Al’s Book Club picks classic stories about the adventures of young sleuths as they solve mysteries. Read these excerpts from “Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock” and “The Hardy Boys: The Tower Treasure.”
‘Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock’
Chapter one: The Rescue
Nancy Drew, an attractive girl of eighteen, was driving home along a country road in her new, dark-blue convertible. She had just delivered some legal papers for her father.
“It was sweet of Dad to give me this car for my birthday,” she thought. “And it’s fun to help him in his work.”
Her father, Carson Drew, a well-known lawyer in their home town of River Heights, frequently discussed puzzling aspects of cases with his blond, blue-eyed daughter.
Smiling, Nancy said to herself, “Dad depends on my intuition.”
An instant later she gasped in horror. From the lawn of a house just ahead of her a little girl about five years of age had darted into the roadway. A van, turning out of the driveway of the house, was barely fifty feet away from her. As the driver vigorously sounded the horn in warning, the child became confused and ran directly in front of the van. Miraculously, the little girl managed to cross the road safely and pull herself up onto a low wall, which formed one side of a bridge. But the next second, the van sped away, the child lost her balance and toppled off the wall out of sight!
“Oh my goodness!” Nancy cried out, slamming on her brakes. She had visions of the child plunging into the water below, perhaps striking her head fatally on a rock!
Nancy leaped out of her car and dashed across the road. At the foot of the embankment, she could see the curly-haired little girl lying motionless, the right side of her body in the water.
“I hope —” Nancy dared not complete the harrowing thought as she climbed down the steep slope.
When she reached the child, she saw to her great relief that the little girl was breathing normally and no water had entered her nose or mouth. A quick examination showed that she had suffered no broken bones.
Gently Nancy lifted the little girl, and holding her firmly in both arms, struggled to the top of the embankment. Then she hurried across the road and up the driveway to the child’s house.
At this moment the front door flew open and an elderly woman rushed out, crying, “Judy! Judy!”
“I’m sure she’ll be all right,” said Nancy quickly.
The woman, seeing Nancy’s car, asked excitedly, “Did you run into her?”
“No, no. Judy fell off the bridge.” Nancy quickly explained what had taken place.
By this time another woman, slightly younger, had hurried from the house. “Our baby! What has happened to her?”
As the woman reached out to take Judy, Nancy said soothingly, “Judy’s going to be all right. I’ll carry her into the house and lay her on a couch.”
One of the women opened the screen door and the other directed, “This way.”
Nancy carried her little burden through a hallway and into a small, old-fashioned living room. As soon as she laid the child on the couch, Judy began to murmur and turn her head from side to side.
“I believe she’ll come to in a few minutes,” said Nancy.
The two women watched Judy intently as they introduced themselves as Edna and Mary Turner, great-aunts of the little girl.
“Judy lives with us,” explained Edna, the older sister. “We’re bringing her up.”
Nancy was somewhat surprised to hear that these elderly women were rearing such a small child. She gave her name and address, just as Judy opened her eyes and looked around. Seeing Nancy, she asked, “Who are you?”
“My name is Nancy. I’m glad to know you, Judy.”
“Did you see me fall?”
Nancy nodded, as the child’s Aunt Mary said, “She rescued you from the river after you fell in.”
Judy began to cry. “I’ll never, never run into the road again, really I won’t!” she told her aunts.
Nancy said she was sure that Judy never would. She patted the child, who smiled up at her. Although Nancy felt that Judy would be all right, she decided to stay a few minutes longer to see if she could be of help. The child’s wet clothes were removed and a robe put on her.
Mary Turner started for the kitchen door. “I’d better get some medication and wet compresses for Judy. She’s getting a good-sized lump on her head. Nancy, will you come with me?”
She led the way to the kitchen and headed for a first-aid cabinet which hung on the wall.
“I want to apologize to you, Nancy, for thinking you hit Judy,” the woman said. “I guess Edna and I lost our heads. You see, Judy is very precious to us. We brought up her mother, who had been an only child and was orphaned when she was a little girl. The same thing happened to Judy. Her parents were killed in a boat explosion three years ago. The poor little girl has no close relatives except Edna and me.”
