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The Curse of the Frog






 

Madame Zurga terrifies people who come to have their fortunes told, Nancy! They think shes a witch. She frightens them so badly, theyll do whatever she tells them to!

Nancy Drew listened sympathetically to the gypsy girl seated across the table from her in the Romany Tearoom. Mary Lukash had on gold earrings, a kerchief tied around her head, a long colorful skirt, and tinkly bracelets and necklaces. She spoke and behaved however like any other American teenager.

What exactly do you want me to do, Mary? asked the reddish-blond-haired detective.

Youre so good at solving mysteries, Nancy! Cant you expose Madame Zurgas trickery? If you dont, Im afraid shell give all the gypsies around here a bad name with the police!

Cant your own people do anything about her?

Mary Lukash sadly shook her head, her long blue-black hair swaying about her shoulders. No, theyre almost as much afraid of her as her customers are. When the chief of our tribe ordered her to stop scaring and cheating people, she just sneered and threatened to put the frog curse on him! He has no power over her.

The frog curse? Nancy stared in surprise at the gypsy girl. Whats that?

Im not sure myself. All I can tell you is that Madame Zurga has a strange frog with some sort of weird powers. Even gypsies whove seen it come away scared out of their wits. Theyre convinced its possessed by an evil spirit that can haunt them and cause terrible tragedy!

Mary explained that Madame Zurga belonged to a different tribe of gypsies from her own. She had opened her fortune-telling parlor in River Heights only recently.

Nancy already knew that such fortune-tellers sometimes plied their skill at bajour or what police called the badger game as a way to trick their clients out of money while pretending to offer them help with their personal problems.

But many gypsies here in town believe that Madame Zurgas frog is a demon in animal form, sent by the devil himself, Mary went on. They say she could never have learned from our own Romany people how to tame such an evil creature!

Nancy Drew continued talking for a while with her friend in the tearoom, which was owned by Marys parents. She learned that gypsies originally came from India centuries ago and still speak a language called Romany, which is related to the ancient Indian tongue, Sanskrit.

As these people wandered about the world, they supported themselves by their skills at metalworking, as well as in horse trading and animal doctoring. In the Middle Ages, most people thought they were from Egypt, so they became known as gypsies.



Nowadays, Mary told Nancy, American gypsies are more apt to drive vans or station wagons than to ride about in horse-drawn caravans. Many have settled down to work at house painting or driveway paving or selling used cars. Some hold professional positions. But others still prefer to keep on the move.

What delicious tea! Nancy said as she sipped the last fragrant cup from the pot.

Mary smiled proudly. My mother blends it with herbs and flavorings known only to gypsies.

Rising to go, Nancy promised to investigate Madame Zurga. Im not sure anyone can stop her from telling fortunes, Nancy informed the gypsy girl. But Ill certainly try to find out how she frightens people so badly with her weird frog curse. She cant be allowed to scare people out of their money.

Outside the tearoom, Nancy took the wheel of her blue sports car. Only four oclock, she noted, glancing at her wristwatch. That should give me time enough to visit Madame Zurga before dinner.

The fortune-telling parlor was located in what had once been a store, across the street from Riverview Park. A sign on the curtained window read: MADAME ZURGA, ORIENTAL PALMIST, CRYSTAL-GAZER & SPIRITUAL ADVISER.

Below that, another sign advised passersby to CONSULT MADAME ZURGA ABOUT ALL YOUR PERSONAL PROBLEMS!

She certainly has confidence in her own powers, Nancy thought, repressing a wry smile. That all could take in everything from how to pay your bills to overcoming shynessor clearing up warts!

A gong sounded in the back of the store as she entered. Nancy found herself in a small, bare room furnished only with a folding chair and a painting on the wall of a beautiful gypsy woman with a mysterious light shining all around her head.



Nancy sat down to wait. As her gaze flickered about the room, she noticed the eyes of the gypsy woman in the picture moved slightly. Again the young detective tried not to smile. She realized that Madame Zurga was studying her latest client.

Presently a voice spoke over a concealed intercom: You may now enter the spiritual chamber! It was a womans voice, but powerful and hypnotic and almost as deep as a mans.

