Don’t Look Back – First Chapter

Chapter 1

“Hey! Who’s got the TV remote?” asked Nancy Drew’s roommate, Kara Verbeck. She searched frantically under the cushions of the old couch that the freshmen in Suite 301 of Thayer Hall called the Black Hole. “It’s almost time for The President’s Daughter!

“Better find it fast,” Nancy said. “I think there’s going to be a stampede.”

As Nancy spoke, the doors to all the rooms in the suite were being yanked open. Barefoot, tousle-haired, and without makeup, the Wilder University freshmen had stopped whatever they were doing to hurry into the lounge they shared.

Nancy laughed. “I can’t believe that all this excitement is over some old TV show,” she said to Kara.

The expression on Kara’s face suggested that Nancy must have just landed on campus from some distant — and totally hopeless — planet. “Some old TV show?” Kara echoed, her green eyes wide. “That’s like calling the Mona Lisa some old painting.”

The show in question was The President’s Daughter, which had been the top-rated prime time Sunday series for the previous four years. Now it was in reruns on Thursday nights at ten.

“I guess it is about time I watched PD,” Nancy said to Kara. She picked up the remote from the top of the television set and handed it to her frazzled roommate.

The series had achieved cult status, and as her suitemates relived favorite scenes and tossed out PD trivia, Nancy was beginning to think that she was the only eighteen-year-old in America who hadn’t seen a single episode.

Of course she had a pretty good excuse. Her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, was at Emerson College while Nancy was back in River Heights. She’d spent a lot of Sunday evenings behind the wheel of her Mustang, driving home from visiting him.

Ned had expected Nancy to attend Emerson so they could be together, but she chose Wilder because of the school’s top-notch journalism department. Nancy had decided to major in journalism, and Wilder’s department easily beat out Emerson’s.

An added bonus for choosing Wilder was that her two best friends, Bess Marvin and George Fayne, had decided to go there, too.

They all loved the beautiful old campus, with its towering oak trees and mix of modern and Gothic architecture. The place combined the best of the old with that of the new. Wilder definitely felt alive with possibilities — new ideas and new people.

“Oooh, this is one of my favorites!” Reva Ross exclaimed from the other side of Kara, bringing Nancy back to the present. Reva, one of the smartest of Nancy’s suitemates, grabbed her long black hair and pulled it away from her sculpted, dusky face. “It’s the episode where the president’s daughter is stalked by a psycho. When I saw it for the first time, I couldn’t even watch the scene where — “

“Wait, Reva! Don’t tell me,” Nancy interrupted. “I haven’t seen it yet, remember?”

“Well, just prepare to bite your nails.” Reva shivered in anticipation.

Nancy laughed and leaned back comfortably against a throw pillow, settling in to watch the show.

“Really, Reva,” a languid voice said. “Nancy never does anything as unwholesome as bite her nails.” A dark head of hair belonging to the voice moved into Nancy’s line of sight just as the show began.

“Down in front,” Nancy said, annoyance creeping into her voice as she realized who was blocking her view.

“Well, excu-use me,” Stephanie Keats drawled. Tall and striking in a frankly contrived way, her pale skin was set off by expensively cut dark hair. She made no attempt to move out of Nancy’s way.

“You make a better door than a window, Stephanie,” Nancy said as she moved over to sit next to Eileen O’Connor, one of her more easy-going suitemates. Nancy blew away an annoying wisp of hair that had tumbled across her face. She wasn’t going to let Stephanie ruin her evening.

Nancy knew that Stephanie went out of her way to make her life miserable. Before private phones were installed in the students’ rooms, Stephanie had managed repeatedly to “forget” to tell Nancy about Ned’s phone calls on the lounge phone.

Ned…

Her boyfriend…ex-boyfriend, Nancy reminded herself.

Deep down Nancy knew that a big part of Wilder’s allure had been that it wasn’t Ned’s school. Emerson was already so familiar to her. If she had gone there, she would have ended up hanging out with Ned and his friends, going to their favorite spots, and taking intro courses they had already taken. She had wanted to go someplace she could make her own, someplace she could discover for herself.

Nancy didn’t regret her decision. Wilder was everything she had hoped it would be. She didn’t expect that choosing Wilder over Emerson would lead to her breakup with Ned, though.

Had she really broken up with him?

Her first and only true love?

Forever?

“Yo, Nancy. Anybody home? It’s starting.” Eileen was moving her hand up and down in front of Nancy’s face to get her attention. “The TV set’s thataway. Hello?”

Nancy put her thoughts of Ned aside. What she had heard about the show sounded good. She thought PD sounded like an interesting show with a mix of fun, outrageous plots, and, once in a while, a serious episode like that of the stalker.

The best part of watching the show was that it was part of her latest assignment for the Wilder Times, the college newspaper.

Casey Fontaine, the actress who played the president’s daughter on the show, was now a freshman at Wilder. Nancy was supposed to interview her and write a short profile. She hoped that this profile of Wilder’s most famous freshman would get her more work in the future.

Nancy was just a rookie on the paper, and she had to pay her dues writing captions and blurbs about school clubs and events. Nancy had been disappointed when Gail Gardeski, the editor of the Wilder Times, had rewritten her first important piece for the paper, an interview with the team’s quarterback. It had been her own fault, though, because she’d handed in the assignment late.

This time Nancy planned on getting her article in early. It wasn’t due till Monday afternoon. Nancy had already done a lot of the research, collecting articles about Casey from the Wilder library’s extensive magazine collection, but she still hadn’t seen the young actress in action.

“You’ll love Casey,” Nancy’s friend Bess had told her when she’d learned of Nancy’s assignment. Bess had made friends with the actress during rehearsals for the musical Grease!, which was set to be the first production of Wilder’s theater department that year. Bess and Casey both had parts in the show.