“Judy looks very healthy and happy,” Nancy said quickly, “so I’m sure she must love it here.”
Mary smiled. “We do the best we can on our small income. Sometimes it just doesn’t suffice, though. We sold some old furniture to the two men in the van you saw. I don’t know who they were, but I guess the price was all right.”
Mary Turner’s thoughts went back to little Judy. “She’s so little now that Edna and I are able to manage with our small income. But we worry about the future. We’re dressmakers but our fingers aren’t so nimble with the needle as they used to be.
“To tell you the truth, Nancy, at the time Judy’s parents were killed, Edna and I wondered whether we would be able to care of Judy properly. But we decided to try it and now we wouldn’t part with her for anything in the world. She’s won our hearts completely.”
Nancy was touched by the story. She knew what was in the minds of the Turner sisters — living costs would become higher, and with their advancing years, their own income would become lower.
“Unfortunately,” Mary went on, “Judy’s parents left very little money. But they were extremely bright people and Judy is going to be like them. She ought to study music and dancing, and have a college education. But I’m afraid we’ll never be able to give her those things.”
Nancy said reassuringly, “Judy may be able to win a scholarship, or get other financial aid.”
Mary, finding Nancy a sympathetic listener, continued, “A cousin of our father’s named Josiah Crowley used to help us. But he passed away a couple of months ago. For years he used to pay us long visits and was very generous with his money.” Miss Turner sighed. “He always promised to remember us in his will — he loved little Judy — and I am afraid Edna and I came to depend on that in our plans for her. But he did not carry out his promise.”
Nancy smiled understandingly and made no comment. But she did wonder why Mr. Crowley had changed his mind.
“Josiah went to live with some other cousins. After that, things changed. He rarely came to see us. But he was here just last February and said the same thing — that Edna and I were to inherit money from him. He had always helped us and it seemed strange that he should stop so suddenly.”
Mary Turner looked at Nancy. “Maybe you know our well-to-do cousins that he went to stay with. They live in River Heights. They’re the Richard Tophams.”
“Do they have two daughters named Ada and Isabel?” Nancy asked. “If so, I know them.”
“That’s the family all right,” replied Mary.
Nancy detected a hint of coolness in the woman’s voice. “Do you like those two girls?” Miss Turner asked.
Nancy did not answer at once. She had been taught never to gossip. But finally she said tactfully, “Ada and Isabel were in high school with me. They were never my close friends. We — uh — didn’t see eye to eye on various things.”
By this time Mary Turner had selected a few items from the first-aid chest. Now she went to the refrigerator for some ice cubes. As she arranged the various articles on a tray, she said, “Well, when Cousin Josiah passed away, to our amazement Richard Topham produced a will which made him executor of the Crowley estate and left all the money to him, his wife, and the two girls.”
“Yes. I did read that in the newspaper,” Nancy recalled. “Is the estate a large one?”
“I understand there’s considerable money in it,” Mary Turner replied. “Some of Josiah’s other cousins say he told them the same thing he told us, and they are planning to go to court about the matter.” The woman shrugged. “But I guess a fight to break the will would be hopeless. Nevertheless, Edna and I cannot help feeling there must but a later will, although as yet no one has presented it.”
Nancy followed Miss Turner into the living room. The cold compresses helped to reduce the swelling where Judy had hit her head on a rock. Convinced now that the little girl was all right, Nancy said she must leave.
“Come to see me again soon,” Judy spoke up. “I like you, Nancy. “You’re my saving girl.”
“You bet I’ll come,” Nancy answered. “I like you too. You’re a good sport!”
The child’s great-aunts profusely thanked Nancy again for rescuing Judy. The visitor had barely reached the door when Edna suddenly said, “Mary, where’s our silver teapot?”
“Why, right there on the tea table — Oh, it’s gone!”
Edna ran into the dining room. “The silver candlesticks! They’re gone too!”
Nancy had paused in the doorway, startled. “Do you mean the pieces have been stolen?” she asked.
“They must have been,” replied Mary Turner, who was white with apprehension. “By those men who bought some furniture from us!”
Instantly Nancy thought of the men in the van. “Who were the men?” she asked.
