Read A Race Against Time Online

Authors: Carolyn Keene

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Mysteries & Detective Stories, #General, #Girls & Women, #Action & Adventure

A Race Against Time (9 page)

to talk to that security man,” I told myself. “He saw Red Shorts too—in fact, he warned him away from the safe. He must have put him on an interrogation list.”

I went back across the street to the bank and peeked through the window again. The activity inside had dulled some, and the empty safe stood unguarded. Most of the people were gone. I couldn’t see either Ralph Holman or Officer Rainey.

I walked casually back around to Highland Boulevard and down to the alley that ran along the
back of the bank. A couple of police cars blocked the opposite ends of the alley. One unmarked black car was parked halfway between, near the bank’s back door.

I didn’t see any people in the alley, but I expected that someone would be guarding the bank’s back door. I hoped it was one of the River Heights policemen that I knew—someone who would answer my questions about the theft. I’ve worked with a few of the officers in town on past cases—strictly unofficially, of course. I really hoped it would be Chief McGinnis.

I sidled past the car that blocked the entrance to the alley. It was four thirty, and the bank building blocked the direct sun. The alley was a patchwork quilt of wavy dashes of bright reflected light and blotchy panther black shadows.

As I moved from the heat of the sun, a chill rippled across my shoulders. No one stood outside the bank door. I placed my ear against the cool metal door, but I couldn’t hear anything from the other side.

The door had no knob or lever. A swipe card slot was embedded in the wall next to it. That meant that employees were given magnetized identification cards.

I reached up and gave the door just the slightest
push with my fingertips. My breath stuck in my throat as the door slowly moved forward—and a voice shouted behind me.

“Nancy Drew!”

Red Light, Green Light


Nancy! Don’t tell me
you’ve taken up bank robbery!”

I recognized the voice.

“Chief McGinnis,” I said. I turned around and gave him my most winning smile. I had mixed feelings about running into him this way. I was glad because I usually could get some information from him—but I wasn’t happy that he’d found me sneaking around the back door of the bank. He gets upset with me when he thinks I’m butting into his territory.

I decided the best defense is a good offense.

“I’m so glad I found you—I’ve been looking for you everywhere. I finally figured out that you might be back here.”

Well . . . it wasn’t a total lie, right?

“Re-a-lly,” he said, breaking the word into three parts. I had given him my best smile, but he gave me his best
—and he had the bushy dark eyebrows to emphasize it. “It looks more like you’re breaking and entering to me.”

“Wow,” I said. “You’ve got this really difficult case to solve, lots on your mind, but you can still come up with a great spontaneous one-liner! Incredible.” I smiled again.

He didn’t say anything, but I could tell by his expression that he was pleased with my compliment. He seemed to relax just a little bit. Within seconds, though, he was frowning again.

“What case are you talking about?” he asked. “And how did you find out about it?”

“How did I find out that the pledge money was stolen? Actually, I’ve heard it around town—from more than one person. I was hoping you could tell me the real story.”

“No, I cannot,” he said firmly, stepping between me and the bank door. He’s half a foot taller than I am, and his middle is
bigger around than his chest. He made an excellent—and successful—barrier.

“Because you
tell me, or because you
I asked. “Don’t you have anything on the case yet? No suspects, no leads?”

“No information for you—that’s what I’ve got!” he said firmly.

“How about Officer Rainey?” I suggested. “He should be a good source of information. What did he say when you interrogated him?”

“I can’t believe you,” Chief McGinnis said, shaking his head. “Although after all these years, I shouldn’t be surprised that you know so much about what’s going on. Why are you here?

“I’m here to talk to you, and to talk to Officer Rainey and Ralph Holman—
” I answered.

“Well, you’ve talked to me, and we’re through talking. One out of three ain’t bad. I’m sorry, you can’t talk to Officer Rainey, and you
can’t talk to Holman.”

“Why especially not Mr. Holman?”

“This interview is over, Nancy. Come on, I’ll walk you back up the alley.”

He rested his hand lightly on my back and gently pushed me away from the bank. As we walked along the narrow alley, I persisted in trying to get a crumb of info out of him.

“Just tell me this,” I asked. “Did you hire Officer Rainey? I mean, was he provided by the River
Heights Police Department? Or did the bank hire him? Or the race organizers?”

“He’s from a private firm,” Chief McGinnis answered. “Hired by the Biking for Bucks board of directors.”

“Mrs. Mahoney is the chairwoman of that board. My dad is one of the directors.”

“That’s right,” Chief McGinnis replied.

While we were talking, I was being hustled down the alley. He didn’t exactly nudge me, but the way he walked made me keep going in that direction. It was either that or walk straight into the brick wall. I felt like I was a sheep being herded by one of those dogs that are bred to keep the strays in line.

“And if I’m not mistaken, Ralph Holman is
of the Biking for Bucks board,” I said. “That makes sense, of course—he’s a banker. Of course he was also in charge of the money during the race—and during the theft. What did he say about the robbery?”

“Not much so far,” Chief McGinnis answered. “But we hope to change that.”

“Are you saying he’s a suspect?”

“I’m sayin’ only what I’m sayin’.” Chief McGinnis has a tendency to talk that way once in a while. Sometimes I think he’s seen too many old cops-and-robbers movies.

“And you’ve talked to Officer Rainey, too, I assume, since he was hired to keep just such a disaster from happening,” I guessed.

“Of course,” he answered. “Did he mention a guy in red shorts? He hustled this man away from the safe when it was being displayed at the starting line. A guy with a mountain bike.”

