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Chapter Five

Your Mission, If You Choose to Accept It

"The disappearance of Lady Asta!" hissed Nancy excitedly. "Dad, are you really going to let us investigate that hot mystery?"


          "Calm down, Nancy," said her father reprovingly. "Yes, Drew & Drew is going to take on this case. But no, you are not to be one of the detectives. You are still firmly ensconced in the doghouse. Or have you forgotten that little detail already?"

          "Who will we be sending then? Paul Drake?" asked the now-petulant former sleuth.

          "No. He's busy," answered Carson Drew. "But I have two detectives in mind who would suit my purposes much better than Paul would have done."

          "Who?" pressed Nancy.

          "Why Georgiana and Bess here."

          "Us?" George squeaked. "I'm afraid Mr. Drew, you will have to wait until Bess's foot is healed and I have my babies before we will be able to be much help. Even then you would need to hire me a baby-sitter."

          "But Georgiana, it is your very condition, and now Bess's fortuitous injury, that makes you both just what I need in the way of spies. I would like to send you both undercover to Spring Rock as patients. Bess supposedly to get healed. And you to have your babies blessed. And while you are staying there, you can keep your eyes open and look for clues. If the healing doesn't work for Bess, then you will have an excuse to hang about longer. Either way we cannot lose. "

          "And if they heal my injury right away?" asked Bess.

          "Then, ladies, you must rejoice amain and join the cult!"

          Bess panicked. "Mr. Drew, I can't join a cult. I am a deaconess at St. John's church!"

          Carson Drew looked at her with look of soft entreaty. "I will speak to your minister if, God forbid, there is any publicity. And if our little deception results in the rescue of a woman being held against her will, is it not worth it? From a religious point of view?"

          "I guess so," conceded Bess.

          "Wonderful!" exclaimed the satisfied lawyer. "And you, Georgiana, do you have any qualms about this escapade?"

          "Mr. Drew," asked George hesitantly, "is there any danger in this?"

          "Hey, Georg. Where is old macho Jorge? Who's the scaredy-cat now?" teased Bess.

          "Brave old George is a thing of the past." Nancy jumped in to defend her chum. "Brave new Georgiana has to think of protecting her two little defenceless cubs."

          George indeed did feel fearful for her two almost-ready-to-be-born daughters. She was confident that eighteen years from this moment they would be as athletic as she used to be, as clever as Nancy, and geniuses like Bess. They would then be a sturdy match for any nefarious desperados. But, for the moment, their talents and resourcefulness were very much in embryo.

          "Ladies, ladies," Mr. Drew brought the meeting to order. "Although I cannot absolutely guarantee that there is no danger, I conside that danger minimal. If you keep your eyes open, do not ask suspicious questions, and above all do not go anywhere you are not supposed to go, I can't imagine anything untoward happening."

          "But how will we discover anything if we remain totally passive?" Bess asked.

          "Listen well, notice whatever is shown to you, engage in ordinary conversation, remember everything, and report back to me. It may well be that something that looks or sounds insignificant to you may be the very evidence we need to nab these hypocritical sectarians."

          "I guess we can do that," said George, who had a tendency to remember everything said in her presence.

          "I understand," chimed in Bess, who had a photographic memory.

          "And I will send you two with capable servants to make sure that you are well cared for. Hannah will be your nurse, Bess and Georgiana."

          "What about Cherry? She's a real nurse," asked George.

          "I cannot risk sending genuine medical personnel," explained Mr. Drew. "Their natural skepticism and their physiological knowledge would stand out a mile."

          "Has Hannah already volunteered?" inquired Nancy. She knew that Hannah had in her youth captured a terrorist cell in Germany and well knew how to take care of herself.

          "Yes," answered her father. "Hannah is eager to go. Especially to act as protectress to our two charming invalids. She is my insurance policy."

          "And who is the other servant?" asked Bess.

          "Why, Nancy, of course," replied Mr. Drew. "She is well-equipped, and already has the appropriate wardrobe, to be your maid."

          "Then I am on the case after all!" squealed Nancy, nearly leaping off her cushion. "While Georgiana and Bess take their ease, I can snoop around!"

          "On the case you are, darling," said her father sternly, "but only as a maid. No snooping! If you start acting like a sleuth you will put everyone in danger-Bess, Georgiana, Hannah, yourself, and two unborn children. I will not have that! You must act precisely like a maid at all times. You must never do anything on your own, but only what you are directed by Bess or Georgiana. And they are not to tell you to do anything but what an ordinary non-detective maid would do."

          "Can I not keep my eyes peeled, like Bess and Georgie?" Nancy pleaded.