Nancy got up and went through a curtained doorway into a back room. Its walls were hung with dark purple drapes which seemed to muffle sound. In the center of the room were two chairs and a small table bearing a crystal ball. A burning cone of incense by a wall stand filled the chamber with a strange scent.

But what caught Nancys interest at once was a large green frog. It was perched on the table near the crystal ball. Its bulging eyes glared at her with a sinister intensity.

This must be the frog Mary Lukash told me about, Nancy thought. At first the creature seemed so real she assumed it was alive. But when it remained motionless, Nancy realized the frog was only a stuffed one, prepared by a skilled taxidermist.

Nevertheless, she pulled her chair safely away from the repulsive green creature before sitting down. Her head was beginning to ache, and the room seemed to waver before her eyes.

The incense fumes must be making me woozy, Nancy reflected in annoyance.

Oriental music began to play. Almost as if the gypsy fortune-teller had read the girls mind, the air gradually seemed to clear. But Nancys headache did not go away.

The curtains parted, and Madame Zurga entered the chamber. The fortune-teller was a tall, imposing woman with a beak nose, glowing dark eyes, and heavy black brows. She was dressed in gypsy fashion with a colorful kerchief on her head, a long green-and-yellow gown, and golden bangles, necklace, and earrings.

Good afternoon, Miss Drew, she intoned, seating herself across the table.

Nancy blinked in amazement. How did Madame Zurga know her name? Was it possible that the fortune-teller really did have occult powers?

Hold the frog in your two hands, the gypsy woman ordered.

Nancys skin crawled at the thought of touching the slimy object. She tried to protest, yet somehow the right words failed to come to her lips.

Pick up the frog! Madame Zurga insisted sharply. Its magical vibrations help me peer into the future and foresee what life holds for you!

Nancy found herself meekly obeying. The swarthy gypsy woman began to chant eerily in a strange language which Nancy guessed must be Romany.

Suddenly Nancys heart skipped a beat. The frog seemed to be coming alive in her hands! She could feel its throat throbbing in and out. It was actually croaking! Glup! Glup! Glup!

Nancy wanted to drop the creature like a hot coal. But Madame Zurgas dark eyes fixed her with a piercing glare. Do not let go of the frog! she hissed, or its curse will strike you!

The gypsys gaze returned to her crystal ball. I see grave trouble ahead for both you and your father, she droned. He is an attorney, is he not?

Again her eyes drilled into those of the young detective. Nancy nodded.

Some unknown enemy is plotting against youI can sense his evil power! Madame Zurga declared. The trouble has to do with your fathers law practice. What important cases is he handling? II c-c-cant tell you, Nancy mumbled. L-lawyers arent allowed to d-discuss their clients af-f-fairs with outsiders!

Wait! the gypsy exclaimed. I see the trouble now. Your enemy has placed a curse on something in your fathers office safe. It must be removed at once, or you both may die! Only I can save you from such a curse. Tell me! What is the combination to his safe?

Nancys brain was in a whirl. She could not seem to focus her thoughts. Nevertheless, she sensed that if she stayed in Madame Zurgas fortune-telling parlor any longer, she might give up all sorts of private family information!

But was she brave enough to defy the gypsy womans threatened curse?

Nancy let go of the frog and stood up. Plucking some money from her purse, she dropped it on the table and hurried out of the purple-draped chamber.

Behind her, she heard an angry outburst from Madame Zurga, ordering her to remain. The commands were followed by a sneering laugh when the gypsy saw that her teenage client had no intention of obeying.

Outside, Nancy took a deep breath of fresh air. Then she walked across the street into Riverview Park. Stopping at a refreshment stand, she bought some orangeade. A few swallows of the ice-cold drink helped to clear her head. She was feeling much better now.

Whatever came over me? Nancy wondered. When she fled from the fortune-telling parlor, she had found herself halfway believing that Madame Zurga really possessed occult powers or second sight.

But now, bit by bit, it was all becoming clear

How had the gypsy known her name, or the fact that her father was a lawyer? Nothing very surprising about that. Nancys picture often appeared in the paper, in connection with the mysteries she solved. Madame Zurga had simply recognized her.

