4 Warning Shots
"You know," Richie snickered, casting a wry eye at Abbie, "I can think of a few times that tying up a kid sister could come in handy!"
"What," Abbie retorted, "and use up some of the rope you'd rather use on"
"I think we need to change the subject!" Abigail interjected brightly, knowing exactly what her younger siblings were about to argue over and wanting to spare Penny and Ella the details. "I think we were talking about Mom tying up a kid sister. You had to know that wouldn't turn out well, Mom! Sooner or later your parents"most conscientiously not referring to them as her grandparents"were going to find out!"
"Yeah," Nancy grimaced, red-faced, "about that
"I don't know why we're coming along," Lorelei sniffed as she and Mary Catherine trailed in Nancy's wake on the way toward Miss Henry's home. It was a big old house some in town called a mansion, as well-tended as a solitary old maid could keep it, but beginning to show signs of wear.
"And think of poor Janiece back at your house," Cat chided. "Lying there all tied up and alone. I think it's terrible!" Knowing by experience, of course
"She'll be fine," Nancy dismissed. "It's what she gets for being such a total brat! All I wanted was to come down and talk to Miss Henry, but no! Runt had to make a big scene about threatening to call Mom and Dad on their date night, just to keep me from doing what I want! I even offered to buy her something from Dairy Queen with my own money, but no, she'd rather keep me from doing anything I want! God, I wish Tim was home again so he could keep the little brat on a leash!" Tim, far away at WVU starting his med-school studies, was much better at keeping Runt in line
"I'd say somebody here has little-sister envy!" Mary Catherine tittered as the Henry house loomed ahead.
"Oh, like nobody else here ever tied their little sister to their clothesline like a puppy?" Lorelei snorted. Cat's face reddened
"Not exactly, Lorelei," Nancy giggled. "Mary Denise tied Cat to the clothesline pole. 'Nise is bigger than Cat, you know!" Two years youngera soon-to-be sophomore as opposed to a seniorbut Mary Denise O'Doolan was a much heartier-built young lady than slight, petite Mary Catherine
"Gee, thanks for the humiliation, Nancy!" Cat huffed as they hesitated at the gate of Henry house. Talking Miss Henry out of her 'denial' sounded a lot easier when Nancy wasn't standing at her front gate
"Are you sure you want to do this?"
"It's for her own good," Nancy replied with a primness she didn't quite feel in her trepidation at the gate. "And you guys need to be here for moral support." She swallowedflicked back her hair over her shoulderstrode to the front porch, reached for the heavy old black iron door-knocker in the middle of the door
"Maybe she's not home," Lorelei murmured at the silence in the wake of Nancy's door-knock. Nancy knocked again"Or maybe the old rumors are true and she's a vampire or something?" she quippedfootsteps approaching behind the doorthe door creaked on its hinges
"Miss Morgan!" Miss Henry, still dressed as she always was at the library, her crisp white blouse buttoned to the top, her calf-length skirt prim and severe, her iron-gray hair still in its tight bun, staredonly for a momentwhen she saw Nancy standing at her door. "Mary Catherine, Miss Swickart," she added; courteously for Cat, rather coolly for Lorelei. "What business brings you here this evening? You're rather better dressed than I would expect of young ladies on a Saturday night." Nancy nerved herself
"Miss Henry," she tried to assert with as much confidence as she could musternot much in the presence of formidable old Miss Henry"I need to talk to you about something important, and Mary Catherine and Lorelei came along to help. Just for a few minutes, Miss Henry," Nancy tried to not wheedle
Miss Henry stared hard at them for some moments, and each of the three young sleuths felt herself shrinking a little, wilting under Miss Henry's stern gaze. What do we do if she says no, Nancy wondered
But something stirred in Miss Henry's cool eye and set jaw, and she stepped back a curt step. "Only for a few minutes, girls. My time is valuable and I'm certain you have better things to do." She turned, beckoned after her as she started down the hall. "The sitting room, girls. We'll talk there." A few more steps down the hall, and Miss Henry stopped at a wide dark-wood archway leading into a spacious room with old but well-tended floral-pattern wallpaper which struck all three girls as if they were stepping back forty years in time in that house, as Nancy and Mary Catherine had in their pursuit of the mystery of their hostess's past. Miss Henry indicated an oriental-brocade-covered, Victorian sofa against a wall opposite the one large window in the room; Miss Henry sat in a stuffed chair opposite the sofa, a low, ornate coffee table between them. Nancy took a deep breathremember, it's for her own good
"If I may, Miss Morgan," Miss Henry interrupted, not angrily but with incontrovertible authority, "I believe I know perfectly well what you want to talk about, you and your friends, despite what I asked you previously about minding your business." Nancy felt herself physically wilt. "For whatever reason, the accident at Pine Branch Mine has got you investigating the Trailhead explosion. In particular," she stressed as her three young interlocutors wilted, "a connection you believe I have to it. Despite my specific instructions to you, Nancy," she added with quiet sternness. Nancy gulpeddid I just blow my job?"Speak up, Miss Morgan," Miss Henry commanded. "Why did you do what I asked you to not do?" Lorelei and Mary Catherine seemed to edge away from Nancy, leaving her alone to face Miss Henry
"Miss Henry," Nancy murmured slowly, doing her best to avoid any hemming or hawing or any other prevarications which Miss Henry had always icily disdained, "I
I saw the way you reacted when Pine Branch blew up. I heard you say 'not again,' and
" She strove mightily to form her thought under Miss Henry's austere glare, but found her tongue fumbling
"And you concocted a theory that I had lost a loved one in the explosion," she finished for her stuttering subordinate, her iron expression unmoved.