“Oh, Mary, how could we have been so careless?” Edna Turner wailed. “We don’t know how the men were. They just knocked on the door and asked if we had any old furniture that we wanted to sell. We’ll never get the silver back!”
“Maybe you will!” said Nancy. “I’ll call the police.”
“Oh dear!” Mary said woefully. “Our phone is out of order.”
“Then I’ll try to catch up to the van!” Nancy declared. “What did the men look like?”
“They were short and heavy-set. One had dark hair, the other light. They had kind of large noses. That’s about all I noticed.”
“Me too,” said Edna.
With a hasty good-by Nancy dashed from the house and ran to her car.
Excerpted from "Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock," by Carolyn Keene. Copyright (c) 1930. Reprinted with permission from Penguin Group.
'The Hardy Boys: The Tower Treasure'
Chapter one: The Speed Demon
Frank and Joe Hardy clutched the grips of their motorcycles and stared in horror at the oncoming car. It was careening from side to side on the narrow road.
“He’ll hit us! We’d better climb this hillside — and fast!” Frank exclaimed, as the boys brought their motorcycles to a screeching halt and leaped off.
“On the double!” Joe cried out as they started up the steep embankment.
To their amazement, the reckless driver suddenly pulled his car hard to the right and turned into a side road on two wheels. The boys expected the car to turn over, but it held the dusty ground and sped off out of sight.
“Wow!” said Joe. “Let’s get away from here before the crazy guy comes back. That’s a dead-end road, you know.”
The boys scrambled back into their motorcycles and gunned them a bit to get past the intersecting road in a hurry. They rode in silence for a while, gazing at the scene ahead.
On their right an embankment of tumbled rocks and boulders sloped steeply to the water below. From the opposite side rose a jagged cliff. The little-traveled road was winding, and just wide enough for two cars to pass.
“Boy, I’d hate to fall off the edge of this road,” Frank remarked. “It’s a hundred-foot drop.”
“That’s right,” Joe agreed. “We’d sure be smashed to bits before we ever got to the bottom.” Then he smiled. “Watch your step, Frank, or Dad’s papers won’t get delivered.”
Frank reached into his jacket pocket to be sure several important legal papers which he was to deliver for Mr. Hardy were still there. Relieved to find them, Frank chuckled and said, “After the help we gave Dad on his latest case, he ought to set up the firm of Hardy and Sons.”
“Why not?” Joe replied with a broad grin. “Isn’t he one of the most famous private detectives in the country? And aren’t we bright too?” Then, becoming serious, he added, “I wish we could solve a mystery on our own, though.”
Frank and Joe, students at Bayport High, were combining business with pleasure this Saturday morning by doing the errand for their father.
Even though one boy was dark and the other fair, there was a marked resemblance between the two brothers. Eighteen-year-old Frank was tall and dark. Joe, a year younger, was blond with blue eyes. They were the only children of Fenton and Laura Hardy. The family lived in Bayport, a small but thriving city of fifty thousand inhabitants, located on Barmet Bay, three miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean.
The two motorcycles whipped along the narrow road that skirted the bay and led to Willowville, the brothers’ destination. The boys took the next curve neatly and started up a long, steep slope. Here the road was a mere ribbon and badly in need of repair.
“Once we get to the top of the hill it won’t be so rough,” Frank remarked, as they jounced over the uneven surface. “Better road from there into Willowville.”
Just then, above the sharp put-put of their own motors, the two boys heard the roar of a car approaching from their rear at great speed. They took a moment to glance back.
“Looks like that same guy we saw before!” Joe burst out. “Good night!”
At once the Hardys stopped and pulled as close to the edge as they dared. Frank and Joe hopped off and stood poised to leap out of danger again if necessary.
The car hurtled toward them like a shot. Just when it seemed as if it could not miss them, the driver swung the wheel about viciously and the sedan sped past.
“Whew! That was close!” Frank gasped.
The car had been traveling at such high speed that the boys had been unable to get the license number or a glimpse of the driver’s features. But they had noted that he was hatless and had a shock of red hair.
