“You’re not leaving me,” Jake Collins said, brushing his hand against Nancy Drew’s cheek. “Are you?”
Nancy smiled, covering his strong hand with hers. “Only for a little while. I promised George we’d hang out together this morning. I’ve hardly seen her lately.”
Nancy and Jake were sitting in a sunny spot on a grassy knoll on the Wilder University campus, sharing a late-morning breakfast of coffee and muffins.
“What about the other people you’ve hardly seen lately? For instance…me?” Jake asked.
Nancy kissed Jake lightly on the lips and stood up and brushed the dried leaves off her pants. “I’ll call you later. Okay?”
“That’s it?” Jake lay back on the grass and smiled up at her.
“Well, if you’re going to look so pathetic…” Nancy knelt down and kissed Jake again. “Maybe I’ll come by and visit you later. You’ll be at the Times office, right?” She slung her backpack over her right shoulder.
Jake groaned. “Why did I ever decide to major in journalism? Nobody told me I’d have to spend every gorgeous afternoon indoors.”
“Come up with a story idea that gets you outside,” Nancy suggested. “You know, a major expose of the campus quad — “
“‘Slackers at the Places They Slack’?” Jake asked, squinting up at her.
“‘And the People They Love to Slack With,'” Nancy added as the clock on the old Wilder University tower chimed ten o’clock. “Uh-oh, I’d better run. I’ll call you in a couple of hours, okay?”
Jake nodded. “Say hi to George for me!”
Nancy rushed across the quad, the dry red and gold autumn leaves crackling under her feet. George Fayne was one of her best friends, and Nancy knew that George would understand why she was running late. Anyway, it wasn’t as if she didn’t have a reason. A very good reason: Jake.
It wasn’t the first time that week that Nancy had been late for something on account of Jake. She was finding it harder and harder to tear herself away from him. When she and Jake were together, she couldn’t think of anything else. Especially when he was holding her in his strong arms, looking at her with those gorgeous soft brown eyes, softly brushing her lips with a kiss.
What was the point in hurrying away from that? Nancy wondered. She’d have to be crazy.
Of course, she had just done it. But hanging out with George was just as important as spending time with Jake, Nancy told herself. George had been one of Nancy’s best friends her entire life; they’d come to Wilder University from their hometown of River Heights.
The way things had been going lately, Nancy had been too busy to see much of Jake, but she was determined to find some extra hours in the day to spend with him. She didn’t know where she’d find the time, but she would.
She opened the door and swept into Thayer Hall, the brisk autumn wind slamming the door closed behind her.
In Nancy’s suite on the third floor, George, her curly dark hair falling around her face, was sitting in the lounge, her nose buried in a textbook.
“Hi, sorry I’m late,” Nancy said with an apologetic smile as she walked into the room.
“Oh, no problem,” George replied, stretching out her long legs on the couch. “But I’m glad you showed up — I was actually starting to study.“
Nancy laughed. “No! Anything but that!” she joked, tossing her backpack on a lounge chair.
“It’s horrible,” George said. “But it’s a must when you’re in calculus. I don’t know why you’re late, but I’m betting from that extremely happy look on your face that it has something to do with Jake. Am I right?”
“So things are going well between you guys?” George asked.
“Better than well,” Nancy said. “In fact, things are great. How about with you and Will?”
George had been seeing Will Blackfeather, a sophomore, since her first weeks at Wilder.
“Everything’s fine,” George said, leaning back on the couch. “Wonderful, fantastic, stupendous…Am I getting too carried away?”
“No, you’re not getting carried away.” Nancy laughed. “Not for someone who’s in love.”
George grinned. “So, besides seeing Jake, what else is up with you?”
“Well, I have a ton of stuff to do, as usual. Remember how I wanted to get involved with Helping Hands?” Nancy asked. Helping Hands was a local organization that paired Wilder students as big brothers or big sisters with teenagers in single parent families.
“Of course I remember,” George said. “You’ve been trying to get hooked up with a little sister, right?”
Nancy nodded. “I’m meeting her tomorrow for the first time! Her name’s Anna Pederson. I can’t wait.” Growing up, Nancy had been an only child — she’d always wondered how it would feel to have a younger brother or sister. She was excited about having a chance to meet and work with Anna, who was twelve.
