Expectantly Nancy waited. But the door did not open. Then she heard to her dismay:
"If that ain't the limit. The key's gone and I've left my ring of extra keys somewhere. It's not in my pockets."
Nancy groaned. "Oh, Mr. Tucker, you must find it. Have you looked in every one of your pockets? Please hurry and get me out."
"Hold on, ma'am," the caretaker said soothingly. "I'll just check again."
Nancy was beginning to think she would still have to break down the door, when she heard Jeff Tucker exclaim, "Found it! You were right, ma'am. Key was in my back pocket all the time. It—"
"Please open the door!" Nancy broke in desperately.
A key turned in the lock and the bolt clicked. Joyfully Nancy pushed the door open and stepped out. For a moment the bright sunlight in the room almost blinded her. When her vision adjusted, she saw a very tall, thin, elderly man in blue shirt and overalls. He stared at her with concern and amazement.
"Mr. Tucker," she explained quickly, "I'm Nancy Drew. I was here looking for you when those awful thieves came and locked me in the closet." She paused and gazed at the caretaker. "I'm glad to see that you're all right. Their leader told me they'd locked you up too." She then asked the elderly man to tell his story.
Jeff Tucker seemed embarrassed as he began to speak. "I was plain hornswoggled by those critters, Miss Drew. They pulled up here in a movin' van, and told me I'd better get after some trespassers they'd seen nearby. So," the elderly man went on with a sigh, "I believed 'em. One of the men went with me down to the lake and locked me in a shed. I just got out." He shook his head sadly. "And all this time they was robbin' the place. Guess I'll be fired."
Secretly Nancy was inclined to agree, knowing the Tophams. But aloud she said reassuringly:
"Don't worry, Mr. Tucker. We'll report this robbery to the State Police immediately. Perhaps the troopers can catch the thieves before they get rid of the stolen furniture."
The caretaker looked somewhat relieved. "And I can sure give a good description o' those crooks. I'd never forget their ugly faces!"
"Fine," said Nancy. A sudden thought struck her. "Oh, before we go, Mr. Tucker, tell me, was there an old clock in this house? A tall, square-faced mantel clock?"
Jeff Tucker's bright blue eyes squinted. "Mantel clock? Hm. Why, sure enough!" He pointed to the mantel over the living-room fireplace. "Sat right up there. Got so used to seein' it, I couldn't remember for a minute. Don't know how come they took that too. Never thought it was worth much. The Tophams never bothered windin' the thing."
Nancy's pulse quickened. Knowing that the clock had been stolen, she was more eager than ever to have the thieves apprehended. She urged Jeff Tucker to hurry out to her car.
"Where's the nearest State Police headquarters?" she asked him as they climbed into the convertible.
"There's none till you get to Melborne, Miss Drew."
Nancy headed as fast as possible for the highway. Would she succeed in heading off the thieves and recovering the old Crowley clock, so she could learn its secret?