“If I ever meet him again,” Joe muttered, “I’ll —I’ll —” The boy was too excited to finish the threat.
Frank relaxed. “He must be practicing for some kind of race,” he remarked, as the dark-blue sedan disappeared from sight around the curve ahead.
The boys resumed their journey. By the time they rounded the curve, and could see Willowville in a valley along the bay beneath them, there was no trace of the rash motorist.
“He’s probably halfway across the state by this time,” Joe remarked.
“Unless he’s in jail or over a cliff,” Frank added.
The boys reached Willowville and Frank delivered the legal papers to a lawyer while Joe guarded the motorcycles. When his brother returned, Joe suggested, “How about taking the other road back to Bayport? I don’t crave going over that bumpy stretch again.”
“Suits me. We can stop off at Chet’s.”
Chet Morton, who was a school chum of the Hardy boys, lived on a farm about a mile out of Bayport. The pride of Chet’s life was a bright yellow jalopy which he had named Queen. He worked on it daily to “soup up” the engine.
Frank and Joe retraced their trip for a few miles, then turned onto a country road which led to the main highway on which the Morton farm was situated. As they neared Chet’s home, Frank suddenly brought his motorcycle to a stop and peered down into a clump of bushes in a deep ditch at the side of the road.
“Joe! That crazy driver or somebody else had a crack-up!”
Among the tall bushes was an overturned blue sedan. The car was a total wreck, and lay wheels upward, a mass of tangled junk.
“We’d better see if there’s anyone underneath,” Joe cried out.
The boys made their way down the culvert, their hearts pounding. What would they find?
A close look into the sedan and in the immediate vicinity proved that there was no victim around.
“Maybe this happened some time ago,” said Joe, “and —”
Frank stepped forward and laid his hand on the exposed engine. “Joe, it’s still warm,” he said. “The accident occurred a short while ago. Now I’m sure this is the red-haired driver’s car.”
“But what about him?” Joe asked. “Is he alive? Did somebody rescue him, or what happened?”
Frank shrugged. “One thing I can tell you. Either he or somebody else removed the license plates to avoid identification.”
The brothers were completely puzzled by the whole affair. Since their assistance was not needed at the spot, they climbed out of the culvert and back onto their motorcycles. Before long they were in sight of the Mortons’ home, a rambling old farmhouse with an apple orchard at the rear. When they drove up the lane they saw Chet at the barnyard gate.
“Hi, fella!” Joe called.
Chet hurried down the lane to meet them. He was a plump boy who loved to eat and was rarely without an apple or a pocket of cookies. His round, freckled face usually wore a smile. But today the Hardys sensed something was wrong. As they brought their motorcycles to a stop, they noticed that their chum’s cheery expression was missing.
“What’s the matter?” Frank asked.
“I’m in trouble,” Chet replied. “You’re just in time to help me. Did you meet a fellow driving the Queen?”
Frank and Joe looked at each other blankly.
“Your car? No, we haven’t seen it,” said Joe. “What’s happened?”
“It’s been stolen!”
“Yes. I just came out to the garage to get the Queen and she was gone,” Chet answered mournfully.
“Wasn’t the car locked?”
“That’s the strange part of it. She was locked, although the garage door was open. I can’t see how anyone got away with it.”
“A professional job,” Frank commented. “Auto thieves always carry scores of keys with them. Chet, have you any idea when this happened?”
“Not more than fifteen minutes ago, because that’s when I came home with the car.”
“We’re wasting time!” Joe cried out. “Let’s chase that thief!”
“But I don’t know which way he went,” Chet protested.
“We didn’t meet him, so he must have gone in the other direction,” Frank reasoned.
“Climb on behind me, Chet,” Joe urged. “The Queen can’t go as fast as our motorcycles. We’ll catch her in no time!”
“And there was only a little gas in my car, anyway,” Chet said excitedly as he swung himself onto Joe’s motorcycle. “Maybe it has stalled by this time.”
In a few moments the boys were tearing down the road in pursuit of the automobile thief!
Excerpted from "The Hardy Boys: The Tower Treasure," by Franklin W. Dixon. Copyright (c) 1959, reprinted with permission from Penguin Group.