“Do you know anything about her?” George asked.
“Not that much,” Nancy admitted, “but I’m sure we’ll work it out. The only problem will be finding enough time to spend with her. I don’t know why, but so far this has been the craziest week of the whole semester. On top of all my regular classwork — which is enough for a small army — Gail wants me to cover the World Arts and Crafts Show at the Student Union on Friday.” Gail Gardeski was editor-in-chief of the Wilder Times, the college newspaper where Nancy and Jake were both reporters.
“And?” George prompted.
“And what?” Nancy asked.
“And what about Jake? Do you have any time for him?”
“What do you think?” Nancy said. “Don’t you always find time for Will?” When you’re in love, there’s always time. She touched her lips, remembering Jake’s soft kiss. She couldn’t wait for the next one.
“Bess,” Casey Fontaine whispered. She grabbed the sleeve of Bess Marvin’s red sweatshirt as Bess passed her in the Rockhausen Library stacks. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“Oh, hi, Casey!” Bess grinned, her blue eyes flashing even in the dim fluorescent library light. “What’s up?”
“Let’s go over here.” Casey gestured to a corner nook, where she felt they could get some privacy. What she had to tell Bess wasn’t something she wanted anyone else to know. But she was dying to tell somebody — and Casey knew she could trust Bess, a fellow Kappa sorority member, with a secret. Casey lived in the same suite as Nancy Drew, one of Bess’s best friends.
“So? What’s so important?” Bess demanded. “You look so intense.”
“Well, you’re not going to believe this,” Casey began.
“Wait — don’t tell me. You landed a hot new role in a movie! And you’re leaving Wilder!” Bess guessed.
“No” Casey said. “Nothing like that.” If Bess only knew! Her news had nothing to do with her acting career. Casey had starred on a television series called The President’s Daughter before she left Hollywood to come to Wilder.
“Casey, spit it out already!” Bess cried, her voice echoing in the cavernous stacks.
Several whispers of “Shh!” came at them from all directions.
“Whoops. Sorry,” Bess whispered, curling her blond hair back behind her ear.
“Just don’t shout out what I’m about to tell you. Promise?” Casey said.
Bess sighed. “Yes, now spill it.”
“Charley proposed to me before he left town,” Casey said slowly.
Bess clapped her hand over her mouth and stared at Casey. “Proposed? As in marriage? As in…walking down the aisle? You’re kidding!”
“No. He wants me to marry him, drop out of Wilder, and move back to Los Angeles,” Casey explained. Saying it out loud to someone else made the decision seem even more serious. Get married? Drop out of Wilder? But she’d just started — and the reason she’d come to Wilder was to experience something different from the L.A. scene.
She loved Charley with all her heart. She’d met him when they were costars in The President’s Daughter, and they’d been dating exclusively since then. She didn’t want to see anyone else, and she knew she was devoted to Charley.
But she was also devoted to pursuing her education, especially in a place like Wilder, where she could just be herself and not worry about tabloid photographers snapping her picture everywhere she went.
“So…what did you say?” Bess asked.
“I said I’d have to think about it.” Casey shrugged her shoulders. “What else could I say? I was totally surprised.”
“I see what you mean,” Bess said. “But what have you decided since then?”
Casey threw up her hands. “That’s just it! I can’t decide. It’s such a major life change, and I feel like I have so much going on, I don’t even have time to really think it through.”
“Don’t you want to marry Charley? You guys really love each other, right?” Bess asked.
“Yes. We do,” Casey said. “And in a way, that’s what makes it so hard. Because this decision could either bring us closer together or…I don’t know.”
“Well, it’s not an ultimatum,” Bess said. “Charley’s still going to love you, no matter what you decide.”
“I guess so,” Casey mused. She thought of Charley, picturing how earnest he’d looked when he’d asked her to marry him and how sad she’d felt when they had to say goodbye. She definitely wanted to marry him someday, but now? She just wasn’t sure.
“Hey, have you talked to Bess today?” Nancy asked. She and George had been talking in the lounge for about half an hour.
