pause, she added, "In fact, I prefer that my name not be mentioned to her at all."
Officer Cowen shook his head in disbelief. "Well, all right, then. If you're sure you don't want any credit for capturing the thieves, I won't say anything. You're certain?"
"I am," Nancy replied firmly, "for a particular reason of my own."
The trooper smiled. "It must be a mighty good one."
"There is one favor you might do me," said Nancy. "Ask your chief to put in a good word for the caretaker, Jeff Tucker, to the Tophams. Perhaps then he won't lose his job."
"Be glad to," Officer Cowen promised. "And if you're really anxious not to figure in the case, I'll see if we can get along without your testimony."
Nancy thanked him, then suddenly thought of the old clock. At the moment it was lying on the front seat of her car, less than a dozen yards away. Should she reveal this information? She decided against doing so in front of the thieves, who,, though they could not hear what she had been saying, could see everything plainly. "I'll wait until a more opportune time," Nancy concluded.
It was agreed among the state policemen that one of them would stay to guard the van and keep a radio car standing by there. The other three troopers would take the captive thieves to headquarters.
The three prisoners, their faces sullen, were crowded into the car. One of the troopers took the wheel, while the one beside him kept the handcuffed trio closely covered.
Officer Cowen, a strapping, husky man, turned to Nancy. "I'll ride with you," he said. "You're going past headquarters on the main road?"
"I'm on my way to River Heights," she responded.
"Then the station is on your route. You can drop me off if you will."
"Why—why, of course," Nancy stammered. "I'll be glad to."
At once she had thought of the Crowley clock. What if Officer Cowen should not accept her explanation as to why she had helped herself to the heirloom and its strange contents? If this happened, her progress in solving the mystery might receive a serious setback! Even as these disturbing ideas raced through her mind, the trooper started toward the blue convertible.
Nancy braced herself. "I'll just have to 'fess up," she said to herself, "and take the consequences!"