New Beginnings – First Chapter

School is out! Time to party!” Nancy Drew cried to her friend George Fayne as they crossed the Wilder University campus.

“Three long, glorious days of partying,” George added. The two girls joined the crowds of students streaming toward the dorms and parking lots.

Nancy pushed her thick red-blond hair back from her face and happily looked around. The atmosphere on the Wilder quad was charged and spirits were high as the campus was emptied for the long weekend break.

“I love it here.” Nancy smiled. “I think Wilder feels more like home now than River Heights does. Although I am happy to be free of classes and studying for a few days.”

“Well, in a couple of hours we’ll be out of here and on our way back to River Heights with our gorgeous new boyfriends,” George said. “Aren’t you psyched about taking Jake home?”

“It’s a mixed bag,” Nancy admitted. She paused to try to put her feelings into words. “I miss Dad and can’t wait to see Hannah, but I have no idea how they’ll react to Jake.”

“How could anyone not love Jake Collins — he’s brilliant, witty, and good-looking,” George said

Nancy smiled, thinking of her boyfriend’s beautiful brown eyes and handsome face.

“True, but Hannah and Dad are so used to me being with Ned,” Nancy continued. “I know they expected me to marry him someday.” She made a face at George. “I’m sure they’ll spend a lot of time comparing Jake to Ned.”

“Don’t sweat it, Nan. Ned was — no, is — terrific, but so is Jake,” George said. “Don’t you think your dad must have felt nervous when you first met Avery? I’m sure he was worried you might not like his girlfriend when he brought her here.”

Nancy laughed with surprise. “Avery’s great!” Nancy had wanted to like the first woman her dad had fallen in love with since the death of Nancy’s mother years before. Fortunately, when Avery and Nancy had met, they’d become instant friends. But what if they hadn’t?

“Just remember, your dad and Hannah want you to be happy. Jake’s great, and they’ll love him.”

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed on that one.” Nancy pushed down the uneasy feeling in her stomach.

“Keep them crossed for me, too,” George said with a laugh. “I’m not exactly sure how my parents are going to take to Will, either.” Her face suddenly sobered. “You know, now that I think about it, I kind of wish we weren’t bringing the guys home with us this weekend. I want to spend as much time with Bess as possible. I’m worried about her. Every time I’ve talked with her on the phone, she’s sounded weird, not like herself at all.”

Sadness swept over Nancy as she thought about George’s cousin, Bess Marvin. Bess and her boyfriend, Paul Cody, had been in a terrible motorcycle accident a couple of weeks before. Bess’s injuries weren’t too serious, but Paul had been killed. Bess had gone home to River Heights to recuperate. “I agree that she’s acting different,” Nancy said. “And I can’t wait to see her.”

As they approached the Student Union, George’s face lit up. “Hey, it’s Kate Terrell!” she exclaimed. “Kate,” George called out to her friend.

Nancy glanced up and smiled as Kate waved at them. She was standing with a good-looking guy behind a long table outside the Student Union. They were busy arranging audiocassettes on a small display shelf on one half of the table. The other half featured colorful handcrafted metal earrings.

Though the quad was crowded, no one wanted to stop long enough to check out their merchandise.

“George, Nancy, this is Jeff Rayburn,” Kate said smiling at the dark-haired guy next to her. He was small and wiry. Sunglasses hid his eyes, but his smile was warm.

“Hi,” Jeff said.

“Nice earrings,” Nancy said, pointing to the turquoise ones Kate was wearing.

“Thanks. Jeff sells them.” Kate gazed up at Jeff. “I told him the afternoon before a long weekend isn’t the hottest time for business.”

Jeff shrugged off Kate’s remark. “Just wait until Sunday.” He turned to Nancy and George. “We’re heading up to the Keelor Falls Crafts Fair. I usually sell a lot at crafts fairs and street festivals.”

“Keelor Falls?” George said. “That’s not far from River Heights, where we live. Nancy and I are taking Jake and Will home this weekend.”

