Vacation season is upon us. If you’re flying to your destination, why not take a moment to reminisce about air travel in the simpler days of Nancy Drew, when nobody worried about the TSA, or Homeland Security — or security of any kind, for that matter!
In The Clue of the Black Keys, Nancy returns from a weekend in New York and finds a young professor named Terry waiting for her at the River Heights airport. As he tries to enlist her help in solving a mystery, a bad guy attempts to steal an ancient key. And how do we know he’s a bad guy? He was “dark, short. Sort of a crooked mouth and beady eyes.”
Nancy and the professor hail a policeman in the terminal and they all take up chase in Nancy’s car, following a blue sedan down the highway towards River Heights, then right back to the airport.
The sedan was well ahead, but Nancy kept gaining. … But just as she approached the far side of the airfield, the blue sedan suddenly swerved from the road. Swaying dizzily, it swung across a rough field and onto the runway. Nancy started to follow, then jammed on her brakes. Her car screeched to a stop, but the sedan kept on directly in the path of an incoming plane.
“There’ll be a crash!” Nancy cried out.
But, no. The driver manages to avoid the plane and then jumps out of the car. He is too tall to be the man who almost stole the key, so while the officer goes to apprehend him, Nancy scans the area for the would-be thief. Sure enough, she spies him in the tall grass on the far side of the runway, running toward the airport building. Nancy and the professor take up chase once again.
As Nancy parked, she and Terry heard the roar of an outgoing plane. A crowd of onlookers were waving good-by.
“Must be that Florida Special I saw chalked up on the flight board,” Terry remarked.
Florida! An idea flashed into Nancy’s mind. The plane was bound for Florida—and the license on the blue sedan was Florida! Was there a connection?
“Let’s go to the ticket office and inquire about the passengers,” she said excitedly.
Nancy quickly gained the attention of a clerk. “May I see the list of passengers who boarded that Florida plane?” she asked.
Although, the name of the would-be thief is not on the list, the clerk says all of the passengers with reservations did indeed claim their seats, including one who came rushing up at the last minute. And here’s a clue that he was the bad guy — his wife had a “brassy voice.” By this point, Officer Malloy is leading the driver of the blue sedan across the parking lot.
“Arrest me, will you?” he roared. “It’s this girl — you said her name’s Nancy Drew — she’s the one you ought to arrest! … She sent you to embarrass me. Look how everybody’s staring at me, as if I was going to jail. She’s hurt my good name. I’ve been doing business in River Heights and people know me. My reputation is worth money. My business—”
“What kind of business?” interrupted the sergeant.
“I sell citrus fruit for the Tropical Sun Fruit Company of Florida.”
The man swears he had never met his mysterious passenger before. The thief had begged him for a ride to the airport, then “made me drive onto the field so he wouldn’t miss his plane.”
“And you nearly killed yourself and all the plane passengers just to accommodate a stranger?” Malloy said sarcastically.
“It wasn’t my fault. He grabbed the wheel.”… He turned his fury on Nancy. “You’re responsible. If there’d been a crash, you’d have been to blame!”
And how does the police officer respond? He lets the man go! But at least he gives him a stern warning.
“You’d better quiet down, or I’ll arrest you for disturbing the peace. Sell all the grapefruit you want, but behave yourself. I’ll be watching you.”
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