The Buried Keys to Nancy Drew

Lynn Mundell

9. The Secret at Gateside Drive

It’s summer, birthday party season. Nancy dresses as a pool boy to gain access to Cindy Elton’s property. Peering through the Cyperus papyrus, she observes her classmates cannonballing into the water. On a notepad she records names, styles/colors of bathing suits, and number of times each laughs over a three-minute period. Casually strolling to the gift table, she drops off a wrapped homemade fingerprint-dusting kit before idly netting leaves at the shallow end. Her mustache itches. “Nancy, if I’d wanted you here, I’d have invited you.” Cindy’s braces flash like switchblades in the sunlight. Sue-Beth Powers, red two-piece, frequent laugher, floats by on an inflatable shark. “Yeah, Nancy, get a clue.”

31. The Riddle of the Missing Husband

The camping trip over Independence Day weekend only becomes awkward at nightfall, when the three couples pair off to stake their tents while Nancy and Ed unroll blankets on opposite sides of the firepit. “Okay there, Sport?” Will yells to Nancy, who replies, “A-okay.” It’s a puzzle why her college friends gave her this nickname. It began sometime before Will broke up with her to marry Margot, but after she lost Dicky to Ann, then Sheldon to Gloria. She’s mulling this over when fireworks explode across the lake. At the same time, Ed passes her his beer, their hands brushing. Ed, whom Gloria left at the altar and whom the others call “Chum.” Ed, who’s only ever called her Nancy, or Nancy darling, as he’s doing now, while everything around her is suddenly illuminated.

54. The Trouble in the Empty Field

With the last school forms Nancy will ever complete for the twins, her pen hovers over the bottom line where she’s to finally describe herself. For years she’d just written Mother. Once she tried Homemaker, an unsatisfying word. Beyond her clients and Captain McPherson, only Ed knows she is a private investigator. Nancy is actually many things—master dahlia grower, horsewoman, inventor of the neighborhood’s popular crockpot White Russian—but she’s not a blabbermouth. Another crime pulls her away from her desk for a week. When she returns to the paperwork, she finds it completed by Laura. At the end, her eldest (by two minutes) has revealed everything she knows of her mother while keeping her hidden in plain sight: “Nancy Drew     Surveyor.”

87. The Case of the Home Health Nurse

Nancy peers from her bedside window as Matilda is led to the police car. She’d dreaded the nurse’s cold sponge baths and even frostier replies when Nancy asked her to please not shut off the lights when she was reading her mysteries. But then Matilda turned the mattress, with Nancy begging her to stop, crying that she liked the side with Ed’s imprint still in it. “Nancy, don’t be a baby,” Matilda had shouted. Who says that to an old woman? Nancy’s daughters missed the signs. The bruises on her arms. But today Dora immediately found the pearl necklace spilling out of Matilda’s medical case. If you can’t get them for the crime they committed, nail them on something else. The police chief taught Nancy that. Everything else she discovered on her own.

Lynn Mundell’s work has been published in SmokeLong Quarterly, Five Points, Tin House, and elsewhere, placed in the Wigleaf Top 50 Very Short Fictions short and long lists between 2017 and 2020, and earned first in the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction. She lives with her family in the Bay Area, where she co-edits 100 Word Story. Follow her on Twitter at @lynnfmundell.

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