As the opening credits rolled over freeze-frame shots of the stars, Nancy zeroed in on Casey Fontaine’s face. Caught by the camera in the middle of a laugh, her head thrown back and her waist-length red hair flying, Casey’s TV character was undeniably appealing. Fresh-faced and mischievous-looking, young and sophisticated at the same time, she was the girl next door until she wound up at the White House.

The young actress’s face gave way to the athletic but soulful handsomeness of Charley Stern. He played a college newspaper reporter who’d talked his way into the White House press corps and then had fallen in love with Casey’s character, Ginger Porter.

Groans and sighs rose up around Nancy.

“Save me from drowning.” Eileen sighed loudly. “Isn’t he gorgeous?”

Nancy hoped that Eileen and her other suitemates were too caught up in their own emotions to notice hers. Charley Stern was more than just another gorgeous actor. Something about him reminded Nancy of Peter Goodwin, a handsome Wilder junior who also lived in Thayer.

Peter made Nancy feel things she had felt only for Ned in the past. While it was thrilling, it was also confusing. How could she be so attracted to someone so soon after breaking up with Ned?

She tried to deny her feelings for Peter, and succeeded sometimes, but as soon as she saw Peter again, she felt herself falling for him.

It wasn’t only her memories of Ned that complicated things between her and Peter. Peter had just broken up with Dawn Steiger, the resident adviser for Nancy’s suite, and it was obvious to everyone that Dawn was still in love with Peter. Would Nancy be risking her friendship with Dawn by pursuing Peter?

One other thing nagged at Nancy. Dawn had hinted on more than one occasion that Peter was carrying some serious baggage from the past. But she never elaborated on it. Nancy wondered what that could be and if she’d ever know the handsome premed student well enough to find out.

“If Charley Stern actually visits Casey on campus, I may have to lock myself in my room,” Reva declared. “Otherwise I might make a total fool of myself.”

“I thought Charley and Casey were history,” Eileen said.

“Yeah, I was looking at a tabloid paper while I was waiting in line at the supermarket this summer, and I saw a story about them,” Liz Bader said. “The story said that Casey was in London, shopping for new clothes for college, while Charley did the club scene in New York with one of the teen stars from a daytime soap opera.”

“I don’t think they’ve broken up,” Ginny Yuen argued. “I just saw a photo spread of them in TV Guide. Casey and Charley were surfing on location in Hawaii, and they were together at a black-tie Hollywood opening.”

Nancy was getting to be an expert on Casey Fontaine because of her research, and one thing she had learned was that she couldn’t believe everything she read. She knew that some reporters didn’t even speak to the people they wrote about. Instead, they based their articles on rumor and gossip. They were more interested in selling their stories than in telling the truth. They so often got their facts wrong that Nancy wondered if they did it on purpose to make their articles more exciting. That was why her interview with Casey was crucial to doing a good job on this assignment. She wanted to get the facts straight.

Nancy watched the show closely, analyzing Casey’s work. Within the space of a few minutes, Casey’s character, Ginger Porter, provoked laughter, sympathy, a romantic shiver, and a spine-tingling shudder of fear. Nancy was impressed. Casey was definitely a talented actress.

“I know how Ginger feels,” Liz said. “I once got followed home by a guy who’d seen me on the subway. If my doorman hadn’t sent him away, I could have been in real trouble.” Liz, a street-smart New Yorker, was Ginny’s roommate.

Nancy tried to block out her suitemates’ conversation. They’d all seen this episode before, but she had to concentrate on the plot.

“We have our very own Secret Service — campus security,” Stephanie drawled. “They’d probably welcome the excitement of tracking down a stalker. I mean, who wouldn’t?” She yawned.

Liz tore into a bag of gourmet potato chips. She took a couple and passed the bag to Nancy. Nancy started to shake her head, then took a few, and passed the bag along to Eileen.

Eileen began to read the nutritional information on the package. “No fat, no salt — “

“No taste,” interrupted Ginny, who was chewing on one. she made a face. “It’s like eating cardboard. Want one, Stephanie?”

“Potato chips? No, thank you.” Stephanie wrinkled her nose. “Whenever Julie had the munchies, the room would reek of potato chips. Oh, the blessings of living in a single.”

Nancy was finding it too hard to concentrate on the show. She’d try to get videotapes to watch by herself. The conversation was distracting her.

“Has anyone heard from Julie Hammerman?” Ginny asked.

“Dawn went to visit her last week, I think,” Eileen said.

“Well, I hope Dawn didn’t ‘lose’ anything while she was there,” Stephanie said, raising her eyebrows.

Julie had been Stephanie’s roommate when college started. Her suitemates discovered Julie had a serious drug problem when she’d stolen from all of them to get money to buy drugs. Nancy and some of the girls had caught her. Instead of going to jail, Julie had been sent to a nearby rehab clinic.

The girls in the suite were pretty angry at Julie, but when they found out about her drug problem, they became more sympathetic. Julie was paying big dues: Her college career was in pieces, and now she was living behind locked doors. Only Stephanie still knocked her.

Liz offered her the bag of chips to Reva. “I don’t know who Julie’s rooming with in rehab,” she said to Stephanie, “but Julie may think the scenery’s improved, too.”

“Pipe down, guys, the show’s starting again,” Eileen commanded.

Just then Dawn came into the lounge, a grin on her face. “I just got some big news,” she said in a loud voice. “Guess who’s moving into Thayer 301 tomorrow!”

Nancy noticed that Stephanie’s shoulders visibly stiffened. Hers was the only room in the suite with an empty bed.

Dawn waited a moment to create suspense before announcing, “Casey Fontaine!”

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