Read Island of Secrets Online

Authors: Carolyn Keene

Island of Secrets (2 page)

They moved on to the next trap and Barb let out a whoop when she looked inside. “You're in luck, Nancy! This little guy is out past his bedtime!” Barb reached into the jar, carefully removed the insect, and held it out on her open palm.

The beetle was about two inches long and glossy black, with brilliant orange spots. It waved its feelers as if to test the air, then flew off with a loud whirring noise.

“Wow,” Nancy said. “I feel privileged.”

Barb nodded. “I know what you mean. You've just seen one of the world's endangered species.”

Nancy watched as Barb checked the rest of the trap line. When she was finished, Barb said,
“Let's walk back by a different route. There's a great view from the top of that hill over there.”

They headed up to another stone wall. On the far side of it was a dirt drive that led to a pond bordered by a clump of pine trees. Nancy was startled by what she thought was a pheasant in the tangled underbrush. Trying to get a better look, she crept closer. The bird flew off, and it was then she noticed something odd about the ground where the bird had been hiding behind the bushes. The earth was slightly mounded, and the grass on top of it was dry and brown, dead looking.

“Barb,” Nancy called. “There's something strange here.”

Barb hurried over and surveyed the mound that covered an area almost seven feet long and four feet wide. “I hope no one has been digging here for beetles,” she said, pulling a collapsible shovel from her knapsack and snapping it open.

She removed several shovelfuls of dirt, then gasped and stepped back. Something was buried there. Something an ugly gray color.

Nancy took the shovel from her and scooped away more earth.

“No! Stop!” Barb cried, grabbing Nancy's arm.

“We have to see what it is,” Nancy said grimly, though she had already guessed. Lifting a final shovelful of soil, Nancy no longer had any doubts.

A human hand lay exposed in the dirt.



“It's a body. . . .”

“We'd better call the police,” Nancy said.

“There's a ph-phone at the convenience store down the . . .” Barb began to point, then dropped her arm and silently stared at Nancy.

“It's okay.” Nancy led Barb away from the makeshift grave. “Take a deep breath. . . . Good, now let it out.” Trying to calm Barb distracted Nancy from the nausea that was rising from her stomach. Color slowly returned to Barb's face.

“I'll go call the police. Are you coming?”

“I'd better stay here.” Nancy kept her eyes averted from the grisly sight.

“I'll be back as soon as I can,” Barb cried, racing across the field toward the mopeds.

While she waited, Nancy searched the immediate area. She and Barb had left a trail of flattened
meadow grass, but there was no other sign of intrusion. She walked to the dirt driveway. As she passed the shallow pond, the glint of something metallic in the water caught her eye. The object was a few feet from shore, mostly covered with duckweed. She was tempted to find a stick and drag it out, but knew that if it turned out to be related to the case she should leave it for the police.

Soon she heard the wail of an approaching siren and minutes later a police cruiser sped toward her. A young, sandy-haired officer stopped the car and stepped out. “Are you Miss Drew?” he asked. “Can you show me what you found?”

“It's behind those bushes,” Nancy said, leading the way. Just as they reached the grave site more police cars arrived. Nancy moved out of the way while they photographed and put tape up around the potential crime scene. Soon, Barb returned, followed by a doctor, who was there to certify the death.

Nancy put an arm around Barb to steady her as the officers began to remove the rest of the soil covering the body. When the head was revealed, Nancy heard shocked exclamations. She and Barb were standing too far away to see into the grave very well.

Next the young officer came over to question them, flipping his notebook open in an attempt to appear official and calm. Still, Nancy noticed
that his hands shook and his freckles stood out in sharp contrast to his ashen face.

Before he could begin his questions Barb burst out, “Who is it?”

The officer hesitated, glanced back at the corpse, then said, “It's not official until the body is formally identified.”

“It's someone we know, isn't it?” Barb pressed.

“Well, it looks like Tom Haines.” The officer cleared his throat, then swallowed hard.

“Tom Haines?” Barb whispered. “It can't be!”

Before Nancy could stop her, Barb ran to the grave site. She stared at the body for a moment, then spun around and stumbled away, sobbing.

Nancy led Barb over to the stone wall and helped her to sit. It was some minutes before Barb was able to speak.

“It's just so—unreal,” she said, shuddering.

“He was a friend of yours?” Nancy asked.

“Yes, he's one of our gang. I even dated him a few times. . . .” She burst into tears again.

The young officer waited at a distance until Barb was calm enough to talk, then identified himself as Sgt. Jim Hathaway. He started by writing down their names. Nancy answered most of his questions, describing how they'd found the body.

When the sergeant finished and snapped his notebook shut, Nancy said, “I noticed something you might want to check out. There's a metal object in the pond.”

He seemed skeptical, but he agreed to check it out. Nancy led him and Barb to the edge of the water. After a brief search, she found it and pointed it out.

Squinting into the glare off the water, he said, “It looks like a hammer. You didn't touch it, did you?”

“No. I knew it could turn out to be important,” Nancy said.

“That was smart. Most people would have fished it out right away.”

“Well, I've had some detective experience,” Nancy said. “I know not to disturb evidence.”

“Detective experience?” Hathaway raised an eyebrow. “A pretty girl like you?”

Nancy told him about a few of the cases she'd solved. She could see that he was impressed.

Barb, too, acted respectful, saying, “If you're a detective, maybe you could find out how Tom—”

“I'm sure Sergeant Hathaway and the others can handle the investigation,” Nancy replied.