No doubt the incense gave off some sort of anesthetic fumes. When customers inhaled the vapor, it left them too giddy and confused to hold back any secrets from the gypsy fortune-teller. No wonder Nancy had felt so woozy!

The Oriental music probably covered the sound of an exhaust fan which drew off the fumes and cleared the air before Madame Zurga made her appearance.

But what about the frog? In her imagination, Nancy could still feel the horrid creature breathing in and out, and hear its ominous croaking!

Oh, Nancy! a voice called out.

The young sleuth turned and saw a school friend named Nicole Lamar hurrying toward her. Hi, Nikki! Where did you come from?

Across the street. Nicole seemed a bit breathless. Didnt I just see you coming out of Madame Zurgas fortune-telling parlor?

Nancy nodded, smiling ruefully. Mary Lukash suspects the woman is running a racket that may get all the local gypsies in trouble with the law. So she asked me to expose her, but I almost got victimized myself!

Oh, Nancy, did you really? Thats exactly what I wanted to talk to you about!

Nicole was an orphan, who lived with her unmarried cousin, Yvette Lamar. She related that Ms. Lamar had long been a fan of fortune-tellers. So when Madame Zurga opened her parlor in River Heights, Yvette had immediately gone to consult her.

When my cousin got home that evening, I could see she was upset and frightened, Nikki went on, but she wouldnt tell me what was wrong. Then, a few days later, she went to see Madame Zurga again, and came home looking even worse. Since then, shes been going to Madame Zurgas fortune-telling parlor two or three times a week and its turning her into a nervous wreck!

Do you know what she consults Madame Zurga about? asked Nancy.

Nicole shook her head. Not really. At first I think she went mostly in fun. Cousin Yvette just likes to hear fortune-tellers predict what will happen to her next week or next year, and whether she may take a long trip or meet a man she could fall in love with and marry. But Madame Zurga must had told her something that really scared her! Somehow I have a feeling its connected with the past.

Nancy knit her brows. But you have no idea what it is shes afraid of?

Nikki hesitated. This is just a guess, but would you laugh if I said Cousin Yvette seems to think shes being haunted?

Of course not. That doesnt mean I believe in ghosts myself, Nikki, but a lot of people do.

Well, heres something else that may sound even sillier. She seems to have an absolute phobia about frogs! We were strolling along the riverbank yesterday evening about sunset, near the marshes, when a frog suddenly began croaking. Cousin Yvette was so scared, she almost jumped out of her skin!

Nancy smiled grimly. That doesnt surprise me. She described the frog Madame Zurga uses to frighten her clients. Nikki shuddered upon hearing how the creature seemed to breathe and croak when held.

Oh, Nancy! Please do me a favor, she begged. Todays Friday. Would you come and stay with me over the weekend, and see if you can find out whats troubling Cousin Yvette?

Nancy felt sure that Ms. Lamars problem must be connected with Madame Zurgas fortune-telling scam. Clearing up one mystery might help to solve the other as well.

All right, she agreed. Come home with me first while I pack some things and tell Hannah. Then Ill drive us to your place.

Nikki and her cousin lived in a comfortable old stone house on the outskirts of River Heights. Nancy had already met Yvette Lamar. She was a kindly, attractive woman in her late forties, but now her face showed signs of strain and sleeplessness.

Over dinner that evening, Nancy drew Ms. Lamar into conversation about her background. Nikki says you come from the Island of Martinique in the West Indies, she remarked.

Yes, I lived there with my uncle when I was a little girl, Yvette replied. He was a sailor and fisherman. He took me in and cared for me after my parents died. Then when I was seven or eight, we moved to the United States. He became a ship chandler and did well enough in business to build this house before he retired.

The Lamar family, she added, was originally from Alabama. But her great-grandfather, a Confederate colonel, had gone to the West Indies after the Civil War. Over the years, his descendants had moved back to the United States, one by one. My Uncle Louis was the last one in the family to do so.

Lucky for me he did! said Nikki with a smile. Jumping up from her chair, she gave the middle-aged woman a fond hug before clearing off the main-course dishes to make way for dessert.

