Nancy Drew Mistery Stories #64: Captive Witness
The Mozart Lecture
For the second time since their arrival at the rest area, the tour group rushed out of the restaurant in response to an emergency. They ran to within fifty feet of the bus where they stopped as the professor warned urgently: "Stand back!" From the interior of the bus they could hear a series of noises, a fierce crashing and banging.
"It sounds like some kind of animal is in there," Hurt said.
"I think it's going to explode!" Bess cried, wringing her hands. "It is, isn't it? It's going to explode and nobody wants to tell me."
"Explode?" repeated the professor. "Why in the world would it explode?"
"Because maybe there's a bomb inside," Bess said, clutching the professor's arm. "Maybe that crazy bus driver planted a bomb. Maybe—"
Suddenly, Nancy and her friends found themselves alone as the rest of the tour dived for cover inside the restaurant as they took in Bess's words.
"Now look what you've done, Bess," George teased. "You'll have everybody climbing trees in a minute. Will you stop talking about bombs?"
"I can't help it if I'm allergic to things that blow up," Bess replied.
"Nothing's going to blow up." George sighed. "Except maybe my head. You've given me a terrible headache."
"What do you think, Nancy?" the professor cut in, as the onlookers continued to stare at the bus which was starting to rock slightly from whatever was causing the uproar inside.
A smile broke over the young detective's face. "No," she said, "I don't think it's a bomb or anything dangerous. Stay here a minute, I believe we can solve this mystery very simply."
Nancy ran to the bus, opened the front door and reached inside to grab a large key dangling from the steering column. Immediately, she hurried to the luggage doors and unlocked them. As they fell open, everyone gasped with relief and surprise.
Inside, tangled up with the baggage, was a man in long red underwear. He was bound hand and foot with his own belt and tie, and judging from the color of his face and the muffled sounds coming through the gag in his mouth, he was furious.
"Some bomb," George said.
"Well, who is he?" Bess asked, beginning to calm down from her fright.
"I wager he's the real bus driver," George offered.
"You're right," Nancy said, as the man's gag was removed and, in a torrent of surprisingly good English, he let everyone within 500 yards know who he was. How dare they let a helpless man bounce around in a luggage compartment for almost two hours while a thief drove his bus! he exclaimed.
"But we didn't know," Bess protested. "Honestly. We heard a noise but—"
"You heard a noise! You heard a noise!" the indignant man repeated as he wrapped himself in a blanket provided by the restaurant owner. "Of course you heard a noise!"
"Well," Bess said, backing away defensively, "we told the driver and he said you were just a bunch of loose tools bouncing around. I mean, not that you were loose tools but that's what the noise was. Oh, I can't explain. Nancy, help me," the girl wailed.
"Loose tools!" screamed the little bus driver, now almost dancing with frustration. "You should have realized that he wasn't telling the truth," he added, grinding his teeth. "Did he look like a bus driver? No! Now I look like a bus driver."
As everyone gaped at him, his eyes traveled down his body, which was wrapped in the blanket with his bare feet sticking out. Again his lace turned red, and he angrily shouted once more. "That's right, stare at me. Embarrass me. Get me my clothes!"
Ned moved in to assist. "I'll take him inside," he said, "and I'll see if the people here have some spare clothes to lend him. I’ll be back." He put his arm consolingly around the man's shoulders. "Sir," he said, "you have been through a terrible ordeal. We are very sorry. Let me help you. Come with me and we'll get some clothes for you and some lunch."
"Don't touch the bus," the driver cried, waving a warning finger at the others as Ned led him away. "I will assume command again when I return."
When he and Ned finally disappeared into the restaurant, the whole group broke out laughing.
"Don't touch his bus!" George smirked.
Bess, completely recovered now, resumed her old, humorous ways. "Hey, George, didn't I tell you there was a bomb in that bus?"
Again the young people laughed.
"You were right," Eric said. "If that wasn't an explosion I don't know what to call it. But seriously, it must have been pretty frightening being tied up and gagged like that, worrying what was going to happen to you."
Bess, who was standing close to Nancy, whispered, "You see what I mean. He's really a very sensitive boy—and you know what?"
"What?" said Nancy.
"I think he's developing a crush on you."
"Oh, Bess, stop it." The young sleuth chuckled.
Their joking, however, was interrupted by Professor Bagley who said he wanted to talk to Nancy. They strolled together along a grassy path.
"I'm glad you remember that we never did finish our conversation," Nancy said. She smiled eagerly, "Yon left me hanging back there when Bess came running in shouting about the bus. The last thing you told me was that you wanted them to steal your luggage."