“Have you been to Keelor Falls?” Kate asked.

George nodded. “Sure, I’ve hiked there a lot.

“Why don’t you drop by the fair on Sunday?” Jeff said. “It’ll be fun. The food’s great, and there’s lots of live music.

“Sounds cool,” George said, then glanced at Nancy. “But we’re both pretty booked this weekend.”

“You know, family stuff,” Nancy said.

George glanced at her watch. “Oh, my gosh, I was supposed to meet Will at Jamison ten minutes ago. I gotta go.” She turned. “Nice meeting you, Jeff. See ya, Kate.” As George moved off toward her dorm, she yelled back over her shoulder. “Nancy, we’ll hook up with you and Jake at Thayer.”

“I’d better get going, too,” Nancy said. “Hope you guys do great business at the crafts fair. ‘Bye.”

“If your plans change over the weekend,” Kate called out after them, “don’t forget Keelor Falls. We’ll be there Sunday all day.”

Kara Verbeck’s sea green eyes widened at the sight of radio station KWDR’s control room. Headsets hung from a wall board above a work counter that held a bewildering array of sound equipment: CD players, tape decks, two old turntables, and a control panel of some sort. Three microphones with clipboards by them were arranged on a table in front of the counter.

Kara giggled, and her friend Nikki Bennett bounced a little on her toes. “This is so exciting,” Nikki said.

Kara couldn’t agree more. She was really going to be on the radio. She was going to cohost a real talk show — something she had fantasized about ever since freshman year of high school, when she had developed a major crush on an outrageously insulting local talk-show host.

Kara, Nikki, and another girl, Montana Smith, were touring the KWDR studio with their Pi Phi sorority sister Patrice Barton, host of a popular weekly campus call-in show. Patrice had offered Montana, Kara, and Nikki a chance to host the Saturday afternoon show, and ever since, Kara couldn’t concentrate on anything else.

She’d been thinking about what she would say when listeners called to discuss the latest hot topic. Kara hoped that she would come up with instant, provocative answers to whatever subject Patrice had chosen for that week’s discussion.

Kara eyed the buttons and knobs warily. “What’s all this stuff?” she asked under her breath.

“Montana can deal with it,” Nikki answered. “Can’t you, Montana?” she asked.

“Like I said, it’s no sweat,” Montana replied with a confident toss of her blond curls. “I’m an old hand at this.”

Patrice peered at Montana over her glasses. “You did have your own radio show back in high school, right?”

“My own?” Montana repeated, looking a little surprised. “Not exactly.” At the sight of Patrice’s worried face, she added quickly, “But I did work on a show there. I know the ropes. Now, this is the cart for the commercials, right?” she said, pointing toward what looked like an eight-track tape. Patrice heaved a relieved sigh.

“Yes,” Patrice replied. “And here’s the schedule for when the commercials are to be run. They’re on a short tape, with automatic cutoff like an answering machine tape. It’ll rewind when it’s finished. Then you just start it up again, following this cue sheet.”

Montana winked at Kara and Nikki behind Patrice’s back as Patrice continued her explanation.

“That’s about the scoop on how to cut to the commercials and how to check the volume. And don’t forget FCC regulations- — you must give the station’s call name and number at the top of every hour. That’s really crucial. So, is everything clear?”

Kara blinked and met Patrice’s serious gray eyes. Suddenly she realized she hadn’t heard a word Patrice had said

She looked at Montana. The slim blond young woman radiated confidence. Kara cleared her throat. “We’ll do fine.” After all, Montana knew what she was doing, Kara reminded herself.

“Don’t worry, Patrice. I’ve got it all under control.” Montana laughed. “We’ll host a show Wilder won’t forget!”

“So, Jake, it’s the big weekend,” said Nick Dimartini as he stopped his car for a red light on Weston’s main street. Nick was giving Jake a ride from the off-campus apartment they shared to Thayer Hall, Nancy’s dorm.