          "I cannot forbid you to notice things," allowed Carson Drew as he instructed his daughter. "And I will debrief you as intensely as I do your friends when you all get back. But I must strongly advise you neither to look to the right nor to the left, but only to do the tasks that you are told to do. You must show no visible curiosity about your surroundings. If anything, you must appear uninterested, bored, and peevish about being in that dull place. You must not, even when at leisure, proactively bring about any opportunity to overhear others or to increase your fund of information. This, Nancy, is both part of your punishment for your inept handling of our last case and, more important, discipline for succeeding at the next."

          "Discipline, Daddy?"

          "Yes, Nancy," Carson Drew went on. "This is the principle of legal and investigative minimalism. You must learn to act innovatively within stated rigid limitations and well within your own capabilities. I often find that the best investigations result from spies that have to work within extremely tight constraints."

          "Gee Dad, why don't you send me in bound in chains?" pouted Nancy.

          "Good gracious, girl," exclaimed her disappointed father. "Have you no creativity? I am giving you this very difficult assignment because I think that you are clever and resourceful enough to handle it. I don't want you to disappoint me."

          "Sorry, Dad," said Nancy. "I'll do just what you say, and what Georgiana and Bess ask me to do. I'll do my very best to help them solve the case."

          "That's my girl!"

          "But should we not discuss the known particulars of the case before we start?" asked Nancy eagerly.

          "Yes, of course," granted Mr. Drew. "After all, we do have time at our disposal. It may be several days before Dr. Nickerson can provide us with the medical clearance we need to safely go out again in public."

          "What about the Ebola?" asked George eagerly. "We could tell the Christines we have Ebola, and it is plausible because we were exposed. We'd really need healing then."

          "It is best that we not test the faith of these healers to that extent," answered Mr. Drew. "I wouldn't want your arrival in Connecticut to depopulate the state overnight."

          "I guess not," George conceded. "But it would be really neat if people thought I had Ebola."

          "That would be one interesting condition too many," quipped Nancy.

          "Nor would I want you to mention Bess's old problem," said Mr. Drew.

          "Why not?" asked George. "If I don't get to be mortally infectious, at least we could tell them that Bess is a druggie. That should be a challenge for them. And, maybe Bess can get cured!"

          "Georgiana!" Bess practically shouted. Bess never called George by her birth-certificate name, except when she was angry.

          "I am not an addict," protested Bess. "I am completely clean."

          "Bess, darling," said Mr. Drew soothingly. "Your cousin has a point, though I have to deduct three points from her tally for diplomacy. Once an addict, in a sense, you are always an addict. I know you do not want to take that drug again, but you must admit that due to your unfortunate experience, you will always remain more susceptible that the rest of us to that monster drug you created."

          Bess had, when she was in high school, created a highly addictive drug called "pixie dust." Her invention was an accident. She had been trying to make a non-addictive euphoric medication to assist people who wished to throw off dependency upon cocaine and heroin. Having tested it on herself with unfortunate results, she had been again exposed to it in the course of a case by an unwitting Nancy, who had thought that giving her pixie dust might protect her from a worse fate at the hands of a gang of slave-dealing thugs. Bess had later traveled to Scotland and had successfully gone "cold turkey" on the wind-swept Island of Kiloran in the Hebrides.

          The Nobel laureate hung her head in shame.

          "Bess, we all think this no reflection on you. Part of it was my fault. You are the best," said Nancy as she leaned over to give her friend a hug.

          "Aiieee!" screamed Bess. "My foot. Don't move the foot."

          "Sorry Bess," said a chastened chum as she withdrew her arm.

          "I appreciate the gesture," quivered Bess as her jangled nerves began to calm down. "But, unfortunately, the rest of me seems to be bodily connected to this oversensitive, swollen foot."

          "My gosh! Look at that," exclaimed Nancy as she examined the injured part. "I'm sorry, Bess, but we should do something right away about the swelling."

          "If," specified Bess testily, "you can do it without touching the foot."

          "I'll go get Hannah," said Nancy confidently. "She'll know what do to to make you comfortable until the doctor arrives."

          "Ham-hand Ned?" chaffed Bess bravely through a new surge of pain. "No way. He has mitts like cold cement blocks."

          Nancy chose to ignore this comment. She knew, and they all knew through experience, that Ned had hands as gentle as any girl. Nancy got up, put on a business-like face, and, like a good servant, set about her business. Just as she passed through the door, however, she momentarily doffed her servile character and ordered, "Don't you dare talk about the Lady Asta case until I get back!"