Without waiting to read the message inside the envelope, Nancy dashed impulsively to the door and flung it wide as she stepped out to see if she could catch a glimpse of the messenger. The corridor was empty. She smacked her forehead lightly with the palm of her hand. "Oh, that could have been Gutterman," she muttered. "Of course, it was Gutterman. And I opened the door and ran out." Quickly, she tore open the envelope and read the message written in old-fashioned script.
Dear Nancy Drew, You are to cease all independent efforts to kidnap the children and to find the film Captive Witness. If you persist, you will be hurt. If the price is right, however, it may be possible for you to obtain both the children and the film. Be in the hotel lobby at 9 P.M. tomorrow. Come alone. I will take you to see the film to prove I have it. You have my word of honor that you will not be harmed. You will be returned safely. Afterward, we can talk about what I really seek from you people.
So Gutterman does know I'm looking for the film! Nancy said to herself. Although she had half suspected it, this was the first time he had given any indication of such knowledge, and Nancy concluded that he must have discovered her connection with Captive Witness fairly recently. Otherwise, she was sure he would have spoken to her about it long before. But how did he find out? If her phone call home wasn't tapped, then, Nancy concluded, there must be a spy in the film festival's office who overheard a conversation between Richard Ernst and her father! The prospects of her meeting with Gutterman churned in her mind as she flopped into bed and fell asleep uneasily. When she saw Ned the next morning, she said nothing about Gutterman's note or about the invitation to meet him alone that night to see the documentary. It bothered her to keep it secret from Ned, but she believed that the fate of the children and the film hinged on a risk that was solely hers— finding out what Gutterman wanted! First, she must learn all she could about the stolen film. After brunch, she telephoned the festival office and spoke to Richard Ernst, who her father had said would be her best source of information. They found the festival offices just off the Ring-strasse, the great band of streets enclosing downtown Vienna which once marked the outer walls where the Turkish invasions had stopped in the sixteenth and again in the seventeenth century. "Do you know," Nancy asked Ned as their taxi made its way through the crowded streets, "that those sieges of Vienna gave us two things we now eat for breakfast?" Ned shook his head. "Well, it was during the first Turkish siege that the bakers of Vienna invented the Vienna roll. And it was the Turks who brought coffee to Central Europe. Can you imagine Europe today without its coffeehouses?" "And with that colorful information," Ned said, "we find ourselves in front of the film festival offices." Richard Ernst, the festival representative, was a meticulously dressed, polite, and proper Austrian who kissed Nancy's hand and offered coffee and delicious pastries. When Nancy asked for milk instead, he smilingly obliged. But soon his face became serious. "Last Wednesday," Mr. Ernst said, "a man appeared with a letter written on Kurt Kessler's stationery and bearing Mr. Kessler's signature. It instructed festival authorities to give the messenger the copy of Captive Witness in our possession and to accept in exchange a revised copy that the messenger handed us." "I'm surprised there was no more formal procedure involved," Nancy said. "Well, we winged it, as you Americans say, because it was the first time anything like that had ever happened to us. We're a fairly new festival and, I suppose, a bit naive." "So you simply gave the man the original film?" Nancy continued. "No, I left the room to ask my associate, Mr. Etienne, what he thought, and when I came back, I discovered that the messenger had taken our copy and left the so-called revision. It turned out to be a completely blank reel. As I told your father, Miss Drew, we accept full responsibility and we will pay all damages, but I'm sure that money is not the real issue. For Mr. Kessler, it is the heartbreak of losing a vast piece of his lifework." "Would you describe the man who took the film," Nancy requested. "On the other hand, let me. He was short, wiry, with pitted, rather sallow skin. He's almost bald, but not at all well mannered so he probably never removed his hat. He has a kind of ratlike face and beady eyes." Mr. Ernst gasped. "That's amazing. Miss Drew, I must say I suddenly have enormous respect for your detective abilities." "I must confess," Nancy replied, "that we've been tangled up with a couple of bad characters for the past few days. The one I described played the role of a bus driver, so why not a messenger, too?" Nancy paused for a moment, letting her eyes gaze off into space, her brow slightly furrowed. "May I see the can that the film was in when the messenger brought it?" "The can?" Mr. Ernst asked. "Why, yes, I suppose so." He rummaged through files and produced a metal can, considerably battered, with some labels still attached. Nancy checked each label. The can had travelled all over Europe: Warsaw, Paris, Berlin, Rome. But there was only one label from Vienna, which she examined closely with her pocket-size magnifying glass. "This is it! Thank you very much, Mr.