Later, when dinner was over and the two girls had helped Cousin Yvette load the dishwasher, all three settled down in the oak-beamed living room to chat and watch television.

What a lovely fireplace! Nancy exclaimed.

My uncle built it himself, said Yvette. He was a jack-of-all-trades and would have been a good stone mason. He even carved that ship design in some of the stones.

Soon after eleven oclock, they retired for the night. Nancys room was directly across the hall from Nicoles. After changing, the two girls talked a while longer as they brushed their hair before going to bed.

Settling down in her own room, Nancy read for a few minutes. When she felt herself getting drowsy, she turned off the light.

It seemed to Nancy as if she had hardly drifted off to sleep when she awoke with a start. A scream echoed throughout the house!

Nancy sprang out of bed and pulled on a robe. Nikki was already poking her head out of her own doorway. She looked pale and frightened.

That was Cousin Yvette! she gasped.

Wheres her room? Nancy asked.

On the other side of the house.

Just then another faint scream was heard!

Come on! Lets find out whats wrong! Nancy urged.

Together the two girls ran to Ms. Lamars room, Nikki pointing the way. A muffled croak came from somewhere inside. Nancy knocked hastily, then flung open the door.

Cousin Yvette was sitting upright in bed, big-eyed with fear. L-l-look! she quavered, and with a trembling hand pointed to the window.

The ghostly, glowing apparition of a frog could be seen on the window curtain!

Another croak reverberated, then another and another. Glup . Glup . Glup.

It sounded exactly like the repulsive frog in Madame Zurgas fortune-telling parlor!

The two girls stood totally still, shocked by the vision. But Nancy quickly snapped out of her trance and ran to the window.

As she did so, the ghostly frog faded from view. Nancy pulled aside the curtain and peered out into the darkness. Nothing seemed to be moving on the grounds or in the garden. All that was visible were the moonlit forms of trees and shrubbery.

Nancy turned back from the window and saw that Cousin Yvette was still shaking with fright.

Lets make some cocoa, Nancy said to Nicole. Then we can talk about what happened.

By the time all three were seated in the bright, cozy living room, sipping their hot drinks, the girls mood had become more cheerful. Even Cousin Yvette seemed to take heart from Nancys calm, matter-of-fact manner.

Were we all just imagining things? Yvette asked.

Nancy shook her head. No, we did hear croaks, and that glowing frog did appear in your window. But I doubt that it was a ghost or anything else supernatural.

Then what were we seeing?

Im not sure. I have a vague idea, but theres no use discussing it until it can be checked out. Nancy hesitated, then said, Tell me, have you always been afraid of frogs?

Ms. Lamar frowned and passed a hand over her forehead. I I dont really know. Perhaps something happened once that made them seem unpleasant. I guess I just never thought about it until until I went to see a fortune-teller recently.

Madame Zurga?

Yes! On learning that Nancy too had visited the gypsy woman and handled the weird frog, Cousin Yvette seemed relieved and willing to talk more freely. It was right after I started going to Madame Zurga, she related, that I began having nightmares and seeing that horrible frog.

Then tonight wasnt the first time? Nancy inquired.

Oh, no! I keep seeing the frog and hearing it croak night after night!

Has Madame Zurga offered to help you?

Yes, but mostly she just asks me questions about my past life, and especially about my Uncle Louis.

Ms. Lamar said that, although she was only a small child at the time, she remembered that when they had moved from the West Indies to the United States, her uncle had seemed worried and fearful, as if afraid some terrible misfortune might befall them.

But none ever did? Nancy asked.

Far from it. His business prospered and our life was very happy. But during his final illness, he started worrying again.

Just before he died, Cousin Yvette continued, my uncle murmured, Seven stones tell the truth. But it is better that my secret remain bottled up forever!

Nancy and Nikki exchanged puzzled looks.

Did you tell that to Madame Zurga? Nancy asked.

Yes, and I also gave her a bottle of stones. Ms. Lamar explained that after her uncle passed away, she had found the bottle on his closet shelf. It contained exactly seven stones.