“Why don't you call me Jim?” Hathaway said. “After all, we're colleagues in a way, and it seems that you have more experience than I do when it comes to murder. Probably more than the senior officers on the force. A murder has never happened on Block, not in my memory.”

“So you
think it's murder?” Nancy asked.

“What else could it be?” Jim said. “Tom was only twenty-four, a big guy, healthy as a horse.”

“You knew him well?” Nancy asked.

“It's a small island, especially once the tourists leave. Only about eight hundred of us live here year-round. Tom and I grew up together, but he was several years ahead of me in school. He was something of a troublemaker, to be honest.”

“That's not fair!” Barb said. “He had a rough life, but I know a lot of guys like him where I come from, in South Boston. And how can you talk about him that way? He's dead!” Barb burst into tears and ran toward the mopeds.

“Let her go,” Jim told Nancy. “She needs time. But she's making a mistake, trying to defend Tom. The guy was bad news.”

“What do you mean?” Nancy asked.

“He was always trying to make a buck, and he didn't care how he got it. His junior year in high school, he ran a gambling ring. It only lasted until he was caught with a marked deck of cards, but that was just peanuts compared to what I heard he did later. And I
he was into something big this summer.”

“What?” Nancy asked.

“I'm not sure, but it definitely wasn't honest,” Jim said. “He was flashing a lot of money around, talking about buying his own boat, and he hadn't worked in almost two months. Even a used boat costs plenty these days, so he must have had something big going.”

A police lieutenant came over to them. Jim introduced Nancy, then showed him the hammer.
They dragged it from the pond with a long stick and dropped it into a plastic evidence bag.

“The chief wants you to head back to the station,” the lieutenant said. “Get this ready to send off to the lab, then start on your report.”

“Yes, sir,” Jim said as he strode away. He turned to Nancy. “Thanks for your help, Miss Drew.”

“Nancy, please,” she said.

He smiled for the first time, a boyish grin. “Could you come down to headquarters in a little while? I'll type up the statements for you and Barb to sign.”

“Sure,” Nancy said. “We'll meet you there.”

Barb was waiting for her by the mopeds, her eyes puffy and red from weeping. When Nancy told her about Jim's request, Barb nodded, then mounted her bike and silently led the way back to the main road, turning north toward Great Salt Pond.

They stopped for a soda at the convenience store where Barb had phoned the police. This seemed to calm down Barb. Then they rode to the police station, which was located minutes from the center of Old Harbor.

As Nancy and Barb walked in, they were greeted by the dispatcher in her small office to the right of the door. “You can wait for Sergeant Hathaway in there,” the woman told them, pointing to the main room. The phone rang and she snatched it up. “No, I can't comment about a
murder,” she told the caller, annoyed. “The chief will be making an official statement later today.” She hung up and the phone rang again. Shaking her head, she repeated the same thing to the next caller.

Several people were sitting in the main room, and through an open door, Nancy could see into the garage where the patrol cars were parked.

“Do you know anything about the murder?” a short, bald man with a notebook asked Nancy.

“No,” she replied.

The man hurried over to a young couple who had just come in and questioned them eagerly. More and more people arrived. Nancy was relieved when Jim appeared and led them into a small office crowded with three desks. Barb had remained very quiet the whole time. After Jim typed her statement into the computer, she signed the printout, checked to be sure Nancy knew the way home, then quickly left.

By the time Nancy had signed her own statement, the small police station was abuzz with excitement. At least a dozen people milled around, exchanging rumors about the murder.

“Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” Jim offered, glancing at his watch. “I'm due for a short break.”

“I'd love it,” Nancy answered.

He was leading her to the door when a tall, distinguished man with iron gray hair called out,
“Sergeant Hathaway, could I see you for a moment?”

They stopped and turned around. “Certainly, Congressman,” Jim said with respect. “What can I do for you?”

The man strode toward them, followed by a very blond, very handsome young man. “What in blazes is going on here?” the older man asked with an accent that sounded vaguely Western. “We came to file a complaint against trespassers on our property and found this place busy as a barn at milking time.”

Jim lowered his voice. “A body was found earlier this afternoon, sir. In fact, this young lady was one of the people who reported it. Nancy Drew, this is State Congressman Walt Winchester and his son, Scott. The Winchesters are building a house on the island.”

“It's nice to meet you.” Nancy held out her hand, noticing the congressman's red- and white-checked shirt and cowboy boots. His son wore deck shoes, jeans, and a blue polo shirt that matched the blue of his eyes. Not even the bruise on his cheek could spoil his incredible good looks, but his expression was tense, remote, and a little superior, Nancy thought.

“Pleased to meet you, ma'am,” Winchester drawled. “A body, you said? Someone died?”

“Yes, sir. We believe it was one of our people—an Islander, that is. The next of kin is here now to
make the identification.” Jim nodded at a closed door behind the congressman.

“What happened? Another of those blasted moped accidents?” Winchester sounded irritated. “It's a wonder people aren't killed every day, the way the tourists drive.”

“It wasn't an accident, sir. At least it doesn't appear that way, but I can't say more right now.”

The congressman gave Jim a sharp glance. He reminded Nancy of an eagle—imposing, dignified, and ever watchful. “What's all this mystery?”

Jim cleared his throat. “It's just that we've barely begun our investigation and we're not able to discuss it yet. We'll be making an announcement as soon as the body has been officially identified by the victim's aunt.”

“I see.” Winchester nodded. “Thank you, Sergeant.” He and his son walked away.

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