steering wheel, to bring the car back to the center of the narrow road, one hand accidentally touched the horn. It blared loudly in the still woods.
"That must have scared all the birds and animals." Nancy chuckled.
Around a bend in the road, she caught sight of a white bungalow ahead on the right side of the road.
There was no sign at the entrance to the driveway to indicate who the owner was, but a wooded path leading down to the lake looked like the one she had seen from the water.
"I think I'll walk down to the shore and look at the cottage from there," Nancy determined. "Then I'll know for sure if this is the place Helen pointed out."
Nancy parked at the edge of the road and got out. To her surprise, she observed that the truck's tire marks turned into the driveway. A second set of tracks indicated that the vehicle had backed out and gone on down the road.
"Delivering supplies for the summer, no doubt," Nancy told herself.
She went down the path to the water, then turned around to look at the cottage.
"It's the Tophams' all right," Nancy decided.
Instead of coming back by way of the path, she decided to take a short cut through the woods. "With mounting anticipation of solving the Crowley mystery, she reached the road and hurried up the driveway.
"I hope the caretaker is here," she thought
Nancy suddenly stopped short with a gasp of astonishment. "Why, the Tophams must be moving out!"
The front and side doors of the cottage stood wide open. Some of the furniture on the porch was overturned and various small household items were strewn along the driveway.
Nancy bent to examine some marks in the soft earth. She noted that several were boot prints, while others were long lines probably caused by dragging cartons and furniture across the lawn.
"That must have been a moving van's tracks I saw," Nancy told herself. "But the Tophams didn't say anything about moving." She frowned in puzzlement.
Her feeling persisted and grew strong as she walked up the steps of the cottage porch. Nancy knocked loudly on the opened door. No response. Nancy rapped again. Silence.
Where was Jeff Tucker, the caretaker? Why wasn't he on hand to keep an eye on the moving activities? An air of complete desertion hung over the place.
"There's something very strange about this," she thought.
Curious and puzzled, Nancy entered the living room. Again her eyes met a scene of disorder. Except for a few small pieces, the room was bare of furniture. Even the draperies had been pulled from their rods and all floor coverings were gone.
"Hm! Most of the furnishings have been taken out," Nancy thought. "I suppose the movers will be back for the other odds and ends."
She made a careful tour of the first floor. All but one room had been virtually emptied. This was a small study. As Nancy entered it, she noticed that the rug lay rolled up and tied, and some of the furniture had evidently been shifted in readiness for moving.
"Funny I didn't hear anything about the Tophams deciding to give up their cottage," she murmured. "And I must say those moving men were awfully careless—"
A vague suspicion that had been forming in the back of Nancy's mind now came into startling focus. "Those men may not be movers!" she burst out "They may be thieves!"
At once Nancy thought of the dark-gray van which had stopped at the Turners. "Those men may be the same ones who robbed them!"
That would explain, Nancy thought fearfully, the evidences of the truck's hasty departure. "Probably the thieves were scared away when I sounded my horn!"
Nancy glanced about uneasily. What if the men were still nearby, watching for a chance to return and pick up the remaining valuables? The realization that she was alone, some distance from the nearest house, swept over her. A tingling sensation crept up Nancy's spine.
But resolutely she shook off her nervousness. "At least I must see if the Crowley clock is still here," Nancy reminded herself, and then went through the bungalow again.
She found no trace of the timepiece, however. "I guess the thieves took that too," Nancy concluded. "I'd better report this robbery to the police right now." She looked about for a phone but there was none. "I'll have to drive to the nearest State Police headquarters."
Nancy started toward the front door. Passing a window, she glanced out, then paused in sheer fright. A man, wearing a cap pulled low over his eyes, was stalking up the driveway toward the cottage. He was not tall and slender like the caretaker. This stranger was rather short and heavy-set.
"This man fits the Turners' description! He must be one of the thieves who stole the silver heirlooms!" Nancy thought wildly.