Wednesday morning dawned bright and early. The sun shone into the room, as if it was trying to brighten the room with smiles and laughter. Birds were chirping outside the window. Togo had crawled into bed with Nancy, and she now had both arms wrapped around him gently. Her eyes flickered open for a brief moment before closing them again, just wanting to feel the warm sun rays on her skin and to let the birdsong cheer her. Togo apparently just had to interrupt the moment by licking her face.
"Ugh, Togo, no licking!" He began to whimper. "Oh, do you need to go?" He gave a yip. Nancy sighed as she sat up and placed Togo on the floor. "Alright, let's go. Thank you for not wetting my bed." She picked him up and carried him down the stairs, putting him down at the back door. She opened it and he tore outside. She closed it while he did his business and poured herself a glass of milk. As she drank, she thought over the mystery. Had it really been a week since she started on it? The days really flew by. And were the Hardys still having to appear in court? It shouldn't take that long, right? She smirked, one thing was for sure, if she solved this mystery before they got out of court, they would finally be caught up. They would have each solved two mysteries and be ready for a third. But first she had to solve this one, and fast.
She sighed as she took another sip, thinking back again of the start of the mystery. Nathan Gomber really didn't any other options as to who the villain behind all this was. He was crude, creepy, made her feel uneasy, and had such impeccable timing, like those villains who always seemed to know where the hero was. She sat up straighter as her eyes widened. Yes, that was right, Nathan Gomber had impeccable timing. He arrived at the house not long after Carson did! Why didn't he go to Carson's office first? Sure, he could have still gone to the office right after Carson had left and would have been only a few minutes behind him once he was told he went home, but not only did he not mention going to Carson's office first, but he had noticed Nancy first. Had he only come to the house to get an understanding of what Carson's weaknesses were? If so, he would know by now Carson would do anything to protect his daughter. But then, why hadn't he kidnapped her yet? Was it because she was surrounded by so many people? She pursed her lips. McGinnis was right to have her come home for the night, who knows if tonight was the night they would have struck and forced her father's hand. So thatlittle civil talk was just a ruse to get into the house and get a feel for Carson's weak spots. One might think her crazy for such a notion, but for one other thing.
Nancy quickly stood up and walked into the living room. She went to the window and pulled back the curtain. There was nothing on the opposite side of the street, at least, nothing out of the ordinary. But she distinctly remembered seeing a car parked outside their house, only leaving once the twins had left to get extra clothes. They had been watched, hadn't they? She pursed her lips, Joe could very well be right and the crooks had been planning this well in advance. It's just the railroad plans were moving faster than they had anticipated and they had to act fast. However, both Drews stood in their way, and they needed them out of the way. Well, for now, just one Drew in their way, and she was not going to let them take her off guard or get captured.
Togo scratched at the back door, pulling her out of her musings. She went to open it and let him in. She poured food into his bowl and gave him a treat. "Good boy," she said, petting him. With a sigh, she stood up and cleaned her hands before finishing up her milk. Her thoughts turned back yet again to the mystery. So basically she had known who the villain was from the very beginning, she had just been working on how his accomplice got in and out of Twin Elms. But that angle seemed to get her nowhere. The Caldwells had indeed hidden the secret entrances to their underground tunnel very well and Gomber had the only book that had the clues to them. It was quite possible it was time to come at the mystery from a new angle, that of capturing Gomber and his accomplice, which they were planning to do with Ida's and Izzy's traps. She hoped they got a good one. She figured they might as well have an officer nearby, they would be needed to make the arrest. She nodded as a new plan was forming in her head. Yes, have an officer at Twin Elms, and one at Lilac Inn, as well as a trap at both, so that way they could capture them at either entrance. They couldn't stay in the tunnels for very long.
But then came two problems. One, they could easily use Carson as a hostage, and would most likely be the route they would take. Two, there could be a third entrance, one that went directly to the outside. None of them knew that much about the tunnels besides the fact that they connected Twin Elms and Lilac Inn. There could be an exit to a different spot between the two houses. Or anywhere, to be honest. Nancy gritted her teeth. There were too many issues with it at the moment. But, maybe they could still catch the accomplice before needing to get into the tunnels to save Carson and apprehend Gomber.
Helen walked into the kitchen, stifling a yawn. "Good morning."
Nancy smiled. "Good morning."
"You're up early."
Nancy pointed at Togo who was busy chewing away. "Togo needed to go out."
"Ah," said Helen. She slid into the next chair. "And then you got to thinking."
Nancy chuckled softly. "You know me too well."
"So, what are you thinking?"
"That if we do this trap, we're going to have to be quick and quiet about it. They could use my father as a hostage." She let out a huff. "And then I got to thinking about what Frank and Joe said about Gomber possibly having been planning this for a while now. Helen, I'm beginning to think this was a big scheme that's been in the planning process for some time. I should have told you this earlier, but I looked out the window when the twins left to go get some more clothes, there was a car parked across the street. It left not long after the twins did, but I remember thinking at the time that it seemed kinda odd. I brushed it aside, thinking later that it could have been someone visiting at the house across the street. But now that I think back on it, it seems like Gomber was watching us, planning his next move."
