| Nancy Drew Mistery Stories #64: Captive Witness
Amphibian on Wheel
Nancy slowed down the big, brown car and at a small, almost hidden side road she pulled off. In a few moments, the car was lost from sight in the forest.
"Do you have any idea where we're going?" Ned asked.
"Not really," Nancy said, "but as we know, this car has four-wheel drive. It's obviously waterproof as well as soundproof and it's built high, providing a lot of space between the bottom of the car and the roadbed. That means we can drive it almost anywhere."
"Maybe even across a lake!" Ned chuckled.
"Don't laugh," Nancy said. "It could be amphibious and able to travel on water just like a boat!"
"In that case, did you pack an extra snorkel for me?" Ned teased.
"Not only that," Nancy said with a giggle, "but a set of flippers too!"
"Uh-oh, I'm beginning to think you're serious," Ned continued.
"I wish I were."
"Then I suggest we try hunting for another good road to Vienna," Ned said, "before we wind up in the drink!"
"Don't tell me you don't trust me, Ned," the young detective replied, eliciting no response from the boy.
They drove for almost an hour over the side road, which was little more than a pair of dusty ruts. It ended in a small stream about two feet wide.
"Now what?" Ned asked.
"We follow the stream," Nancy said. "Why?"
"Because streams always lead to people and houses, and anyone who gets lost in the woods should remember that." Ned laughed. "Oh, remember how they used to drill that into you at summer camp?"
"Yes," Nancy said, "and it happens to be absolutely true."
As the car bucked and lunged along the now grassy, now muddy streambed, Ned brought up the possibility of discovering a river large enough to float down. He had no sooner said it when they heard a rush of water and saw the little brook feed into a much larger stream, almost forty feet across.
"Well," said Ned, "here's where we find out whether we're riding in an amphibian."
"See those knobs and instructions?" Nancy asked. "This activates air pontoon sacks on the side, and this converts the engine power into a propeller drive shaft, which drops down when you push this button."
To their amazement, it all worked and they found themselves sailing grandly through the Austrian Alps in Herr Gutterman's beautiful automobile-boat. The thought made Nancy almost wistful.
"Ah, dear Herr Gutterman. What a trick we've played on him."
"It can't be helped," Ned said. "He really has to learn that he kidnapped the wrong people. He really—!"
The boy listened and gulped. "Is that sound what I think it is?"
Nancy nodded as the noise of raging water grew louder. "And I hope it isn't one of those two-hundred-foot Alpine monsters."
"Did you have to say that?" Ned asked worriedly. Suddenly, they tipped over the edge of a short fall that exploded into fast-moving rapids, which twisted and turned the car so quickly that Nancy had all she could do to keep the nose pointed downstream.
"Is it leaking?" she yelled.
"I don't think so," Ned shouted. "Just some spray coming in the windows."
After a few minutes of quick contortions, they found themselves in a placid stretch of water. But rounding a bend they saw what was obviously one of the huge waterfalls they feared. Half a mile ahead, the stream simply dropped out of sight and they had a clear view down a wide, beautiful valley.
"We've got to get ashore somehow," Nancy called, and she aimed toward the right bank. The water was shallow, but unfortunately there was no place to drive the car completely out of the river and continue overland. The valley walls fell too sharply. The best the travelers could do was to drive it up on a narrow ledge four inches above the water.
"Well, this is it," Nancy said. "Good-bye, good old quiet brown car. We'll have to leave you here."
Ned started to laugh. "This is really terrible, you know. Do you realize how long it's going to be before Herr Gutterman finds his car?"
"Oh, he'll pop up again and we can give him directions," Nancy said, her eyes twinkling.
"We can give him directions, all right, but how will he ever get it out of here?"
"By helicopter," Nancy replied. "A helicopter could pull him out, and speaking of a helicopter, we could sure use one ourselves."
Night was coming on, and with no way out except straight up the steep side of the valley, the two young people began to lose their jocular mood. The higher they climbed, the more rugged the terrain, and their breathing and luggage became heavier.
At last, after what seemed an interminable length of time, they started downhill again, discovered a path, then a road, and finally a town. As luck would have it, a bus destined for Vienna was due, and ten minutes later, they were standing in the aisle, clinging to the luggage racks for support.