They look like ordinary pebbles to me, she went on. But I kept them, anyhow. When I gave them to Madame Zurga, I didnt think she could discover anything special about them. At any rate, she keeps telling me that if I want to save myself from the Curse of the Frog, I must find out my uncles secret and tell it to her.

There was a brief silence. Nikki had kindled a small fire behind the grate to ward off the nights chill. Nancy gazed thoughtfully into the flickering flames while she tried to unravel the mystery. As she turned back to face her two companions, she gave a sudden start.

Your uncle mentioned seven stones? she asked.

Yes. Why?

Nancy pointed to the fireplace. There are exactly seven of those stones that your Uncle Louis carved a ship on!

Both Cousin Yvette and Nikki were startled by the odd coincidence. But neither they nor the girl detective could figure out what it might mean. The stones were arranged like an upside-down V enclosing the fireplace opening. When Nancy tested them, she found that all were firmly mortared in place and could not be moved.

Next morning, directly after breakfast, the doorbell rang. Nikki went to answer. A few moments later she ushered a tall, craggy-faced man with brush-cut iron-gray hair into the room. He held his hat in one hand and had a camera slung around his neck.

Nikki introduced him. This is Mr. Karnak. He writes pieces for an interior decoration magazine, and would like to do a feature story on your fireplace, Cousin Yvette.

Someone told our editor about it, he explained, and mentioned the beautiful hand-carved stones. Do you mind if I photograph them? As he spoke, his eyes were busy studying the carvings.

Ms. Lamar readily gave permission. Mr. Karnak snapped a number of pictures, moving closer and closer to the fireplace as he did so.

When he finished photographing, he took out a small penknife and tried to insert the blade around the edges of one of the carved stones.

Nancy, who had been watching all this with a slight frown, suddenly spoke up. What are you doing, Mr. Karnak?

Just, er, seeing if any of the stones are loose. I thought Ms. Lamar might let me take them to my studio, so I could photograph them close-up in better lighting.

Wouldnt it be more polite to ask her permission before you scrape away any of the mortar? As the mans gaze flickered uncertainly toward Ms. Lamar, Nancy went on, In any case, I can tell you the stones arent loose and dont come out. What magazine did you say you write for, Mr. Karnak?

I didnt say.

Then would you care to tell us now? And also who mentioned the fireplace to your editor?

The visitors expression hardened nastily. You dont seem to trust me, young lady. Ive been a writer for years, and I certainly dont have to show you my credentials!

Turning to his hostess, he added huffily, If Im intruding where Im not wanted, Ms. Lamar, please forgive me!

Without another word, Karnak stalked out of the room and left the house. Nancy and Nikki watched from the window as he drove away.

Nancy had spoken on the spur of the moment, and the incident left her a bit upset. Please forgive me if I spoke out of turn, she said to her hostess. Somehow I dont trust that man.

Dont worry, dear, Im glad you questioned him as you did, Ms. Lamar assured her. In my opinion, you took exactly the right tone. One cant be too careful of strangers these days!

After an early lunch, Nancy excused herself for an hour or two. She explained that she had to shop for a gift for a friends three-year-old child. Id ask you to come with me, Nikki, she added privately, but after that queer visit from Mr. Karnak, I think it might be best not to leave your cousin here alone.

Toward evening, it began to rain and the wind rose. After dinner, Cousin Yvette and the two girls gathered in front of the fireplace. Yvette described a thrilling rescue at sea which her uncle had once told her about.

If only I knew the secret that worried him all those years. She sighed. Somehow I feel thats the key to whatever is haunting this house.

Is his room still the way it was when he died? Nancy asked.

Yes, everythings exactly as he left it. Would you like to see for yourself?

Very much. We might find a clue.

The big, chintz-curtained bedroom clearly bespoke a seafaring man. In the closet hung a broad-brimmed souwester hat and oil-skins; a brass-bound telescope stood on a worktable near the windows; and on the dresser lay several scrimshawed ivory knickknacks.

Gazing about the room, Nancy ran over Louis Lamars last words in her mind: Seven stones tell the truth. But it is better that my secret remain bottled up forever!