"To tell you the truth, I wouldn't be surprised. That man is so creepy and cruel. Ugh!" Helen shivered.
"Oh yeah, he definitely is." Nancy glanced at the clock. "And I think we should hurry and get to Twin Elms. I'm sure Officer Patrick would like to get some sleep."
Helen jumped up. "Oh, you're right! We should hurry!" The two dashed up the stairs, passing Hannah on the way up.
"Where are you two off in a hurry?"
"We need to get the key to Twin Elms from Officer Patrick. We'll be back soon!" Nancy quickly explained before the two girls ducked into their rooms and quickly changed. A minute later, they were out the door and getting into Nancy's car. Nancy fished in her purse and handed her phone to Helen. "Can you check to see he texted me? I completely forgot to check.
Helen checked. "I only see one from an unrecognizable number saying, 'I think I just met your owl friend. Otherwise, all quiet'. And that was sent at two in the morning."
"Wait, that thing's still hanging around?" asked Nancy incredulously.
Helen chuckled. "I guess so. I do hope it's just hanging around to get back at Gomber for putting it through all that."
Nancy scoffed. "It could be hanging around to get back at me, you know."
"Well," said Helen, "I would say most likely not, but it is a possibility."
Nancy chuckled. "Oh thanks." When they got to Twin Elms, they saw that Tom was leaning up against his squad car, doing something on his phone. He glanced up when they pulled in and waved and smiled at them. He walked to their car once they parked. Helen rolled down the window.
"I was just going to text you and find out when you were coming." He handed her the key.
"Thank you so much for everything you've done," said Nancy. "It was quiet the whole night?"
"For the most part. The Chief told me you had a, uh, dealing with an owl here one night. I think he's still on the property. Gave me quite the scare. But I think he thinks the place is home now."
"As long as he proves to be a better watchdog than an intruder, I think he can stay," said Nancy. "Even though it's not my property."
Tom chuckled. "Well, let's hope he is. I couldn't exactly be everywhere at once."
"But despite that, it was a pretty quiet night?" asked Nancy.
Tom nodded. "It was. Your ghost must have known there was no one here but him and me, and I don't think he would have wanted me to catch him."
Nancy sighed. "Yeah, well, I hope we do catch him soon, him and Gomber. We have got to put an end to this so that Aunt Flora and Aunt Rosemary can live here in peace."
"I agree." Tom yawned. "Oof, I'm sorry, but I think I should go so I don't fall asleep at the wheel."
"Would you like me to drive you anywhere?"
Tom shook his head. "I'll be fine. I have just enough caffeine left to get me home. You two take care. I'll see you around."
"Thanks again for everything!" the two chorused.
He waved. "No problem!" He got into his car and took off.
Nancy glanced at the house before unbuckling. "I think we should take a walk through the house, just to make sure nothing was disturbed or taken."
"Good idea," said Helen as she too unbuckled. At that moment, another car pulled. Helen waved cheerfully. "Ida! Izzy! Perfect timing! We were just heading inside!"
Ida grinned as she and her twin got out of the car. "But of course!"
"What are you two doing here though," said Nancy, keeping her voice low. "I thought we agreed to plan the traps at my house."
"We are," said Izzy, keeping her voice equally as low, "but we need to make sure our traps will fit."
"And since Lilac Inn is practically its identical twin, everything that fits here should fit over there," said Ida.
"Oh, good point," said Helen. "Well, shall we go in? I feel more confident knowing we have more people here."
"I don't blame you," said Ida, hooking her arm with Helen. The four walked up to the house and Helen unlocked it. They did a fairly quick search on the first floor. Nothing was missing or moved, as far as they could tell. Nancy and Helen had their phones out, checking spots with the pictures they took the night before. Everything seemed to be in place.
"OK, time for the second floor," said Helen slightly nervously as the four paused at the bottom of the stairs. "Oh I do hope we solve this soon. I'm tired of being scared of a place where I have many wonderful childhood memories."
Nancy placed a hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry, it will be over soon. But first, let's just see if that ghost decided to do anything last night." Helen nodded and the four went up the stairs. As with the first floor, everything seemed in order. Even Flora's and Rosemary's jewelry were still there, well, that is, what was there the night before that the ghost hadn't taken on previous raids.
Satisfied with their search, the girls decided to search again, this time to cover for Ida and Izzy taking measurements. The twins were quick, and the four were quickly back in their cars.
"Well, I'm glad that part's over, "said Helen with a heavy sigh. "Now let's hope that ghost wasn't around or suspects anything."
"I guess we'll find out real soon," said Nancy as she pulled out of the driveway and led the way back to her house. Hannah had a big, delicious brunch all ready for them. They wolfed it down, the nervousness from before having made them rather famished. But while they ate, they took out some paper and pencils. With some photos and their memories, the four made rough floor plans for both Twin Elms and Lilac Inn.
"Alright, Captain Drew, which rooms do you think we should focus on?" asked Izzy before taking a big bite.
