A/N: I'm doing my best with updates on this story. This just about wraps it up... I'm thinking one more chapter will do it. As always, please read and review!
Disclaimer: I do not own Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, or any characters affiliated with them, and I am certainly not making any profit from this story.
"There she is."
The moment the trio walked into the banquet hall, Joe had immediately spotted their quarry. Kate Osbourne was already seated at the far end of the long table by none other than Chase Long, nodding fervently at whatever he was saying.
"She looks nervous." Vanessa commented, and it was true. Kate appeared to be very tense, talking little and sitting stiffly with her hands clenched in her lap. Under the table, her right foot tapped out a furious beat in the air. Her gaze wandered over to the three detectives. When she saw them watching her, she looked away quickly, and her foot started moving faster, if possible.
They found their placecards at the table and sat down, the girls on either side of Joe. "The nervous ones can go either way." Nancy said softly to her companions. "They break down and tell all, or they get defensive, maybe even dangerous."
"You think she'll make a run for it?" Vanessa asked.
"I doubt it." Joe said. "Where would she go?"
At that moment Peter and Chase took their places at the table and, after a short speech, dinner was served. The meal passed uneventfully and Kate toed the line under the detectives' watchful eyes. She didn't get up until dinner was over. As the plates were being cleared and the coffee being poured, Kate slipped away amid the bustle. Nancy, Joe, and Vanessa noticed immediately.
They quickly decided that all three of them pursuing at once would create a disturbance at the table, so Joe, being the one with car keys, elected to follow. Nancy and Vanessa promised to be right behind at any sign of trouble, and Joe made his way out of the hall inconspicuously.
Out in the corridor, he followed the sound of high heels around a corner, where, to his dismay, he saw Kate vanish into a women's restroom.
"Just great." Joe mumbled to himself, leaning against the wall. Why had they not thought that she might just need to use the bathroom? Some detectives. "Oh well. I can wait."
Several minutes passed with no sign of Kate, and Joe began to grow uneasy. Had Kate known he was following her and slipped out a window or something? He looked back toward the direction of the banquet hall, wondering if he should go back and get Nancy or Vanessa to go in after her... but he knew if he left his post she could slip out and be away before he got back. Besides, if Kate was still in there, she could be armed, and who knew what she would do if confronted by Vanessa, whom she was so jealous of...
Joe looked at the sign bearing the skirted stick figure on the door and hesitated. Okay, if she's not out in ten seconds... nine... eight... seven...Oh, forget it. Rolling his eyes, he pushed the door open and strode into the bathroom.
Kate jumped back from the mirror in which she was applying lipstick. When she saw Joe, she screamed, loud and long.
Joe cringed, backing into the door that had closed behind him. "Sorry!" he apologized on reflex, before he realized that it was she who needed to be doing the apologizing. "Listen Kate-" he began.
But her screaming had already attracted attention, and Nancy and Vanessa were barging into the room as well, followed by a small crowd of people, including Chase Long.
Nancy and Vanessa sized up the situation, from the lipstick smears on Kate's face to the sheepish look on Joe's, and simply looked at each other, willing themselves not to laugh. Nancy turned to the crowd. "It's alright, there's nothing to see here." She said, ushering several curious partygoers out. Chase stayed, however, as did Joe and Vanessa. Nancy caught Kate's arm as she attempted to leave. "I don't think so, Kate."
Kate backed into a sink, looking as frightened as they'd ever seen her. Gone was her sharp and bitter personality, replaced by meekness. "Chase...?" she appealed to the only person in the room she knew beyond a single introduction.
Chase only shrugged, puzzled by her detainment. He waited for the detectives to explain.
"Kate, we know what you've done. You have to come clean." Nancy prompted, hoping that Kate was the break-down-tell-all nervous type rather than her gun-toting equivalent.
"Come clean?" Kate repeated blankly.
"The chloroform. The photographer. Locking Vanessa in that closet." Joe began, ticking off her offenses on his fingers.
Kate wiped her eyes quickly, before the tears could escape. "Yes! Alright. I did those things." she confessed, somehow managing to keep her voice steady. "Look, I'm sorry, it's just..." Her eyes turned to Chase and the admiration in them was clearly visible.
"Just what?" Chase asked softly.
Kate was crying openly now, her professional manner completely disintegrated. "I just wanted..."
Vanessa stepped forward and touched the girl's arm. "Kate, hurting someone Chase cares about is not the way to get him to notice you."
Kate sniffed indignantly. "I wasn't trying to hurt you!" she returned. "I just wanted you to, just, go back where you came from! I never hurt anybody!"
"You were lucky you didn't." Joe said gravely. "You could have been in big trouble with the law. If the police trace that energy saving device back to you you could get blamed for that fire-"
"I didn't!" Kate protested, distraught. "I never set that to... It shouldn't have started... that fire wasn't me!" She turned to a surprised Chase. "You've got to believe me, it wasn't me!"
Chase looked at her in horror, putting the pieces together in his mind. "Oh, Kate, you didn't. We've had so much to deal with these past few weeks, without you trying to get rid of my girlfriend! ...Who was never really even my girlfriend." he amended.
"What?" Kate moaned. "Please, Chase, I'm so sorry. I just thought that maybe things could work out differently between us... and then she was there, and I thought..."
"Look Kate," Chase began, looking slightly uncomfortable about having such a personal talk in front of Joe, Nancy, and Vanessa. "We broke up, remember? And I think we both know it was for the best. We-"
"I didn't know it was for the best!" Kate nearly screamed. "You decided for both of us! And I wasn't ready!" Her tone softened to a pleading, "I love you."
"Kate..." Chase sighed, clearly not returning the sentiment. "Kate, maybe it could have worked out some other time, but not now. Definitely not now."
Vanessa cleared her throat to break the silence. "I'm not going to press charges, Kate, but I think you might need help. Maybe a psychiatrist would..." she trailed off as it became apparent that Kate wasn't listening.
"Chase..." she whispered, the rejection finally hitting her. With one last look she pushed between Vanessa and Joe and out the door.
Nancy looked after her, clearly feeling a lack of closure to the case. "What are we going to do about Kate?" she asked, slightly confused.
Joe was wearing the same expression. "We can't just let her off the hook, can we? She could be dangerous! If not now, later."
Chase looked troubled, but waved their worries off. "Don't worry guys. Our company gives health benefits- we'll make sure she gets the help she needs."
"She's working for you now?" Joe asked, surprised.
"Yeah, we offered her a job earlier in research and development and she accepted." Chase said distractedly. He looked around at his friends. "You know, she's not always like this. She's not... crazy. She's just passionate... She's not a bad person."
"It's all right." Nancy said. "We know." She took Joe's arm and led him out of the restroom, much to his relief.
Vanessa and Chase stayed behind.
"You did the right thing." Vanessa said reassuringly, placing a warm hand on his shoulder.
Chase sighed. "I know, but... I feel like I did that to Kate. I guess on some level I knew she was behind those things when I offered her the job. I don't love her, but I did once. And I respect her, or I did."
"It's okay to be worried about her." Vanessa said. "But you know that none of this is your fault. Maybe Kate's not the one for you... maybe she is." She squeezed his hand and flashed an encouraging smile. "You'll find out soon enough."
Chase cocked a friendly eyebrow at her. "You think?"
"I do." she answered in the same tone. "Come on. Let's get out of here."
Chase watched as she yanked the door open and moved into Joe's waiting arms. It wasn't until she turned to look back at him that he followed.
A/N: Sorry it's short, but I hope you liked it anyhow. Please review!