A bottle! Her eyes had just fallen on a hand-crafted toy vessel in a bottle. The vessel was a two-masted schooner. Nancy walked over to examine it more closely. Every bit of canvas, cordage, and other details were scaled to size, evidently by a loving hand. Then she noticed the schooners name, painted in tiny gold letters on the stern counter: La Grenouille.

Nancy gasped excitedly and looked at Ms. Lamar. Do you speak French?

I used to, but Im afraid Ive forgotten most of it. Why?

This schooner is named The Frog !

Cousin Yvettes eyes widened, and her face drained of color. She clapped both hands to her cheeks and sank down heavily on the crazy-quilted bed. Oh no! she murmured in a shocked voice. Now I remember!

Remember what? asked Nikki.

Why frogs seem so dreadful to me! Yvette related that once when she was a little girl in the West Indies, she had gone looking for her uncle along the beach one evening. Spying a glimmer of light from a cave overlooking the sea, she peered inside. To her horror, she saw a group of men with heads like frogs, squatting around a fire!

I was scared to death! she went on. Then one of the creatures jumped up and pulled off his frogs head, and I saw that it was my Uncle Louis. He had just been wearing a mask. By then I was crying and screaming. He calmed me down and took me home and warned me I must never ever tell anyone what Id seen!

How weird! said Nikki with a shudder. What do you suppose he and his friends were doing?

Cousin Yvette shrugged weakly. I cant imagine. But I had nightmares for weeks afterward.

Nancys brain was whirring quickly, seeking further clues. Lets go back to the living room, she exclaimed. Ive just had an idea!

Moments later, pointing to the carved stones of the fireplace, she went on, Youll notice the vessel in all these carvings is a two-masted schooner just like the one in the bottle.

Nicole nodded. Youre rightbut so what?

The seven stones are arranged like an arrowhead pointing up-ward. Im wondering what they point to. Nancy ran her fingers upward from the topmost stonethen stopped just below the mantel. Wait till I get a flashlight from my car!

When she returned, Nancy aimed the flashlight so as to dispel the shadow cast by the mantelpiece. Etched on one of the stones with a line so fine it could barely be seen was the outline of a frog!

And the stones loose! Nancy added, pressing it with her fingers. There was a creaking noise. A bookcase on the right of the fireplace suddenly began to swing outward from the wall!

Look! Nikki gasped. Theres a stone staircase inside!

The steps went downward. Hearts beating nervously, the trio set out to explore where they led. Nancy took the lead, followed by Cousin Yvette, with Nikki bringing up the rear.

At the foot of the stairs was a gloomy passageway. Their steps echoed hollowly in the darkness as they walked along. Guided by the flashlight, they made their way to a stone-walled room.

At the far side of the room stood an old sea chest, with a cement frog perched on top of it. On the wall behind the chest hung a pike or boat hook crossed with an old-time sailors cutlass.

Oh g-g-goodness! said Cousin Yvette in a shaky voice. Dare we open the chest?

Why not? said Nancy boldly. We came down here to solve the mystery, didnt we?

With Nikkis help, she lifted off the heavy cement frog, which had seemed to be protecting the chest like a watchdog. Then they pried open the creaky lid.

The chest was heaped with jewelry! Rings, bracelets, gold watches, necklaces, pearl stickpinsa bewildering variety of valuables! There was also a folded paper, which Nancy opened and read. Nikki, meanwhile, was fingering through the jewelry. Where did all this come from? she asked in an awestruck tone.

Who cares? said a harsh voice which Nancy and her two companions had heard earlier that day. The important thing is youve found it!

All three looked up and saw Mr. Karnak!

The craggy-faced impostor chuckled as he entered the room, clutching a weapon in one hand. Madame Zurga followed close behind. How kind of you to unravel Louis Lamars secret for us, Miss Drew, she taunted. What a pity you wont be able to enjoy the results of your clever detective work!

What makes you think I wont? Nancy said calmly.

Because we intend to shut all three of you up in this underground crypt, rasped Karnak. He stooped down to gloat over the treasure, adding, By the time youre found, if ever, none of you will be alive to tell the police what happened!

Im afraid youre forgetting something, said Nancy.