"Yes, Miss Henry," Nancy mumbled, her head hung, her hands folded in her lap. I guess it's time to start looking for a new part-time job
"Do you know why I took you on at the library, Miss Morgan?" The digression made Nancy startshe glanced timidly at Miss Henry's faceand saw something there; indefinable, but a alteration. Nothing like tenderness, or sadness, not even indignation or anger. Something in her eyes Nancy could not read
"No, ma'am." Miss Henry only rarely had student help in her library, and she did not confide to anyone her standards for whom she selected.
"You're a very bright young lady, Miss Morgan," Miss Henry replied, her voice still cool and even. "But I've had other bright young people ask to help, and I've declined. And you're very hard-working, but again, I've had others who worked as hard as you whom I did not hire. And very polite and respectful of your elders, but again, others just like you have asked and been refused."
"Then why me, Miss Henry?" Nancy asked blankly. What is she trying to get at?
"Because, Nancy," Miss Henry replied, her voice still cool but something new in her eyes, anddid she just call me Nancy?"I recognized someone in you, and felt it my duty to help you."
"Who, ma'am?" Which only seemed to make Miss Henry even more distant
"And you were quite right about your theory, Nancy," Miss Henry answered in a murmur perhaps no one of Nancy's generation had ever heard pass Miss Henry's lips. "I knew exactly why you sent Mary Catherine to look into the microfilm, and I have no doubt she found you the name of Lawrence Dwight." And Nancy needed no more words from Miss Henry to know the truthshe saw it in the sudden moistness she saw in Miss Henry's gray-blue eyes
once had occasion to be near Indian Springs when I was young, and when I saw him
" Miss Henry actually blinkedNancy saw the smallest of tremors cross Miss Henry's austere lower lip"The girl I saw in you, Nancy," Miss Henry half-whispered, "was me. Inquisitive
determined to find truth
if anything, Nancy," Miss Henry went on with a trace of smile on her lips, "I've known you were an amateur detective perhaps even before you did. You were ten, and came in one day, and checked out every Nancy Drew book I had. Even your name is ironic, Nancy. And Nancy Drew is very intoxicating for a certain type of young lady
" Miss Henry seemed to not notice the agog stares from her three guests, who had positively never heard the iron Miss Henry indulge in digressions of any kind, much less sentimental, romantic ones. "I kept a close watch on you, all your successes and failures, your triumphs and embarrassments. I indulged myself by reliving my own youth in your adventures. And it was one of my adventures which brought me Lawrence
Now, all three girls knew Miss Henry had been struck to the heart, for the eyes blinking hard behind the severe glasses could not hold back the welling, and a tearan actual tear!traced a solitary path down Miss Henry's cheek, which seemed to blush at her loss of self-control
"You can imagine it wasn't well received by my family, Nancy. The Henrys were well-off, and Indian Springs was, I guess you might call 'the other side of the tracks,' of course. But
" she gathered herself, carefully dabbed away the embarrassing tear with a handkerchief produced from her sleeve. "But sometimes our hearts aren't interested in geography or class. Lawrence
you may not believe this, girls, but in my youth I wasn't considered unattractive."
"I know that, ma'am," Lorelei spoke up encouragingly. "Nancy showed me your yearbook picture. You were absolutely beautiful!" Which brought a hint of Miss Henry's usual demeanor back, but almost deprecating of itself
"I appreciate the compliment, Miss Swickart," Miss Henry replied. "Perhaps you might not believe this, but like you, I had my share and more of young beaux. But Lawrence
he saw more than beauty in me. He admired my
well, he admired my knack for, let's say adventures. Because I had my share of those, Nancy, just like you've had. And Lawrence
he loved to listen to me talk about them, describe my exploits." The shining eyes grew troubled"Finally, he shared them."