Jake sat in the passenger seat, his feet propped up on the dashboard He pretended not to understand what his roommate meant. “Yeah, it’ll be good to have a nice long weekend.”

“Could be extra long if Nancy’s dad doesn’t like you.” Nick laughed as he punched Jake’s shoulder.

Jake raked his fingers through his thick brown hair. Nick was too good a friend to try to fake out. “All right, I do want to make a good impression.”

“Knew it,” Nick said.

“Anyway, between Carson Drew and Hannah — “

“That’s his girlfriend?” Nick asked.

Jake shook his head. “No, their housekeeper. She’s sort of like a mother to Nancy.” Jake shrugged “But I think I’ll get along with them. I do pretty well with most people.”


Jake didn’t want to go on talking about the meeting. He couldn’t quite suppress the fear that Nancy might back off from their relationship if her dad didn’t like him. Nancy and her dad were pretty close. “So, what are you doing this weekend, Dimartini?” he asked, changing the subject.

“My uncle’s opening a record store in a new mall a couple of hours south of here,” Nick said, turning through the main gate. “It’s some town called River Heights.”

“River Heights!” Jake threw back his head and laughed. “That’s where Nancy lives.” Jake propped his arms behind his head and grinned. “We should hook up with each other over the weekend. Will and George will be around, too.”

“Sounds cool,” Nick replied, “but I’m going to be pretty busy helping my uncle with the opening of the store. I promised him I’d put in as many hours as he needed me to work. But,” he said as they approached Thayer Hall, “maybe some night after the store closes we can get together.”

“Give me your uncle’s home phone number and the name and number of the store. I’ll check in with you tomorrow or Sunday. and we’ll see what’s up.”

“Great,” Nick said as he stopped in front of the dorm and Jake jumped out. “And good luck with Nancy’s family!”

“Thanks,” Jake said, reaching into the back seat for his green duffel. He shouldered the bag and waved goodbye.

Jake worked his way through the crowd clogging the entrance to the Y-shaped glass-and-brick modern dorm building. He took one look at the mob waiting for the elevator. “Forget it!” he said, and tossed his duffel into a pile of bags beside the main staircase leading to the upper floors.

Whistling, he bounded up the steps two at a time toward Nancy’s third-floor suite.

“What’s taking Nancy so long?” George exclaimed impatiently to Will Blackfeather. “And where’s Jake?” George jumped up from the sofa in the lounge of Suite 301 in Thayer Hall and checked her watch. Would Nancy ever be packed?

George glanced at Will and shook her head in dismay. “I want to get going!”

Will smoothed back his dark hair and laughed. “Calm down. What’s the big hurry?”

“The sooner we get on the road, the sooner we’ll be in River Heights,” George said. She gestured around her. “Look at this place. It’s a zoo.”

“You’d think everyone was going home for semester break, instead of just a long weekend.” Will’s dark eyes were amused as he followed George’s gaze.

Dawn Steiger’s camping gear was piled in a corner near the TV, and Eileen O’Connor, another of Nancy’s suitemates, was taking up half the floor of the lounge, trying to roll up drawings small enough to fit inside a plastic tube. “Can you believe I have to finish these by Tuesday at nine A.M.?” Eileen said. “I don’t know why I’m even bothering to leave for the weekend”

“Because it would be too depressing to stay,” Dawn tossed off as she moved her gear into the hallway. “The campus will be a ghost town.”

“I’m going to see what Nancy’s up to,” George said She walked down the hall to Nancy’s room and poked her head in the door. Nancy’s suitcase was already stuffed, and she was standing by her bed, frowning at two sweaters, one in each hand. Hearing George, she looked up.

“Which one should I take?” Nancy asked

“Are you still packing?” George couldn’t believe it. She started to laugh. “Nancy, it’s just three days.” George took one of the sweaters, tossed it in the suitcase, and began to lower the lid.

“Not yet!” Nancy stopped her. “I’ve still got to get my toothbrush, and I can’t find my new jeans. Kara probably borrowed them again.”