Indeed? And what might that be, Miss Busybody?

Nancy pointed to the passageway, and her voice sank to a fearful hiss: The Curse of the Frog!

An ominous croaking resounded through the stonewalled chamber. Glup! Glup! Glup!

Karnak stared in open-mouthed disbelief. Madame Zurga clutched her throat with a look of dumbfounded terror. A huge green frog was hopping toward them!

With their attention distracted, Nancy seized her chance. She snatched down the pike and cutlass from the wall! Ned! Catch! she cried, and tossed them through the air.

Her tall, husky boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, and Burt Eddleton, a fellow member of his college football team, had suddenly appeared out of the darkened passageway. Ned caught the pike, and his pal the cutlass.

Before Karnak could collect his wits and react, Ned swung the pike and knocked the crooks weapon from his hand!

 

 

Half an hour later, Karnak and Madame Zurga were seated in the living room with their wrists tied, waiting sullenly for a police car to come and take them away. Ned and Burt, meanwhile, were using an electronic detector to sweep the house for eavesdropping bugs.

II still dont understand where that huge frog came from, said Cousin Yvette in bewilderment.

Nancys eyes twinkled. I bought it today at a toyshop. Ned stuffed a little tape recorder inside to play the croaking noises.

The tape recorder, she explained, came from a clump of bushes under Yvettes bedroom window. Inside it was a tape cassette on which amplified frog croaking had been recorded. And a slide projector hidden inside a hollow tree in the garden had beamed the ghostly picture of a frog at her window curtain. Ned says both the recorder and projector were radio-controlled, Nancy added.

Wait a second! Youre going too fast! Nikki begged. How did you discover all this?

I guessed last night that this was how the ghostly frog trick was played, Nancy replied. It was the only possible explanation. So when I went out to shop, I phoned Ned and asked him to come in quietly through the back garden and search for the equipment without disturbing you two.

Karnaks snooping visit, she went on, convinced her that some- how he must have overheard their conversation about the fire- place stoneswhich meant the house must be bugged.

So I knew if we did find out Uncle Louiss secret, Nancy said, Karnak and Madame Zurga would probably overhear and try to take over. Thats why I had Ned prepare the toy frog and stay around to keep watchso we could use their own trick against them.

Finally, a little more relaxed, Yvette opened the note that had been found in the chest. The letter told where the jewelry came from. As a young man, Yvettes uncle had joined a pirate gang. Wearing frog masks, the gang would attack yachts and cabin cruisers and steal whatever valuables they could find aboard.

Troubled by pangs of guilt, Uncle Louis had finally quit the gang and fled to the United States, taking the loot with him. Stashed at the bottom of the chest was the pirate schooners log, which contained the names of every boat they had robbed. With this information, Louis Lamar hoped someday to return the stolen jewelry to its rightful owners. But hiding out fearfully from the gangs vengeance, he had never found time or courage to carry out his plan.

At the end of his life, he had half hoped, half feared that his niece Yvette would find and return the loot for him. Therefore he had left her various clues. The bottle of pebbles was a red herring to throw off anyone in the gang who might come looking for the treasure.

When the police arrived and questioned Karnak, he sullenly admitted he was the pirate leaders son. Although trained as an electronics engineer, he had spent years trying to track down Louis Lamar.

After finding out Louis was dead, Karnak had learned that his niece Yvette liked to go to fortunetellers. So he hired Madame Zurga to terrorize her into revealing where the treasure was hidden. He himself had posed as a telephone repairman in order to get into the house and plant the bugs.

What about Madame Zurgas frog? asked Nikki, who had listened in fascination while Nancy explained her detective work.

Well, actually, that she used a frog as a means of tempting everyone was just a coincidence. Its a pretty clever frog too. Ned says it probably contains a heat-sensitive switch, replied Nancy. Her boyfriend nodded. Thats right. When the frog gets warm from being held in someones hand, the switch closes. And thats what turns on the mechanism to make it go glup-glup-glup at least, thats my guess.

But if you expect us to go to her fortune-telling parlor tonight and find out for sureno, thanks! Nancy added with a smile. Lets sit here and tell ghost stories!

 



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