I HATE sitting around, waiting for the phone to ring," George Fayne said, glaring at the telephone on Nancy Drew's bedside table.
"You hate sitting around, period," Nancy said with a laugh. "Maybe when Bess told Hannah she was going to call at three o'clock she meant California time. They're two hours behind us."
George checked her watch again. "If she doesn't call soon, we're going to lose our court time." She picked up her tennis racket and started practicing a restrained forehand in the middle of the room.
Nancy glanced at herself in the mirror -- her tennis dress was blindingly white. "I wonder what's kept Bess in California," she said, tying her reddish blond hair back. "Her mom and dad came back over a week ago."
Bess Marvin, who was George's cousin and Nancy's good friend, had gone to Carmel, California, to visit friends of her parents.
"My aunt was pretty vague about why Bess decided to stay," George said, flopping down on Nancy's bed. She shot Nancy a teasing glance. "Maybe you'd better investigate, Nan."
"I don't need a new mystery," Nancy said, shaking her head. At eighteen Nancy had a reputation as an excellent detective.
In spite of George's grumbling, Nancy knew George missed Bess. It was amazing to Nancy that two people as different as Bess and George could be so inseparable. George had short, dark hair and the long, lean body of an athlete. Bess, on the other hand, was petite, curvy, and blond. The only sports she participated in were dating and marathon shopping.
The phone rang, and George didn't hesitate to grab the receiver. "Hello? Bess! You were supposed to call over an hour ago. Nancy and I are going to miss our tennis match."
George motioned for Nancy to put her ear close so they could both hear what Bess was saying.
"Sorry, but I got tied up," Bess said without any further explanation.
George rolled her eyes. With Bess that probably meant she'd met some cute guy and lost track of the time.
"So what gives?" Nancy said into the receiver. "Why did you extend your vacation?"
"You guys, I really love it out here." Nancy could hear the enthusiasm in Bess's voice even over the phone.
"Then there must be lots of good shopping, good food, and great-looking guys," George teased.
"I'm serious," Bess said. "I think you'd like it, too. In fact . . ." She hesitated a moment, then said in a rush, "I was wondering if maybe you'd come out to see how great Carmel is. There'd be plenty of golf and tennis for you, George. I also found some shops that I know you guys will love. And you can stay with me at the Provence Inn. Mr. and Mrs. Menendez, my parents' friends, run it."
Nancy had to admit that Carmel sounded great. Still, Nancy had the feeling that Bess was holding something back. "Is everything okay there?" she asked.
"It's all great!" Bess replied. "We'd really have a super time -- I'd love you to come." There was a long pause before Bess added, "And I have one teeny surprise for you. "
"What's that?" George asked suspiciously.
"You have to come here to find out," Bess said mysteriously.
Nancy could hear her say something to some one else, but she couldn't make out the words.
Putting her hand over the mouthpiece, Nancy spoke to George. "Why don't we go? Dad is tied up with a trial now, and Ned is working hard at school." Ned Nickerson was Nancy's longtime boyfriend and a student at Emerson College.
George nodded once slowly, then more eagerly. "Sounds good to me. "
Nancy removed her hand and spoke into the receiver. "Okay, we'll come. We'll call you back tonight and let you know when our flight arrives."
"I can't wait to see you! I can't wait for you to meet Ted!" The phone clicked, and the line went dead.
"Ted," George repeated, grinning at Nancy. "So that's what this is all about."
"I can't believe Bess isn't here to meet us," George said. She dropped her suitcase and golf clubs in the middle of the room she and Nancy were sharing at the Provence Inn.
"Mrs. Menendez said there was some sort of problem at her son's restaurant." Nancy paused, then added, "Still, I'm not sure why that would keep Bess from meeting us."
The two girls were surprised that Bess hadn't met them at the airport as they'd arranged. She merely left a message that she'd been delayed.
"We'll have to wait until she shows up and explains," George said with a shrug.
"If Bess had picked us up, we wouldn't have rented a car. Now we can come and go as we please."
While Nancy unpacked she checked out the room Mrs. Menendez had given her and George. It was cheerful and bright, with white plaster walls, a white brick fireplace outlined with navy and white tiles, and blue-and-white-patterned bedspreads and curtains.
"If it stays this chilly, we'll need to use the fireplace," George said, zipping up the jacket of her navy and red running suit.
"Bess warned me the weather in Carmel can be cool." Nancy was glad she'd packed a heavy turquoise sweater to wear with her black jeans.
Nancy went to the window and peered out at the central courtyard, which the Menendezes had planted with bright and colorful flowers. The inn was just up the road from the beach, and Nancy opened the window a crack to smell the salty sea air.
"I'm starved," George announced. Nancy turned around to see her friend opening cabinets and the refrigerator in the small kitchenette on the opposite side of their room.
"Mrs. Menendez said that her son Ted's restaurant is just up the hill. Why don't we walk up there, get something to eat, and surprise Bess?" Nancy suggested.
"Good idea," George agreed. "Besides, I want to find out what's going on with Bess and this Ted guy.
"The restaurant is on Ocean Avenue, the same street we're on," Nancy said. "Ocean goes down to the beach, but the restaurant is the other way, back up this hill. It's called the Cafe de Carmel."
Outside the inn, Nancy and George looked down toward the ocean. Ocean Avenue was lined with little shops and houses, all different from one another. There were stucco houses with red tiled roofs and cute little wooden cottages with picket fences.
"Bess is right about this place. It's absolutely gorgeous," Nancy said, grinning.
"Listen to those waves," George said. "I wonder if there's any surfing."
"We'll have plenty of time for the beach once we hook up with Bess," Nancy said. "We're going to be here until Tuesday, and it's only Thursday."
Nancy and George started up the steep hill to the restaurant. They walked slowly, peering into one shop window after another. One shop had nothing but scarves, hats, and other accessories. Another sold only kites in wild shapes and colors.
"Mrs. Menendez wasn't kidding when she said up the hill," George commented.
"It is steep," Nancy agreed, "but there's so much to look at I don't mind."
In the middle of the second block George stopped at the window of a jewelry shop. The words Cheung Original Designs were painted in gold letters in a small circle in a corner of the window.
"Those are just what I've been looking for," George said, pointing at a pair of gold geometric earrings.
"I thought you were starved," Nancy said.
"Everything can wait for new jewelry," George answered back, winking.
The girls were startled just then by the sound of angry voices from inside the shop. Peering through the glass door, Nancy saw a tall, blond young man shaking his finger at a shorter, stocky, balding man. When the blond man grabbed the older man's shirt, the older man pulled away.
"What's this all about?" Nancy wondered aloud.
Before she knew what was happening, the door to the shop burst open. Nancy was caught in the path of the balding man, who shoved her back against a wall. The young man followed close behind, an angry expression marring his good looks. Neither man seemed to notice Nancy at all.
The balding man paused at the edge of the curb before turning around to face the younger man. Nancy detected a trace of challenge in his expression as he opened his mouth to speak.
"Save it, Baxter," the blond man snapped, cutting off the older man's words. The young man took a threatening step toward Baxter, his face red and his fists clenched at his sides. "If one word of this gets out, you're as good as dead!"