That's how Charlotte Bell's heart ended up the last time she let her emotions heat up on a nanny assignment. So taking a new position in frigid Iceland, working for Ambassador Edgar Rawlings, might be just what Charlotte needs in order to heal up—and chill out. This time, she's determined to be intrepid and courageous. She's even read all fifty-six original Nancy Drew books in preparation. Unfortunately, she's neglected to find out anything about Iceland or to look into the background of her oddly compelling employer. When Charlotte stumbles onto the trail of a mystery that only she can solve, she'll need every shred of Nancy's wisdom to keep her life—and her heart—safe!
|Publisher:||Red Dress Ink|
|File size:||480 KB|
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You know, none of this ever would have happened, were it not for that Maureen Dowd column in the New York Times. After all, it's not like grown women over the age of twenty think very much about Nancy Drew, is it? Besides which,as a young girl,I'd not been much of a Nancy Drew fan. Sure, I'd seen the shelves of her books in the libraries and bookstores I frequented whenever I got the chance,but she'd seemed so other-timely,outdated,so retro in a way that would never be fashionable again.
At least that's what I thought.
Anyway, the article had one of those oblique angles, as these things so often do, but it was generally about Iraq and the Osama bin Laden Presidential Daily Briefings. The tiein with Nancy Drew was that we really needed someone brash and intrepid like her involved, and questioned where all the brash and intrepid people had gone.
As for me, at the age of twenty-three, I no longer felt brash and intrepid, since events had conspired to rob me of those feelings.
I had committed the cardinal sin of many a young woman before me, something Nancy Drew would never do: I had fallen in love with a married man—named Buster, no less; with two kids,no more.I know it was a foolish thing to do, inexcusable, too, and I know it sounds lame to say he made me fall in love with him.
Except that's the truth.
I would have been content to admire him from afar, but he drew me in,came at me like a freight train,convinced me his wife neither loved nor understood him and they hadn't had sex in forever—I can hear you laughing at me now!—and I was the only woman he'd ever really been in love with, that no other woman had ever been as smart or as sexy or as funny or as wonderful and nothing better had ever happened to him in his life than loving me. He convinced me it would be a crime against the universe were we not to reach for this rare chance so few people ever know in this life: to be with someone,not because both parties are settling or desperate or fooling themselves,but because all the crossed stars in the firmament had deemed it should be so.
And I fell for it.
He was like a master glassmaker, building a floor underneath me, sheet by sheet of perfect glass, laid one next to the other like the most sparking tile in the world. And he led me out to the center of that amazing floor, had me stand right in the middle waiting for my Cinderella moment. But before I got my chance to dance with the prince, the craftsmanship turned into a game of Don't Break the Ice. You know the game, where you take turns using little red and green plastic mallets to knock the cubes of white plastic ice one by one through the red plastic frame until one poor sucker dislodges the catastrophic piece that sends the little red plastic figurine at the center thudding through to the floor. Well, it was just like that, with me playing the part of the little red plastic figurine.
Only it was so much worse.
Buster got me right where he wanted me, out on that amazingly gorgeous crystal dance floor, constructed solely for me, and then he began smashing those glass tiles he'd made for me,one by one,until at last I fell through the floor, flaying my skin, shredding my soul and breaking my heart in the process.
I had always believed there are keys to the inner workings of every person alive. When love is wrong or insufficient, people jealously guard those keys, preferring to play games instead, making the other person guess at what is required, knowing the other person will fail miserably. When love is right,good,you gladly hand over the keys; you trust, and let the other person know exactly what makes you tick, for good or ill. I gave Buster so many of my keys, I let him inside me.I thought I had his keys,too,and he just ransacked the whole fucking place, like the Grinch paying a call on Cindy Lou Who the night before Christmas, and left me with no more than some picture-hanging wire and a few nails sticking out of the walls. I should have seen it coming, but still...how could he do that to me? How could he do that to me in the way in which he did it?
I could go into all the gory details, but why bother? These stories always end the same. Suffice it to say, I was the only one destroyed, certainly not Buster.
I don't think his wife ever knew.
I sincerely hope she did not. Not that she was any great shakes as a human being herself.
I'll tell you one thing for damn certain: Nancy Drew never would have fallen in love with a married man.
In the wake of my bust-up with Buster, I moved temporarily back in with my aunt Bea and her three kids. It wasn't so much that I wanted to be there, and it was sure as rain that the four of them didn't particularly want me back there, but I was feeling too emotionally fragile to strike out on my own right away. Plus, for one thing, my exit from Buster's household had been too abrupt for me to find something right away—slim chance to find a decent apartment in New York City on the same day as one starts looking. Two, I didn't intend the situation to be permanent, just long enough until I could make up my mind and clearly decide what to do next. Three,last but not least,despite that I had some savings from my long-ago glory as a commercial child star, it would dwindle with alarming speed if I took up residency for a few months—the optimum time needed, I figured, to recover from a major heartbreak—in a New York City hotel room.