—er, Herr Ernst. Come on, Ned." "Nancy, where are we going? What do you mean, 'this is it'? Will you slow down? Nancy!" But the girl detective was running now, down the steps, out into the street, signaling for a taxi. Ned caught up in time to open the door for her. When they were both inside, Nancy gave the driver an address she had scribbled down. The driver glanced back at the two of them. "Are you sure you young people want to go there?" he said in a deep, resonant voice. "Yes, yes," Nancy said, "and hurry, please." "Nancy," Ned persisted, "what did you see on that film can?" "An address of a film company here in Vienna. Chances are that that was the place the blank reel came from and probably the same place where Kessler's copy of Captive Witness was taken. Understand?" "Interesting idea," Ned said, "but it seems a little thin." "I've had thinner clues," Nancy remarked, settling back to watch the scenery. That proved to be a grim experience, however, as the buildings and the people began to look more disreputable. The road became bumpier, too, more pitted with holes, and littered with debris. To make matters worse, the afternoon skies had darkened and droplets of rain splashed against the windows. As they passed one corner, a group of street urchins threw stones at the cab. "Charming section," Nancy told the driver. "I'm hoping it ends before we reach the company office we want. It's called Cine-Ouest." When they found Cine-Ouest, however, it was in a wreck of a building set back from the road and almost concealed by weeds and high bushes. No one seemed to be around. Ned asked the driver to wait. "Wait? Not a chance. You two young people would be smart to return immediately to your hotel. They'll steal the fillings from your teeth out here." "We'll be all right," Ned insisted halfheartedly, as they paid the man and stepped out for a look at their target. Wasting no time, the driver locked all the doors, made a U-turn, and sped away in a shower of mud. Together Nancy and Ned made their way to the front door of Cine-Ouest. It was locked. "That figures," Nancy said. "It's Saturday and the employees probably work a five-day week. Let's see if someone left a window open." "That's burglary, technically speaking, of course." "I know. But so long as we don't take anything, it's only trespassing," Nancy rationalized. "Besides, if we do find Captive Witness, it's our right to take it because it was stolen from our side in the first place." "Okay, you convinced me." Ned sighed. "Let me try this window." To his surprise, it opened easily. Both he and Nancy slipped through onto the first floor, which was surprisingly neat, clean, and well painted. They found themselves in a room with racks and racks of films. "It'll take hours to go through all this stuff," Ned moaned. "Wouldn't we do better to come back with a court order and some policemen?" "Uh-uh," Nancy said. "The spy network over here would know in a minute. They'd move the film for sure. No, we just have to start looking." But before taking another step, they were halted in their tracks by a low, menacing growl. A giant Doberman pinscher guard dog stood thirty feet away with his snout poised low and his lips drawn back exposing great, slashing teeth. He stared at them, ready to pounce. Almost simultaneously, Nancy and Ned said the identical words: "Don't move and don't breathe." "Don't look him in the eye, either," Nancy added. "The dog will think you're challenging him and will attack." "You're probably right," Ned said, "but I have a hunch this guy means to jump us no matter what we do. What about those stacks? Do you think we can climb them fast enough to get away?" "Yes, but then we'd be stuck there until Monday morning." "What about your trusty tear-gas book?" Ned asked. "I have it, but it only works up to about six feet." "Well, once he's that close, he'll go all the way. Still, give me the book." "Oh, no," Nancy said. "It's mine. I can handle this as well as you can." "Maybe so," Ned went on, "but I happen to be standing about two feet in front of you and that means he is going to deal with me first. Please give me the book, Nancy." "All right, but—" "Uh-oh!" Ned broke in, snapping up the book. "Here he comes!" With a savage roar, the giant dog flew across the room in three huge bounds. Nancy was just about to leap toward the window as the dog landed, preparing to spring in a final lunge. Ned, however, sprayed his eyes with tear gas at point-blank range, slightly from the side. The animal yelped, making Nancy wince as she hurried outside. But she knew that the Doberman, whining now and pawing at his eyes, would not suffer any permanent damage. He would regain full sight within a day. Meanwhile, Ned had climbed through the window, too. He grabbed Nancy's hand and led her running up the road away from Cine-Ouest. After a block, they slowed to a walk. They trudged through the drenching rain for what seemed like hours before finding a cab, and arrived back at the hotel, mud-splattered, soaked to the skin, and exhausted. "That was wonderful fun." Ned grinned at Nancy. "And we've never looked lovelier. Now, master detective, do you have any more excursions planned for me tonight?'' She was about to say no when nervous thoughts about her nine o'clock meeting with Gutterman began to plague her. Should she tell Ned so that he could shadow her and call in the police if necessary? Or would Ned, in his eagerness to protect her, be discovered? If so, the young detective could lose her only chance to free the children and find the valuable film!
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