“I think I talked to her, but I’m not sure,” George said. “I called her room, and this person who sounds like Bess answered. But then she said she was going to the library.“
“Hmm.” Nancy drummed her fingers against the arm of the couch. “Doesn’t sound like Bess to me.” Then she and George started laughing. Studying was always the last thing on Bess’s mind.
The door to the suite opened, and Dawn Steiger walked down the hall toward them, followed by Bill Graham. Both Dawn and Bill were resident advisers in Thayer.
“What’s up, guys?” Nancy asked.
George pointed to the stack of neon green posters Bill was carrying. “Ooh. Don’t tell me — Thayer’s putting on a major party this weekend!”
“Not exactly,” Dawn said. Her long blond hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and she was wearing jeans and a maroon Wilder sweatshirt.
Bill held up one of the posters for George and Nancy to look at. The Buddy System Works — Use It! the posters proclaimed in large black letters. Increase Campus Safety — Don’t Walk Alone At Night.
“Oh, is this a campaign across campus?” Nancy asked. “One of those public service things you guys promote?”
“It’s a campaign, but it’s not something we planned,” Dawn said, sitting on the arm of the couch. She rested the stapler on her knee. “It’s kind of last minute. After the fact.”
“What do you mean?” George asked. “There’s a reason you’re doing this today?”
Bill let out a loud sigh. “Unfortunately. We got some really bad news this morning.”
“What happened?” George asked. “Was somebody hurt?”
Dawn nodded. “There was an attack outside Thayer. It was Reva.”
“Reva Ross?” George leaned forward on the couch, incredulous. Reva was one of the women in Nancy’s suite. George didn’t know her well, but Nancy had spent a lot of time with her.
“Is she okay?” Nancy asked.
“Fortunately, yes,” Bill told her. “She was mugged, but the guy didn’t hurt her. I mean, he might have bruised her a little, but nothing serious. She’s fine.”
“Wow.” George couldn’t believe it. “That’s terrible.”
“You’re not kidding,” Nancy agreed. “I can’t believe it happened to someone from our suite.”
“Yeah, neither can I,” Dawn said. “I thought Wilder was a pretty safe place. Any way, we’re putting up posters all over the dorm to let everyone know they should be careful.”
“So…where’s Reva now?” Nancy asked tentatively, pulling her boxy cardigan sweater tighter around her.
“She went to stay with Andy last night,” Dawn said.
Andy Rodriguez and Reva had been dating for a while now. George knew Andy well because he was Will’s roommate. Funny, she thought. Will hadn’t mentioned anything about Reva when she’d spoken to him that morning. He must not know yet; or maybe Reva didn’t want other people to know. “Has Reva reported this to the police or anything?” George asked.
“Last night after they checked her out at the hospital,” Bill said. “The police interviewed her, I guess, and she told them what she knew about it. Which wasn’t much, because it all happened really fast.”
“Whew. Mugged,” Nancy said. “It must have been awful.”
“Yeah. She was pretty shaken up. Andy picked her up at the station after the police took her statement,” Dawn explained.
George shook her head. “I still can’t believe it. Why did this have to happen to Reva?”
“More like, why does this have to happen to anyone,” Dawn added. “If you’re not safe at Wilder, where are you safe?”
George shrugged. “I don’t know. But I think I’ll go over to Will and Andy’s to see how she’s doing. Want to come along?” she asked Nancy.
“I really want to see Reva but I should go over to the Times office. Jake’s there, and I want to see if they’re handling the story,” Nancy said. “That is, if they even know about it yet. I’ll ask Gail to put something in about everyone taking extra safety precautions.”
George nodded. “Good idea.”
“Yeah. If they could put something in the paper, that’d be great. I mean, the more we can get the word out, the better,” Dawn agreed.
“In the meantime, we’ve got posters to put up all over the dorm,” Bill said, adjusting the stack in his arms.
“Then we’ll see you later,” George said. Bill and Dawn took off, and she turned to Nancy. “Poor Reva.”
“Poor Reva is right!” Nancy looked concerned. “I can’t believe she was attacked. Thank goodness it was only a mugging. What if — “
“Don’t even think it,” George said. But she was already thinking it. Getting mugged was bad enough, but what if something even worse had happened to Reva?