EAGERLY Nancy removed the little notebook from the hook. By holding the book directly under the beam of her flashlight, she could make out the words on the cover:
Property of Josiah Crowley.
"I've found it at last!" she thought excitedly.
Quickly turning the first few pages, she saw that they were yellowed with age. The writing was fine and cramped, and the ink had faded. The pages were crowded with business notations, and it was difficult to make out the words.
Nancy was thrilled, for she was positive that the notebook would disclose what Josiah Crowley had done with his last will. Yet, she realized that she could not hope to read through the book without a considerable loss of precious time. She must not delay another instant in reporting to the police.
"I'll read the notebook later," she decided, and tucked it into her pocket. Then she put the clock together.
Hurriedly laying the timepiece back on the car seat, Nancy covered it with her coat and slid behind the wheel. Starting the engine, she swung the convertible onto the highway. Nancy cast an anxious glance in the direction the thieves had taken, and watched for side roads down which the men might turn to avoid the main highway.
"Perhaps I'd better phone the State Police from the first service station or store I come to."
Then suddenly she noticed a sign: Alternate route to Garwin. Main road under repair.
Reaching the intersection, she stopped to see if the familiar tire marks of the van indicated it had turned onto this dirt road. It had!
"Now what shall I do?"
As Nancy debated, she saw a car coming toward her. Her hopes soared. She could not be mistaken—it was a police prowl car with a red revolving roof light!
Instantly Nancy grabbed her own flashlight and jumped from the car. Standing at the side of the road, she waved her light and in a few minutes the police sedan stopped.
"I'm Nancy Drew," she said hurriedly to the two men inside. "Are you looking for the furniture thieves in the van?"
"Yes, we are. You're the girl who reported them?"
Nancy nodded, then pointed down the side road. "I think those are their tire marks. The men were at the Black Horse Inn, but left."
"You can identify them?" the driver asked.
"Then please follow us. I'll radio for a car to approach the thieves' van from the other end of the road."
The police car sped down the bad road to Garwin, with Nancy following closely behind. They rode for several miles.
"Oh dear," thought Nancy, "I must have been wrong! We should have overtaken the van by this time."
Another ten minutes passed. Then, unexpectedly, she caught a glimpse of a red taillight on the Toad far ahead.
"It must be the van!" Nancy told herself hopefully. "The light doesn't appear to be moving fast enough for an automobile."
Evidently the police were of the same opinion, for at that moment their car slowed down. Nancy figured they would not stop the van until they saw the other police car arriving from the opposite direction. A few moments later she could see headlights in the distance.
The squad car in front of Nancy now sped ahead and pulled up alongside the van. "Pull over" one of the officers shouted to the man in the cab.
Instead of doing so, the van put on a burst of speed. But in order to avoid smashing into the oncoming squad car, the driver pulled too far to the right. The van swerved sharply. Its two right wheels went off into a deep ditch, and the vehicle toppled over.
In an instant the officers were out of the car and had the fugitives covered.
By this time Nancy, who had stopped her car at the side of the road, came running up. One of the officers turned to her and asked, "Can you identify these men?"
As a light was flashed upon each of the thieves in turn, Nancy nodded. "This one is Sid, who locked me in the closet," she declared, pointing to the leader. "The others are Jake and Parky."
The prisoners stared in complete disbelief. They were astounded to see Nancy Drew standing there. When it dawned on Sid that she evidently was responsible for their capture, he started to say something, then changed his mind and remained silent The prisoners were quickly identified from licenses and other papers as wanted criminals.
One of the other officers opened the rear of the van and asked Nancy if she could identify the stolen furniture.
"Some of it," she replied. "That desk was taken from the room in which I was locked in the closet."
"Good enough," said the trooper. "These men will get long sentences for this. They'll be held on several charges. Are you willing to go with us and prefer charges against them?"
"Yes, if it's necessary," Nancy promised reluctantly. "But I don't live in this county and I'm eager to get home right away. Don't you have enough evidence against them? I think they're the same men who stole several silver heirlooms from the Turner sisters."
Sid and his companions winced, but did not speak.
"I see," said the trooper. "Well, I guess there's no need for you to go to headquarters now," the officer admitted. "I'll take your address, and if your testimony should be required, I'll get in touch with you."
When Nancy showed her driver's license as identification, the policeman glanced at her with new interest. Taking her aside, he said, "So you're the daughter of Carson Drew! I see you're following in his footsteps. Starting rather young, aren't you?"
Nancy laughed. "It was only by accident that I arrived at the Topham bungalow at the critical moment," she protested modestly.
"Not many girls would have used their wits the way you did," the officer observed. "Unless I'm mistaken, these fellows are old hands at this game. They're no doubt the men who have been stealing various things from around Moon Lake for a number of seasons. The residents will be mighty grateful for what you've done. And that Mrs. Topham you spoke of—she ought to give you a liberal reward for saving her household goods."
Nancy shook her head. "I don't want a reward, really I don't."
"Just the same you've earned one," insisted the officer, who said his name was Cowen. "If you'd like, I'll tell my chief the whole story and he'll take the matter up with this Mrs. Topham."
"You don't know her," Nancy remarked, "and I do. She'd never offer a reward. Even if she did, I wouldn't accept it." After a slight