Thus it was, in the wake of my breakup with Buster and having moved back in with my aunt, that I saw the Times article that led me to Nancy Drew. It was in that same edition of the Times that I found my next nannying position, for I had indeed been the nanny to Buster's own two kids, in his Manhattan penthouse on the Upper West Side.
The classified ad read:
NANNY Full-time position.
Applicants must be willing to travel to Reykjavik.
It said the job would not start for another two months, but since there had not been any other listings in the recent weeks since I'd been checking—indeed, the recession we were supposedly not having had dried up even the nanny market—I figured it was Reykjavik or bust for me. Now, if only I knew where Reykjavik was....
It is indeed possible to be widely read,as I am,and still have black holes in one's knowledge. So, although I'm a nanny by profession,my sense of geography sucks.I'd thought St.Louis was in the state of New Orleans—well, wouldn't it be better if it was, both places being great for jazz, and I used to get Las Vegas and Los Angeles mixed up on a regular basis.
Don't even get me started on where Michigan should really be.
After the part about the delayed start date, the ad listed a fax number for sending résumés.
I pulled a copy of my résumé from out of the stack in the folder on my dresser—I might not be feeling intrepid anymore, but a member of the Mary Poppins profession is always prepared—and went in search of Aunt Bea to see if she would let me use her fax machine.
Given that I'd lived in that household, a Greenwich Village town house, off and on since my father moved to Africa when I was three—more on him and my mother later—you would not think I'd still have to obtain permission for such minor things. Oh no. I'm guessing you never lived in a household like Aunt Bea's.
I found her in her king-size brass bed—nothing about Aunt Bea's desire for luxury was ever small—huddled under the frilly bedsheets, a can of SlimFast with a straw on the night table, the TV tuned to All My Children; another thing we differed on, to her unending horror, as I was a Days of Our Lives fan, born if not bred, just like my late mother.
Aunt Bea at fifty looked about ten years older than she needed to.Not that she didn't make every vain effort to look younger, at least as far as clothing choices and makeup, but she'd spent so much of her life frowning that she was as in need of Botox as a shar-pei.
But she was scared of needles.
I had learned over time, through many trials and a whole slew of errors, that the best way to get something out of Aunt Bea was to appeal to her sense of her own needs.Certainly, appealing to her sense of my needs hadn't gotten me anywhere.
"Excuse me?" I coughed.
"Can't you see Erica's about to have one of her big scenes?" Aunt Bea didn't even look in my direction.
It seemed to me that Erica was always having big scenes and that her big scenes were never as big as Marlena's big scenes, but what did I know?
I sucked it up and plowed on. "There're almost no want ads anymore in the Times,"I said woefully.
"But you have to get a job," she said, eyes still glued to Erica."You can't stay here forever."
I let that rest for a minute. Then:
"In that whole big paper today, there was only one job I'm qualified for. And you know there haven't been any other ads for nannies in weeks..."
"What job?" She looked at me sharply.
I produced the ad from behind my back, holding the résumé in reserve.
"Here," I said."But look, it's all the way in Reykjavik." I wrinkled up my nose."Do you know where Reykjavik is?" Usually,the nose-wrinkling is an affectation on my part,but not this time. "Isn't it in Yugoslavia somewhere—is Yugoslavia even still there?—or Poland? Cities in those countries always end in 'k," right?"
"Reykjavik doesn't ring any strong bells?" Aunt Bea asked.
I shook my head. "Reagan?" she prompted. "I know who he was," I admitted cautiously. "Gorbachev?" she prompted some more. "Big summit there? Reagan proposed complete disarmament and the Pentagon went crazy because, at that time, the USSR had a huge conventional military superiority over NATO and the West needed its nuclear deterrent? Still nothing?"
I shook my head. "What year was this?" I asked. "Nineteen eighty-six," she snapped, as though only a fool, or someone like me, wouldn't know the answer.
"It was kind of before my time," I said."I'm fairly certain I was still mostly preoccupied with my Little People Farmhouse back then."
"You don't know anything," she said, disgusted.
I shrugged. Maybe I didn't.
"It's in Iceland," Aunt Bea said.
Crap, Iceland sounded cold. Oh, well.
"Oh," I said."I was kind of worried you'd say that."
"You mean you asked me when you knew all along?"
"Let's just say I had my suspicions. I was kind of hoping for mainland Europe somewhere. So," I said."Iceland."
"Population one hundred and seventy thousand in Reykjavik, last time I checked," she said.
"Ah," I said."Puny."
"Whole country doesn't have more than three hundred thousand, I don't think," she said.
"You wonder why they bother," I said.
"So," she said, handing the paper back to me, "what are you planning to do about this? Reykjavik is nice and far away..."
There was that Aunt Bea gleam, the gleam of the aunt who loved me so well.
"Well, it does have a fax number for résumés here..."
"What are you waiting for?" Aunt Bea demanded. Your permission, I thought, since we both know that if I had used the fax first and asked later, no matter what the good cause, even if it had been to help starving children in theThirdWorld,you'd have done something insane like deny me hot water for a month.