. She and several other members of the theater department were finishing up a rehearsal for a one-act play in a series of one-acts the theater department would be opening soon. Bess watched Brian Daglian — in character — sit heavily in a folding chair center stage. Bess hurried onstage and crossed quickly in front of Brian.
“I wondered when, and if, you’d turn up,” she said, reading her lines from the script.
“Oh, I always turn up,” Brian read, using a smug tone of voice for his character.
“Cut!’ yelled the student director. “Bess, too soon. Too soon! You’ve got to give Brian time to settle in his chair and glance furtively around the room. He needs a chance to establish his character here.”
“Sorry,” Bess said as she went back to the wings to start again. This time she stumbled the tiniest bit over her line.
“That wasn’t great either,” she said. “Can we take it from the top one more time?”
“You bet,” Brian said easily. “We’ll take it as many times as we need.”
Bess was grateful that Brian was as much a perfectionist as she was when it came to the stage. They both knew that attitude was what it took to deliver a top-notch performance. The next try was better, but still not perfect.
Finally, after another false start, everything went seamlessly. Bess’s timing was flawless, and she delivered her lines precisely. Brian played off her perfectly. Now the story and characters came to life as she and Brian read through the next two scenes. When they stopped, they both said, “Wow, you were great,” at exactly the same moment.
Bess laughed. No doubt about it, she decided. These one-act plays were going to be hits. She could feel it in her bones.
The director laid down his clipboard. “That was terrific. Let’s quit on a high note. Be at rehearsal tomorrow at one-thirty sharp.”
Bess picked up her backpack and said goodbye. Slowly, she headed toward the rear exit of the theater, still savoring the warm feeling of her performance. Suddenly Bess’s eye fell on the clock hanging next to the light box.
“Uh-oh,” she moaned. She’d made a date to meet Eileen O’Connor, a Kappa sorority sister, who was also one of Nancy’s suitemates at Thayer Hall, Nancy’s dorm. Bess was already a half hour late. She’d gotten so caught up in rehearsal, she hadn’t paid the least attention to the time.
Glancing at her watch, Bess groaned, and after leaving the complex, broke into a run across the quad, nearly sideswiping several students. A few minutes later she’d arrived at the dorm, and was standing breathlessly in front of the door to Suite 301.
She knocked, and the door was opened by Liz Bader, one of Eileen and Nancy’s suitemates. “Hi, Liz. Hi, everybody,” Bess said, as she walked into the lounge. Several women were there, studying. Liz, an architecture major, went back to a small architectural foam model she was constructing.
Kara Verbeck, Nancy’s roommate, glanced at Bess from her sprawled-out position on the smooshy sofa. Her eyes were bloodshot, and she closed her thick textbook. “Hey, Bess.” She rubbed her eyes. “Welcome to study hell.”
Eileen looked up from the notes she’d been poring over on the low coffee table. “Oh, hi.”
“Eileen, I’m so sorry I’m so late,” Bess said. “Don’t worry about it. I needed the extra study time,” Eileen said.
“Don’t remind me,” Bess groaned. “Exam week is coming up.”
“Well, at least we have something to look forward to before our brains are drained of every neuron they ever possessed,” Kara said.
The women looked at one another and chorused: “Party!”
Bess’s spirits did a quick rebound. Her sorority, Kappa, and the Alpha Delt fraternity were joining forces to host a formal party. Daniel Frederick, who was Liz’s boyfriend, and Kara’s boyfriend, Tim Downing, had told them that the Alpha brothers had reserved the banquet room in the most elegant restaurant in town, Les Peches. The Kappa sisters had booked the hottest campus band so there was no doubt the food and music were going to be great. Bess couldn’t wait for the chance to dress up, have fun, and forget about classes and exams. Everyone started chattering about what they would wear and who would be there, but Bess noticed that Eileen wasn’t taking part in the conversation.
“You okay?” Bess asked her.
Eileen shrugged. “I’m fine. It’s just that once again, another party is upon us, and here I am, the Incredible Dateless Wonder.”
Kara sat up. “Come on, Eileen, that’s not a problem. Give us a few hours. We’ll find you a date.”
Eileen shook her head, and a lock of sun streaked blond hair fell over her forehead. “Thanks, but no thanks. To tell you the truth, I think I’m becoming seriously allergic to the whole dating thing. I mean, either I like a guy and he doesn’t like me. Or one likes me, and I have no interest in him. It’s totally depressing.”