"Look at us," Ned said. "Our feet and our shoes and socks are soaked. We've got mud on our clothes. We've had no lunch or dinner and we have to stand up all the way to Vienna."
But as Ned spoke, two people sitting nearby prepared to get off the bus at the next stop. With relief and soft cries of thanks, the two exhausted young people sank into the empty seats.
"Safe at last," Nancy said.
Suddenly, there was a commotion ahead in the road. "Wait, wait!" came the cry in German. "Wait for us."
Realizing it was Gutterman's voice, Nancy's blood froze. She grabbed Ned's hand and squeezed. "Be quiet," she whispered, hastily pulling two large scarves out of the bag lying at her feet. Quickly, she tied one around her head. "Do you have a hat?" she whispered.
"Yes, my old crushable Irish tweed. Got it in my pocket."
"Put it on your head. I know it's not good manners, but this is an emergency."
Nancy then handed him the second scarf to tie around his neck. She pulled his hat low and adjusted the scarf before they both eased down in their seats, pretending to sleep.
Gutterman and Burger clambered aboard and made their way down the aisle to take positions directly next to the couple.
Gutterman was still in a temper. Burger was sullen. He said nothing while Gutterman sputtered low, threatening sounds, all in German. Nancy, from her limited knowledge of the language, was able to pick out the essence of Herr Gutterman's bitterness. Burger, he said, was to blame for everything. If he had not made iced coffee back in the shepherd's hut, Nancy Drew could never have thrown it in his face and distracted him enough to get out the door.
Then, when he, Herr Gutterman, had bravely put his fist through the door and lain down in front of the wheels, Burger had not had the presence of mind to lie down in back of the wheels, preventing the escape.
And so it went as Nancy listened, her heart beating for fear they would be detected. Still, she could not help but be amused by Herr Gutterman's obvious frustrations. Eventually, Gutterman and Burger obtained seats directly in front of Nancy and Ned, and the two young people sat quietly until they arrived in Vienna. Cautious, they waited for their former captors to disembark before the couple took off their scarves, grabbed their luggage, and caught a taxi for their hotel.
Rooms were waiting for them and because they both felt exhausted, they decided to say good night immediately. Nancy ran a hot tub and was already soaking when she heard the phone ring. Stumbling out of the tub, she wrapped herself in one of the huge European hotel towels and lifted the receiver. It was Ned.
"Nancy!" he cried. "I was watching television, and guess what? We made the headlines! We've been listed as missing. They found the car."
"Someone found the car and there are pictures on TV showing it being airlifted by helicopter. Authorities haven't figured out whom it belongs to yet."
"Just wait till they do," Nancy said. "When Gutterman finds out what happened to his car, he'll explode like a volcano!"
"We'd better call Dr. Bagley to tell him we're all right," Ned suggested.
Nancy placed the call to Salzburg instantly. "Professor," she said, "this is Nancy."
There was a stunned silence and then shouts of joy. "Nancy! It's Nancy. Are you all right? Is Ned there? What in the world is going on?"
Quickly, Nancy recounted the kidnapping, the escape, and the crazy fate of Herr Gutterman's car. Professor Bagley agreed that from now on, the tour had to keep close track of everyone.
The professor then filled her in on the group's activities—including the trip to Mozart's birthplace, where the little bus driver was barred from entering. "The authorities there said he always makes a scene and contradicts the guides constantly." The professor laughed.
"Oh, and one other funny thing happened," he added. "Eric left his wheelchair outside the men's room because it wouldn't fit through the door. We lifted him inside and when we came out, he noticed there was a different wheelchair in place of his. Another young man had taken Eric's by mistake, but Eric managed to catch him. For a minute, the other fellow was wheeling his chair like mad, trying to get away because he thought Eric was a little crazy chasing him yelling at the top of his lungs."
Nancy laughed. "That's all we need," she said, "a stolen wheelchair." As she hung up the receiver, she heard a noise that made her whirl around. An envelope suddenly appeared beneath her door. She stepped toward it, feeling her pulse quicken. The envelope was addressed to NANCY DREW, CAR THIEF.