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THE FAMILY GHOST






 

Who are you? she asked, turning abruptly.

The ghostly being had disappeared!

Nancys pulse skipped a beat. What was this strange vision?

Nancy tried to find the hooded ghost, but he had vanished in the evening dusk. She ran up to passing joggers and asked if they had seen him. Most of them said no, but two pointed off among some trees.

Nancy ran to the wooded area, but failed to locate the mysterious figure. As she started back, her pulse skipped another beat. For a moment, she thought she saw a flash of white in between the trees, but when she arrived at the spot there was nothing there.

Anxiously, the girl detective hurried back to the joggers, joined them to the park entrance, then dashed outside. Minutes later she reached home and burst into the living room.

Hannah Gruen, the motherly housekeeper for Nancy and her father, was in the den watching a newscast on TV. She looked up quickly and gasped.

Nancy, youre as white as a sheet. This jogging is too much for you. Youd better ease up a bit.

Oh, Hannah, dear, Im all right. I just had a little scare, thats all.

A mugger? Mrs. Gruen asked nervously.

No. A ghost. Nancy told Mrs. Gruen about the incident.

I wonder the housekeeper said, but did not go on.

You wonder what? Nancy prodded her.

If a story on the news could tie in with your adventure.

What was the newscast about? Nancy asked.

That two children, a brother and sister, aged eight and ten, are missing. Its not known if they ran away deliberately, wandered off and are lost, or were kidnapped. The police have no clues.

How dreadful! Nancy replied, then perked up. And you think, Hannah, that the ghost jogger may know something about it?

Mrs. Gruen smiled. Ill go a step further. I think he wants you to solve the mystery!

Why, Hannah, youre becoming a regular armchair investigator, Nancy commented with a grin. I wonder if you could possibly be right, she added, turning her attention to the newscast and hoping the segment about the children would be repeated. It was not. She turned the dial on the set to several other channels but learned nothing more about the case.

Nancy turned off the television and sat lost in thought. What should she do? Work on the clue the ghost had given her, or wait until she saw him again? A few minutes later, Nancy picked up the phone and called George. No, Im all right, Nancy spoke from her end of the line, but I had a terrible scare in the park after we were separated. Can you go with me tomorrow morning to chase down a clue or two?

Sure. A new mystery?



I think so. Okay. Ill pick you up at ten. Is Bess free?

No. I think she has plans tomorrow.

As soon as George was in Nancys car the next day, she asked for a full explanation of where they were going and why.

We have to find a deserted barn with a flaming red horse on it.

Sounds rather hard to find, George commented. Whats the story?

Im not sure, but possibly those two missing children are being held there.

Wow! George exclaimed. And you expect me to help you rescue them?

You guessed it.

Ill take a raincheck, said George with a joking smile. If this is a kidnapping case, whats the ransom?

For an answer Nancy told her friend about the ghostly being that passed a note to her. Then Hannah heard the broadcast about the missing children and put two and two together. We may be on a wild goose chase, but if youre game

You mean a wild horse chase! George chimed in. Okay, Nancy, lets go. But where to?

I wish I knew, Nancy replied. Just keep your sharp eyes open. She drove for several miles into the country before they saw a barn that appeared deserted.

Look! cried George. A hex sign with a flaming red horse.

Nancy stopped the car behind some bushes near the entrance to a weed-filled driveway. Wed better walk in, she said.

As they neared the old barn the girls became aware of voices inside. I dont want to go to the lake. I want to go home! cried a high-pitched voice. I wonder if its a childs, Nancy thought.

Nancy and George quietly sneaked up to a side door of the old barn. They were just in time to see two men and a woman. One man was holding a little girl, who was struggling to get away. The other man, dark-haired and heavy-set, carried a boy, who was kicking and punching his captor.



Stop that, you brat! the man commanded, but the boy did not obey.

Help! Help! the little girl cried out.

The two men, grasping the children tightly, rushed out the big front door of the barn toward a waiting dark-colored station wagon. They put the boy and girl in the back, then jumped into the front seat. The woman had gone ahead, started the car, and now sent it roaring off.

Quick! Nancy exclaimed. Lets go!

She and George raced back to her car and in seconds were following the station wagon along the country road. Suddenly Nancy groaned. Her convertible was slowing down. The needle on the gas gauge pointed to EMPTY. As the engine finally died, Nancy turned the car off the road.

While this was going on, George kept her eyes focused on the fleeing station wagon. At a fork in the road just ahead it took the branch to the left and disappeared.

Rotten luck, Nancy, and we never got close enough to get the license number, George exclaimed. If only we knew where they were headed. Those poor children. That gas gauge must have been stuck. It registered almost full when we started.

I know, Nancy replied with concern. Weve got to track those people down somehow. I guess now my only chance is seeing the ghost jogger tonight in the park.

George stepped out of the car and waved down an oncoming truck. The kindly driver offered to stop at a service station. There he arranged for an attendant to bring back a can of gasoline to the girls, which he did promptly, poured the fuel into the thirsty tank, then left.

At the first opportunity they called the police with the information. But as Nancy suspected, with nothing but the station wagon as a lead, there was little hope of finding the children.

This time George took the wheel and soon was pulling up in front of her house. Call me later, Nancy, and let me know what happensand be careful!

I promise, Nancy replied, moving over to the drivers seat to head home.

Once there, she quickly changed into her warm-up suit and by seven oclock was down at the park. The weather had turned cool and it was now drizzling.

Nancy found it uncomfortable just standing around looking at the runners faces, so she decided to jog. She had made two trips around the cinder track before the ghost jogger appeared. He was wearing the same long white raincoat and hood. He quickened his pace to reach her and suddenly, a hand shot out again holding a note. Nancy slowed down and opened it.



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