Author Note: Well, this is my first story so I hope that you enjoy it. This begins near the end of The Secret of Shadow Ranch when Nancy is about to enter the last door in the cliff dwellings and find the treasure.
Sand and pebbles crunched softly below Nancy Drew's feet, leaving faint footprints on the rough path that hadn't been disturbed for so many years. Absentmindedly brushing a strand of sticky titan hair off her sweaty cheek, the young detective glanced down once more at the dusty sheet of scrap paper on which she had scribbled the directions through the cliff dwellings.
"It looks like just one more door." Heaving a sigh of relief, Nancy pulled herself up the last flimsy ladder that was built into the wall. Rubbing her aching arms, she stood resting and breathing deeply for a moment at the top of the ledge. The practical part of her nature was warning her that if she didn't escape from this sweltering shadowy prison soon she would run the risk of collapsing from exhaustion, dehydration, heat, or a combination of all three. The water jug that had been full when Nancy had left that morning now was emptied to the last drop and clunking against the detective's perspiring leg. With a sigh, Nancy continued on her walk along the ledge toward the door.
"Concentrate Nancy." The girl murmured to herself to bring her spirits back up. "You can't give up this easily. Okay, it looks like the last door is brown."
Looking up, Nancy smiled briefly with relief at the last door right in front of her. Quivering a little with excitement, fatigue, and hunger, she fumbled to put all five of the keys in the right places. Finally, they all clicked and the door creaked open. Slowly, she walked into the room. Sticky, stuffy, and musty air wafted up into the detective's face. Nancy held her breath as thoughts filled her head. She wondered what Dirk would have thought if he knew it would be her, not Francis, who would find his treasure. When he left this room, Dirk would have assumed that Francis would be quick to follow. Instead this final stop on the treasure hunt had been left deserted and untouched by any human for years. A wave of sympathy for the two lovers overtook Nancy. Her thoughts strayed to her loved ones: her father, Hannah, Ned, George, Bess, the Hardy boys… Determinedly tearing herself away from such thoughts, the determined woman's eyes quickly scanned the room. At first all she saw was dust - layers of years and decades of dust. But then Nancy noticed that over in the right corner was a small iron chest.
"Oh, no!" Nancy groaned with a faint smile at the familiarity of the situation. "It's most likely locked and I have no idea where to go looking for the key."
However she approached the old box any way and knelt down next to it. Gingerly, she tried to pry the lid up. To her surprise, it gave way quite easily. Rust crumbled from the antique lid to the ground around the hopeful sleuth. Could this be the end? Holding her breath, Nancy looked with anticipation inside of the treasure chest. However only a crumpled yellowed piece of paper was in the box. Blowing out in annoyance, Nancy tried to remind herself that a clue, no matter how small was better than nothing. Carefully picking up the note so as not to break it, Nancy read the next clue to the treasure.
"Dear Frances, You don't know how much I Believe in you. You are beaUtiful and so sweet, my darling. You will be rewarded for all of your hard work, I promise you this. DoN't ever forget me or how much I love you. DirK"
Nancy's brow furrowed with confusion as she stood up and reread the note. "Dirk loved Frances, but this just seems. . .sappy." The detective pondered aloud. "Where is the clue?"
With a sigh, Nancy placed the obscure clue in her backpack and turned her attention back to the empty box. If there was one thing that her previous cases had taught her, it was that nothing is ever as it first seems whether it be a seemingly friendly suspect or an empty drawer. Meticulously, she felt around the bottom for a false bottom or hidden compartment. However, Nancy realized with disappointment after several minutes of unsuccessful looking that this box was just as it looked. There was nothing secret or special about it.
"I guess I am just going to have to look harder at that letter." With an air of surrender, Nancy turned on her heels to walk toward the door. However she stopped in tracks instantly. A muffled but unmistakable sound reached her ears. Noise of nearby voices and footsteps drifted into the room. Nancy whirled around, looking desperately for a place to hide. However besides the tiny chest and piles of dirt, the room was bare. A feeling of dread filled Nancy as she slowly turned around once again to face the moving door handle.