“I don’t remember.”

This was one of the most frustrating things about dealing with Chief McGinnis. He and I often have different ideas about how to solve a case. For example, if I had interrogated the one security officer guarding the cash before it was stolen, I’d remember every word he said.

“He had on biking shorts, so I thought he was on one of the racing teams.”

“Okay, correct me if I’m wrong—and I’m sure you will,” Chief McGinnis continued. “There were a lot of people running around this morning. In shorts. With bikes.”

“But this guy was different. He had this mountain bike, for one thing. And I’d never seen him around town before.”

“There are several people in the race from out of town. And contrary to public opinion, you actually don’t know
” For the first time in
our conversation, Chief McGinnis really smiled.

We were halfway to the end of the alley when I heard people talking behind us. I turned just in time to see two officers in normal clothes escorting Ralph Holman out of the bank and into the unmarked black car.

“He’s handcuffed!” I whispered to Chief McGinnis. “Mr. Holman is handcuffed!”

“That’s right, he is,” the chief said. “Now get out of here—and keep your mouth shut about this. If it gets out to the public before we release it, I’ll know who leaked it, and it will be the last piece of information that you will ever get from me about any case I’m working on. Ever! Do you understand? Don’t think I’m kidding about this. I mean it.”

“Is Mr. Holman being arrested for the theft?” I asked. “Just tell me that much.”

“Nancy, you already know more than you’re supposed to. Do us both a favor. Let’s end this conversation while we’re still friends.”

I couldn’t resist just one more question as Chief McGinnis left me where the alley emptied into the street.

“I assume you set up roadblocks and guards at all the boat landings, right?” I called out to his retreating back.

He didn’t answer me or turn around, but he
nodded and gave me a thumbs-up. Then he hurried back to the unmarked car.

I watched them drive away—the two plainclothesmen, Chief McGinnis, and their prisoner, Ralph Holman.

I walked around to the front of the bank and searched the ground near the race’s start/finish line. There was nothing to clue me in on what had happened that morning. If there had been any evidence still there, the herd of investigators I’d seen swarming around earlier had gathered it all up.

I visualized the interaction between Mr. Holman, Officer Rainey, and the man in the red shorts. Then I walked to the tree where Red Shorts had been leaning when I first saw him. I crouched at the foot of the tree and brushed at the thick grass and weeds. There in the dirt was a perfect print of a bike tire—a thick mountain bike tire. The print was about six inches long. And it was precisely in the spot where Red Shorts had leaned his bike against the tree.

I reached in my backpack for my pocketknife and sliced a border in the dirt around the print. Then I looked around and spied a poster lying on the sidewalk announcing the race.

I wedged the edge of the poster into the cut I had
made in the dirt. Then, very carefully, I wiggled the cardboard under the tire print, working my way up the whole length. Using the poster as a tray, I lifted the block of dirt up out of the ground.

Carrying my treasure from under the tree, I headed quickly back down Highland Avenue to Dad’s law office. I put the tire print on my dad’s desk and photographed it with the instant camera he keeps in the credenza behind his desk.

When I had a picture that showed the tire pattern clearly, I tucked the photo into my backpack. Then I eased the dirt block into a plastic bag and placed it on a shelf in his office refrigerator. I put a sign in front of it saying
and signed my name.

Then I planned my next move.

I really wanted to locate Officer Rainey. If I could just talk to him, I could ask him about Red Shorts. And now I had even more to ask him about—Ralph Holman. It was six twenty, and I was tired. I also needed to call my team, as promised. I decided I could do a much better job of that over a latte.

I grabbed my bike, locked up Dad’s office again, and headed for Susie’s Read & Feed, a bookstore and café on River Street. It’s one of my favorite hangouts. It’s a great bookstore, with new and used books. And
it’s also a charming café. I locked my bike in the rack outside Susie’s and went in.

“Hey, Nancy, welcome,” Susie Lin called to me from the back of the café. She’s the owner.

“Wait a minute,” Susie said as she joined me. I was looking at the large bulletin board in the café, covered with job offers and other ads. “Aren’t you supposed to be tooling around the countryside right now? I thought you were in the race this weekend.”

“I’m on a short break,” I said. “Bess is riding this leg.” I really didn’t want anyone to know what I was doing—not even Susie.

“Bess? Well, good for her! But you . . . you’re on a break. What’s up?”

“Nothing, really. Just couldn’t race without having one of your muffins first.”

“It’s apple-nut today,” Susie told me, pointing to the chalkboard propped up over the cash register. Susie always writes the day’s specials on it in her distinctive no-nonsense block letters. She makes incredible muffins.

“So what can I get you?”

“Mmmm, at least one muffin,” I answered. “And a latte.”

“You want the muffin warmed up?” Susie asked.


“Take a seat—I’ll be right back.”

I looked around. There were several serious book buyers probing the shelves, but the Saturday evening regulars hadn’t strolled in yet, so I had a nice choice of tables.

I took a seat at a small round table with chipped blue paint. I plopped my backpack into the chair next to me and dug into it for my phone. As I was looking down, two hairy legs walked past my table and stood in front of the chalkboard with their calves toward me.

I couldn’t control the shudder that ran through my body when I saw who had wandered in. I didn’t see his face, but I’d recognize those red biking shorts anywhere.

Spinning My Wheels


The man in the
red shorts stood with his back to me for a few more minutes studying Susie’s chalkboard. Finally I heard his voice for the first time. It was low and scratchy.

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