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Chapter 1: Ghost Grabbers and Boo Blasters
"If this is a theater, where's the popcorn?" Nancy Drew's best friend George Fayne asked on Saturday morning.
"This isn't a movie theater, George," eight-year-old Nancy Drew explained. "It's a theater for plays."
"And talent shows," Bess Marvin added. Bess was Nancy's other best friend. She was also George's cousin.
Nancy wiggled excitedly in her seat. The River Heights Kids' Talent Show would start any minute. Hannah Gruen, the Drews' housekeeper, had driven the girls to the theater. She would pick them up when the show was over.
George's dark curls bounced as she looked around. "This theater sure beats our school auditorium," she said.
Nancy agreed. The theater looked like a palace. It had red velvet seats and clouds painted on a blue ceiling. A red curtain hung over the stage.
Bess sighed. "Maybe it's not too late to enter the talent show."
"Yes, it is," George said. "The show starts in five minutes!"
Nancy smiled. She and Bess had wanted to sing in the show. When Bess caught a cold the week before, they decided not to enter.
"Don't worry, Bess," Nancy said. "Watching the show will be fun, too. Especially since we have front row seats."
Bess reached under her seat and pulled out a white stuffed dog. "I'm going to ask the winner of the talent show to sign Sparky, my autograph hound."
"Even if the boys win?" George asked.
Bess scrunched up her face. Jason Hutchings, David Berger, and Mike Minelli were the brattiest boys at Carl Sandburg Elementary School.
"No way!" Bess said. "I hope that Katie wins. Or Rebecca."
Nancy flipped her reddish blond hair over her shoulder and smiled. "Me, too."
Katie Zaleski and Rebecca Ramirez were the girls' friends from school. Katie and her talking parrot, Lester, were going to tell jokes. Rebecca and her best friend, Jessie Shapiro, were doing a dance number.
Nancy gasped as the lights dimmed. The show was about to begin!
A man with white hair and wearing a dark suit stepped up to the microphone.
"Hello, everyone!" the man told the audience. "I'm Lyle Puckman, the host of the talent show and the president of Tremendous Toys."
Awesome! Nancy thought. Tremendous Toys was the biggest toy store in town.
"As you probably know," Lyle said, "the first-prize winner will receive a five-minute shopping spree at Tremendous Toys. And five minutes at Tremendous Toys goes a long, long way!"
Nancy knew which toy she would grab first -- a pair of ice skates with pink pom-poms. She had seen them when she was shopping for a present with her father.
"For our first act," Lyle said, "please welcome Jason, David, and Mike singing a song from one of their favorite TV shows, Ghost Grabbers."
"Oh, great," George groaned. "The boys are first."
"Now, remember, folks," Lyle said. "The boys' Ghost Grabber outfits, boo blasters, and spirit suckers are sold at Tremendous Toys. Aisle seven, shelf five."
Lyle walked off the stage. The boys ran on. They wore silver jackets, goggles, and helmets with blinking lights. Mike was holding a portable CD player.
Mike pressed a button on the CD player. The boys bumped into each other as they took their places on the stage. Then they began to sing.
"'If you've got a ghost -- he's toast! Thanks to the Ghost Grabbers!'"
Nancy covered her ears. The boys were screaming into the microphone.
"'Ghosts are no mystery!'" the boys sang. "'They're history!'"
Jason raised his boo blaster in the air. It made a weird popping sound. Green gobs of foam oozed from the sides.
"Whoops!" Jason said.
The green gook flowed across the stage and onto the floor. It splattered right in front of the girls' feet.
"Yuck!" Nancy cried.
Lyle ran onto the stage. "You didn't tell me you'd have special effects!"
"I didn't press anything! It just went off!" Jason exclaimed. He banged his boo blaster on the stage. "Piece of junk. I'm taking this back to the store -- "
Lyle clapped his hand over Jason's mouth. He called offstage: "Toni! Clean this up, please!"
A woman with short brown hair ran over with a mop. She was wearing jeans and a River Heights Theater T-shirt.
"I knew these kids would make a mess," Toni muttered.
Nancy watched Toni and frowned. She didn't seem very friendly.
After the floor was clean and dry, Lyle introduced the next act.
"Now here's Katie Zaleski and her fine-feathered friend, Lester!" Lyle said. "So 'give it up' as you kids like to say!"
"Yay!" Nancy cheered.
Katie walked onstage with Lester on her arm. She was wearing a red dress and a black top hat. Lester wore a tiny top hat and a little red bow tie.
"Knock, knock," Katie said to Lester.
Lester rolled his feathery head. "Who's there? Who's there?" he screeched.
"Boo!" Katie said.
"Boo hoo?" Lester squawked.
"Don't cry, Lester," Katie said with a wink. "You'll get your cracker."
Nancy laughed with the rest of the audience. Katie's jokes were always funny.
"Knock, knock," Katie said again.
"Arrrk! Who's there?"
"Orange," Katie said.
Lester let out a big squawk. "Orange you glad to see me? Arrrrk!"
Katie's mouth dropped open.
"Oh, no!" Nancy whispered. "Lester just said Katie's line."
Katie whispered something into Lester's ear. Then she tried again.
"Knock, knock," she said.
"It's Noah!" Lester squawked. "Noah good place to eat? Arrrk!"
"Th-th-thanks, everybody," Katie said quickly. Then she hurried off the stage.
"The jokes were still funny," Nancy said, shrugging. "Maybe she'll still win."
While the girls waited for the next act, Nancy felt Bess tug her arm.
"Here comes Rebecca," she said.
Nancy saw Rebecca running over. She was wearing her talent show costume -- a baseball uniform and a red cap. She also looked very upset.
"Please, Nancy," Rebecca said. Her chin was quivering. "You've got to help me! You've got to help me!"
Copyright © 1999 by Simon & Schuster Inc.