Nancy chewed thoughtfully as she glanced over their crude floor plans. She drew a circle around Flora's room with her finger. "Definitely need one in here, this seems to be his main entrance." She then circled the attic. "And I think we should have one here, just in case." She sighed. "I just wish we knew more about the tunnels in general, where they opened up to in particular."
Izzy shrugged as she took the pencil and circled the two rooms. "Well, guess we shall find out. Do you think there should be any other places to cover at Twin Elms?"
Nancy took another bite and chewed while she glanced over the floor plans again. "Well, maybe we only need one more near the doors, or something like that, just in case he tries getting out that way."
Izzy nodded as she circled the front and back doors. "Sounds good." She slid over the floor plans for Lilac Inn. "And here?"
Nancy circled the room where Gomber was staying. "Definitely here, and maybe the attic as well, just in case. Plus, of course, the front and back doors."
Izzy circled those as well. "Alright. And we are going to have to clean up a bit, it will help the traps stay in place." Nancy pressed her fingers together. "What?"
"Hmm," said Nancy, "I didn't check the sitting room."
"But if we know it's in Gomber's room . . ." began Helen.
"But the sitting room was the only other room we didn't check," pointed out Nancy. "We need to make sure all our bases are covered."
"And we are going to cover our bases," said Izzy, "we just need to get those traps up soon." She paused. "But we're pretty sure sure the ghost was listening to us while we were at Lilac Inn, right?"
Nancy grinned. "We can look into the sitting room, it will be our distraction so you can get your traps up!"
Izzy winked. "Great minds think alike!"
"Alright, so we're heading back to Lilac Inn," said Helen. "But how do we get the ghost to go to Lilac Inn for sure?"
"I think we should go over there and make the big announcement," said Nancy with a mischievous glint in her blue eyes
Izzy rubbed her hands with glee. "I like this." She glanced at the clock. "We should head over there soon. It's going to take me and Ida about two hours to get everything set up at Twin Elms, plus another hour if all four of us are cleaning." She glanced at Nancy. "And then getting him back to Twin Elms for us to set up the traps at Lilac Inn."
Nancy nodded. "We'll make the announcement that we're leaving and that maybe we can find the secret entrance at Twin Elms real soon. Maybe even tomorrow." Nancy shrugged, then smiled.
Izzy grinned. "Great. Then let's go!"
Ida giggled. "This is going to be so much fun!"
"And I'm glad you're on our side," muttered Helen. The others laughed as they stood up. They cleaned up and quickly dashed out to the cars. Nancy's spirit was high. They could do this, they had to.
They got to the house fairly quickly and quickly got around to cleaning. When they were satisfied with their work, Izzy asked the question.
"So, now what?"
"Well, I should head over to Lilac Inn and see if I can get into Gomber's room." The twins and Helen glanced at Nancy quizzically. She winked. "We know he's got to come out at some point."
"Yeah, but, wouldn't that mean the ghost will wreak havoc here?" asked Helen. "I just cleaned up, I don't need him making another mess."
"Well that's why Ida and Izzy should stay here. They'll be able to catch him!"
Izzy's and Ida's eyes widened. "Oh!"
"That's a good idea!" said Izzy.
"Are you sure that's a good idea, though?" asked Helen. "What if something happens to them?"
Izzy scoffed. "I'd like to see him try."
Nancy smiled. "See? We're good. Besides, it's not like we're going to the other side of town."
Helen sighed. "Alright, let's go."
"Great! The faster we find that entrance, the faster we can save my dad," said Nancy with finality. Ida and Izzy nodded before going up the stairs. Nancy and Helen walked out the door and quickly got into the car.
"I still think that was a pretty risky thing to say," said Helen as they buckled in. "I don't like the idea of Ida and Izzy all alone in that house. Chief McGinnis didn't even want us in that house."
"That's because he was thinking of my dad," said Nancy. "He knows Dad wants me safe."
"Yeah, well, I don't blame him," muttered Helen. She glanced at the house as Nancy began to pull out of the driveway. "Nancy, the twins went upstairs, right?"
"Then who's walking around in the sitting room?"
Nancy's eyes snapped to the window, just in time to see a man in forties clothing open the shutters and glare at them!
(Author's Note: OK, if you're coming here from the Hardy boys mystery, this is kinda what I mean. I get on this roll and I want to keep rolling. Until I start to lose steam and then I get back on steam for another project. lol, maybe my next two fanfics and the world-building series will be done better, not only because there are two less stories I'm working on, but because I might be planning it out better. Speaking of, I do need to finish planning out both mysteries. I have the characters, got the setting, have the general mystery as well as the culprit, I just have to figure out exactly how it's going to play out, along with clues and whatnot. But at least they're coming along. Anyways, the 16th chapter of Valley of Diamonds is coming along nicely, the 16th chapter of Broken Blade, however, isn't quite sure what it wants to be yet, so that one's going to need a little more work. Thanks for reading, for being patient with me, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate your enjoyment of my stories. I hope you have a wonderful week! God bless!)