“You’re not the first person who’s felt like that,” Bess said. “But then the time comes when everything clicks.” Bess thought of her own incredible boyfriend, Paul Cody. She had never really believed it could happen either.
Eileen rolled her eyes. “Well, nothing’s clicking for me. I’ve had it. I hereby give up on romance.”
“Forget about it,” Bess said. “We won’t let you.”
“Oh, yeah? Just watch me,” Eileen said dryly. “I can’t wait to curl up with a good video while you guys are worrying about what to wear.”
“You can’t be serious, Eileen,” Kara said.
“And besides,” Bess went on, “you’ve already won the Best Dressed award. That dress you let Stephanie buy for you is gorgeous. You can’t let it go to waste.”
“Bess is right,” Liz said. “It’s a violation of university policy to own a dress like that and not wear it to the party of the year.” She and Kara looked at Bess, then back at Eileen. “Leave it to us. We have three good, if slightly study-worn, brains among us. We’ll find the perfect guy for you.”
Eileen laughed. “Okay. I can’t wait to meet him. My heart’s in your hands, guys. Come on, Bess. I’m not studying one more minute. Let’s get out of here!”
Stephanie Keats stood before the glass doors of Berrigan’s Department Store and gloomily studied the window displays. There were at least three outfits that she’d love to buy, but the problem was, for the first time in her life, Stephanie had no money, thanks to her dad, R. J., and that conniving witch of a stepmother, Kiki. Stephanie’s dad had cut off all her credit cards, except one. And she’d run that one up to the limit. So how was a girl supposed to get by? Sure, she had her allowance. But it was so small, it hardly counted. There was no way she could afford nice clothes and cosmetics and all the things she was sure she had to have.
“I can’t believe I’m being forced to do this,” she muttered as she dropped her cigarette butt and ground it into the sidewalk angrily with her heel. Heaving a deep sigh, Stephanie finally stepped on the mat of the automatic door and entered the store.
It was absolutely not fair, she told herself, dragging herself up the aisles. She should be shopping here, not getting ready to work as a part-time sales associate. Was that degrading, or what? Still, it wasn’t as though she had much choice. She had finally located this job through Wilder’s placement office, and today was the first day of employee training.
Like I need to be trained. As if any monkey couldn’t handle being a sales drudge, Stephanie grumbled to herself. She paused to look at the notes she’d written at her interview:
“Personnel Office, third floor. See Mrs. Caldwell.”
“Hey, Stephanie, nice to see you.”
Stephanie’s head snapped up at the sound of the familiar voice. It was Pam Miller, a Wilder University student who roomed with Nancy’s friend George Fayne in Jamison Hall. An athletic type — Stephanie had no use for her. Pam was standing behind a cosmetics counter and was waving at Stephanie.
Stephanie gazed right through Pam. If she thinks I’m going to do a working-girl-togetherness thing, she’s completely mistaken. Stephanie turned her back on Pam and started. toward the personnel office.
Ginny Yuen tilted her face toward the late afternoon sun and slowly rolled her shoulders to relieve a muscle cramp in her neck. She’d been in a lecture hall for hours, and it felt good to be outside walking to her dorm. Shifting her backpack, she continued moving her shoulders.
Suddenly, she felt herself swept up in a full-body hug. Her nostrils filled with the familiar scent of her boyfriend Ray Johansson’s aftershave.
“Ray!” she exclaimed happily. “What are you doing here? I thought you had class.”
Ray grinned. “I do. So I’ll be a little late. But I couldn’t wait I had to spill the news right now.” Ray pulled Ginny close to him and kissed her on the tip of her nose.
“What news?” Ginny asked. “Tell me!”
Ray hugged her again. “The best news ever. It happened! It’s official. Pacific Records has offered the Beat Poets a recording contract!”
Ginny caught her breath. “Oh, wow. When?”
“I just got the call,” Ray said. “And I ran out to find you.”
Now it was Ginny’s turn to sweep Ray up in a monstrous hug. “I’m so happy for you. You deserve it. All the guys do.”
“Thanks,” Ray said. “We’re all pretty excited. I think I’ll have some serious trouble paying attention to classes today.”
Ginny laughed. “I’ll bet.”
Ray drew Ginny up close. “Do you realize what this means? This is just the beginning for the Beat Poets. MTV, the Grammys, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — we’re on our way!”