"Miss Henry?" Mary Catherine peeped, concerned by the sudden sorrow in Miss Henry's eyes
"He'd heard of something suspicious
in the Trailhead Mine
"Miss Henry gulped, a desperate effort to hold back a sob"He'd gotten his orders for the army
he wanted to solve it before he left
"Miss Henry," Nancy squeaked, "are you saying that Lawrencethat he"
"There was never any proof, Nancy," Miss Henry choked. "I
then from nowhere, Father got
he said it was a bequest, a token of appreciation from a former friendclienthe was always vague about it, Nancy. Insisted that I take a vacation with it
had me squired all around New England, California, the Carolinas
said it was to help me get over Lawrence
"You're thinking that maybe"
"And when I came home, the one absolutely forbidden subject was Trailhead Mine. Father and Mother kept a wary eye on me, making sure I didn't follow up on what Lawrence was doing, no doubt. Even today, anonymous bequests keep the library very well funded
"You're saying Lawrence was killed on purpose," Nancy breathed, "and the owners or somebody paid off your dad to keep you from investigating? And they keep up the library so you're too busy to go back to it even today?" And the iron returned to Miss Henry's eyes
"Now you understand why I told you to stay out of it, Nancy," Miss Henry said darkly. "Your reputation precedes you, young lady, and if anyone surmised that you're looking into it, even today
Which is why I'm warning you, Nancyall three of youstop looking into it. I know your instincts, Nancy, and I'm saying to you now, for your sake, drop it. Leave it alone. Let sleeping dogs lie. Now, girls," she commanded, "I want you to go home and forget about Lawrence, forget about Trailhead Mine, forget it ever happened." And as she rose to escort the girls out, she managed a smile for Nancy"And I'll see you Monday at eight-thirty sharp, Miss Morgan, as usual." Leaving the girls in a moment out on the walk
"Nancy," Mary Catherine mewled, uncomfortable by the look she knew was in Nancy's eyes, "I think we ought to do just what Miss Henry says, and stay out of it. You found out what you wantedshe was in love with Lawrence Dwightso you don't have to keep prying."
"Something bad went on at Trailhead Mine," Nancy muttered, stalking down the sidewalk in the still-warm evening darkness, "and no one's done anything about it. They bought off Miss Henry's family to keep her out of itthey killed her boyfriend!and I'm supposed to just let sleeping dogs lie?"
"Nancy," Lorelei cautioned in her wake, "you heard what she said! They were willing to kill people! They had enough bucks to be able to buy off the Henrys! She's rightwe ought to just leave it alone! Here," she offered frantically as they reached the Dairy Queen, "let's just get Janiece's Peanut Buster Parfait and go home! Heck, I'll buy for all of us, just please drop it, Nancy! This one scares me!"
"It's been forty years, Lorelei!" Nancy scoffed. "I understand Miss Henry being too scared to keep trying, but I can't believe it's dangerous after forty years! Doesn't she deserve to get justice for Lawrence?" Lorelei and Mary Catherine threw up their hands in despair
"Now I understand Trish!" Abbie giggled. "How many times have you told her to stay out of cases, even after you couldn't!"
"What I'd bet," Richie snickered over a second chocolate milkshake, "is that her parents had a little something to say about that, just like Miss Henry's did, especially after leaving your sister tied up!"
"Well," Lorelei cringed, "it was sort of like that
By the time the trio had reached the Morgan home, the stars were bright in the warm night sky, and Nancy's two friends had exhausted themselves trying to dissuade Nancy from seeking justice for Miss Henry's lost love. Even as they ascended the porch steps, though, Mary Catherine was still trying
and besides, don't you think Miss Henry would still be looking on her own if she thought she could get away with it? She's worried about you, Nancy, which is why"and Nancy was through the front door"Nancy, you did lock the door when we left, didn't you?" Which didn't really strike Nancy until she was in the living-room archway
"I did!" she suddenly gaped, and in an instant she fairly leaped into the living room"Runt"and there she was, still wriggling in her hogtie, just where Nancy had left herbut then Janiece turned her face up at Nancythe little sister squealed in terrorbig blue eyes staring not at Nancy, but past her"Nnnsmm!"
"Don't move," a sudden truculent voice crashed upon Nancy's ears, "and put your hands up where I can see them, girls!"