“By all means — add the toothbrush, while there’s still room in that suitcase,” George teased. She backed out of Nancy’s room and straight into Casey Fontaine. The pretty redhead was pushing a small suitcase on wheels down the hall.

“Whoops!” Casey exclaimed as she collided with George. “Sorry, but if I don’t get out of here in ten seconds flat, I’m going to miss my flight.”

“I hear you’re heading for Palm Springs,” George said, walking along with her.

“Yeah, Charley and I figured this long weekend would be a good time to get together.”

“I guess it’s rough, spending so much time apart,” George said sympathetically as they reached the elevator outside the suite. She knew Casey, a former TV star, and her actor boyfriend, Charley Stern, had recently gotten engaged.

“You can’t begin to imagine. . . .” Casey said, then noticed the elevator had come. “Here’s my ride. Have a good time in River Heights, George, and say hi to Bess!”

As George turned back to the suite, she saw Jake coming up the stairs. “George, is Nancy ready yet?” Jake asked as they walked into the suite.

“Not the last time I looked,” George replied, “but maybe now.” She noticed he didn’t have a bag. “You’re traveling light.”

“I left my duffel bag downstairs,” Jake said. “I figured I’d help Nancy carry her stuff down. Boy, it’s mobbed.”

“Tell me about it,” George said, checking her watch again. “We should have been gone by now.”

Jake stopped to talk to Will as George went back into Nancy’s room.

“I’m ready,” Nancy said, standing in front of the mirror and pulling a brush through her hair.

“At last,” George said. “Jake’s here, so we’re finally going to get this act on the road”

“Ummm, is this Kara Verbeck’s room?” a voice said from the doorway.

George turned around. A petite girl with short black hair was standing in the doorway. She flashed a shy, nervous smile.

“Yes. She’s my roommate,” Nancy replied.

“Hi. my name is Lily. Kara borrowed my jacket, and I need it back before I leave for the weekend.”

Nancy rolled her eyes. “That’s Kara, all right.””It’s red suede with fringe,” the girl added, coming into the room.

“Hi. I’m Nancy, and this is George.”

Lily nodded and quickly looked around “Which side is Kara’s?”

“Kara’s closet is there,” Nancy said, pointing. “I’ll help you look.”

I do not believe this, thought George. We are never, ever going to get out of here. It seemed to take forever, but a few minutes later Nancy emerged from Kara’s closet with a red suede jacket over her arm. “Is this the one, Lily?”

Lily’s face lit up. “Yes, that’s it.” She started out the door. “Hey, thanks, and let Kara know I took it back.”

“Right!” George and Nancy said at once.

“I should leave Kara a note,” Nancy said.

“It can wait,” George retorted, steering Nancy out the door. “Besides, she probably won’t even notice the jacket is gone in this mess.”

A few minutes later George, Nancy, Will, and Jake were trooping down the stairs.”Let’s get out of here!” George cried, reaching the ground floor before anyone else.

“Wait,” Jake called. “I need to get my bag.” Jake rummaged through an enormous jumble of luggage at the bottom of the steps.

“Jaaaaake!” George wailed. “Hurry up. Let’s get this show on the road!”

Jake grabbed a green duffel with a Wilder U logo. “Here it is.”

George led the group across the crowded parking lot to Nancy’s Mustang. Jake shoved the suitcases into the trunk and tossed his duffel into the backseat.

“On our way at last,” Will said, jumping in the back next to George.

“Finally,” George said, cuddling up next to Will. “But it’s rush hour. Now it’s going to take forever to get home.”

“George, will you put a lid on it!” Will cried. “We’re on our way.”

As Nancy maneuvered the car through backed up traffic, Will pulled George closer. She felt herself relaxing.He murmured into her ear, “River Heights is about two hours from here, right? That gives us two hours of fun in the backseat.”

George laughed softly as she lifted her face toward Will’s for a kiss.

By the time Nancy hit the interstate, George was thinking maybe Will was right. Two hours on the road didn’t seem very long at all.

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