“Fifteen dollars? Come on, Nance, there are dozens of other stores in the mall that sell candles. Don’t settle on this one just yet,” Bess Marvin assured Nancy Drew, as they, along with George Fayne, Bess’ cousin, strolled through the River Heights Mall. The three teenage friends were out for a shopping day to relieve some stress. Their academic and work lives were fine, but Nancy insisted that they take a day to decompress after a run-in with that outright whore from Cooperstown at Ned Nickerson’s party last Friday night.
The girl, Carmen, was around their age and also a total slut. Nancy had learned from past cases to not jump at an investigation too quickly. The Secret of Shadow Ranch had taught her that in spades. She had also learned, however, to listen to her instincts, and her instincts were telling her that this Carmen thinks-she’s-so-hot needed to be taken care of.
Bess was excitedly showing the girls her new summer top. “I got a steal on these pedal pushers,” George exclaimed. “Girls, I have work to do. I have to get to the train station,” Nancy curtly stated. “What?! Nance, what are you thinking?!” Bess replied.
“I’m going to Cooperstown.”
Nancy clutched Ned’s hand as they watched the scenery whiz along outside the train window. “Did you know that she sometimes even goes out intending to hook up with a stranger? She drinks booze at home before leaving. This is called ‘pre-gaming’, according to this cryptex left behind by the suspect at the party.” Nancy was on a roll. She knew that the slut was Carmen. What she needed to find out now was who Carmen associated with and where she lived so that she could leave a nasty note of contempt from a fellow woman that would definitely change Carmen’s ways forever.
The train came to a halt at Cooperstown station and the couple exited. Ned was concerned. “Nancy, it’s really not a big deal. You’re eighteen. I’m nineteen. Sluts are all around us. It’s just a fact of life. I don’t like em either, but ya gotta turn the other cheek, Nance!” “Hold on. Look over there. A clue!” Nancy spotted a familiar red top in the window of a Wet Seal. It was just as revealing as she remembered. “Ugh, look how low-cut it is! It’s like, um, you’re practically an adult now, stick with scoopnecks, missy!” “I’m gonna get a beer.”
Now flying solo for the night, Nancy approached the store clerk, Alexa. She quickly confirmed that Carmen had been in this very store the day before Ned’s party and in addition to the red top purchased some unimaginably free-spirited hoops. Nancy’s hunch was always right!
After solving an anagram hidden in the stack of Wet Seal receipts, Nancy finally discovered Carmen’s neighborhood, Pinewood Oaks. “I mean, that’s just a kind of person right there you don’t want to surround yourself with. Does she ever think about the possibility that they talked about on TODAY that any and every interaction can lead to a job interview? That you are always your own marketing team?!?!” Nancy muttered to herself alone, clue-hunting through the cul de sac.
She was in a rut. All of the houses and cars were a similar blur of suburbia. She just could not pick out which one could be different. Then, she felt a man’s arm wrap around her neck. A low, threatening voice whispered, “I know what you’re trying to do. I’ve seen you slithering around here. Leave my daughter alone. She’s in college and just trying to find herself, okay?” Nancy was frozen in horror. She felt the barrel of a gun pointing into her back. Suddenly the gun was removed and the sound of footsteps running away gradually became softer and softer. She turned around slowly, still shaking with fear, only to see nothing except for a piece of paper on the ground.
Aside from the ransom note-esque threat on one side of the paper, on the other side was a rebus inside of a cryptogram word polygon. Nancy was sure she was done for. She had never seen something like this in all her life. She ran back into town, frazzled, looking for Ned.
Upon searching every bar in downtown central Cooperstown, Nancy finally discovered a languishing, dejected Ned on his eleventh IPA. “Ned, I need you to buck up and help me with this! Boy, it’s sure a doozy!” “WE’RE OVER, MISS PERFECT CRIMESOLVER PERSON! I ONLY DATED YOU CAUSE OUR FATHERS PLAY TENNIS TOGETHER! BYE BYE I’M LIVING HERE FOREVER!”
Nancy had never seen Ned in a state like this. He tended to drink when she had a crime to solve but this seemed to be the end. Despondent, weary, and feeling like, for the first time, she didn’t even know who she was, she looked back onto the puzzle. Wait. It all made sense. The rebus cryptogram word polygon. The various pictures and letters meant “I don’t know who I am, so I’m trying a lot of things right now. Also I live at 132 Harper Lane.”
She had cracked the code only from understanding for a quick sliver of a second how it felt to be unsure of yourself and maybe even a little insecure. Nancy ran back to Pinewood Oaks and left the nasty note on Carmen’s car. A white Chevy Cavalier. Ew.
She walked away, proudly wiping her hands clean of this case and ready for a new one. She also suddenly realized that she was freshly single for the first time in years. Maybe she would try online dating. I mean, the stigma’s gone now in this day and age, right?
Nancy Drew still hated sluts, and she was glad that they were all taken care of for now. She would not miss this case for a long time, that’s for sure. What she would miss immensely, though, was talking a lot to someone about how other girls are sluts.