"Can you guess why?"
"Yep." Nancy grinned. "I think so."
"Okay." The professor laughed. "Let's hear it."
"Well," Nancy said, "my guess is that someplace in your luggage was something you wanted them to find, that would throw them off the track of the ten children."
"Bull's-eye," Dr. Bagley said softly. "Absolutely on target. What I did, purposely, of course, was to let them watch me slip a sealed envelope into my musette bag, that over-the-shoulder bag I've carried ever since army days. It's army issue, you know. Anyway, that envelope contains very authentic-looking documents which give all the wrong information about where the children are, how many there are, and most important of all, the wrong time and place at which they will cross the border."
"And they fell for it," Nancy said.
"Sure. I wasn't too obvious about planting it in the bag. What I did was to go in the men's room at Kennedy Airport in New York, carrying the envelope and my bag. When I came out, I only had the bag. I looked like a typical, clumsy amateur attempting to conceal something."
Nancy covered her eyes with both hands and pretended to wail. "Oh, I really did it, didn't I? You had them set up so nicely and then I and my friends came along and ruined the whole thing."
The professor shook his head. "No, no, no. They'll try again, so don't worry. I'll make the phony information available for them again—not too available, though. I'm willing to bet that within two days they will have found it. In fact, next time I'll give them time to read it, replace it, and make it look as if nothing had been touched."
Nancy nodded. "That's very clever, Professor. You must have been a good spy during the war."
He shook his head. "Actually, I was a very bad spy. People who are six feet six and need glasses can't exactly fade into the scenery. Sometimes I wonder how I came through it all without getting caught."
Strolling back to the hotel, they found the driver outfitted in a set of oversize clothing provided by the innkeeper. With a full stomach and lavish praise from everyone, the driver soon became very talkative and friendly.
As he headed the bus once again down the highway toward Salzburg, he entertained the group with a nonstop monologue about the beauties of the south German and Austrian countryside, the glorious musical traditions of the city of Salzburg, and most important, the life of the driver's personal hero, the great composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
"He was born in Salzburg, you know," the driver called out so that all could hear. "Born in that beautiful little city on January 27, 1756. He was a genius! A genius! I tell you!
"He played the harpsichord by the time he was four, composed music at the age of five, performed before the empress at the court in Vienna when he was six.
"He never went to school. Imagine that! Never went to school. His entire life was music. He performed as a child prodigy in concert tours through-out Europe.
"But as he grew older, the novelty wore off. Though he was composing the greatest music ever heard, no one seemed to care because by then, he was a grown-up."
The driver was now building himself up to a fever pitch similar to his mood when he was released from the luggage compartment. His knuckles gripped the wheel tightly, and he was starting to run off the road occasionally as he waved first one and then both hands in the air.
"He tried to seek his fortune in Vienna, got married and had children, but could not get a regular job. Will you believe that, young people? The most gifted composer the world has ever known—a superb performer as well—and the world ignored him. They ignored the man who composed Don Giovanni! The man who composed The Magic Flute! Forty symphonies. More than six hundred works in all!
"And they did not give him enough to support his family. He died in poverty at the age of thirty-five!"
The little man turned completely around and shouted the words, running off the road once more and causing an intake of breath by everyone on board.
"In poverty!" the driver bellowed, once he had the bus back on the road again.
"Oh, Nancy," George whispered. "In a way, I wish we had the other driver back, I wish he'd steal the bus."
"At the age of thirty-five!" the driver exclaimed. "And they buried him in potter's field in a pauper's grave with no marker so that to this day," and he turned again to shout the words, "to this day no one knows where his body lies! The greatest composer of all time and one of the ten greatest men who ever lived! Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart! When you go to Salzburg to the cathedral, bow your heads and say a little prayer for the souls of those who denied him fame and fortune while he lived!"
Suddenly, the man lapsed into a brooding silence and said no more all the way to Salzburg. The passengers, who had been tense, braced for an accident, suddenly felt themselves go limp with relief.
Bess spoke first. "You know," she told Nancy, "he scared me to death and I wouldn't want to go through it again but I have to admire his passion for Mozart. I didn't know those things about him."
Nancy smiled. "Neither did I. I guess that's the first bit of education we're going to get on this tour."
"I suppose so," Bess said, "but I hope the rest of it moves at a slower pace."
Gradually, conversation picked up and the rest of the trip into Salzburg was spent talking, singing, and admiring the countryside. When they pulled into the ancient town, they headed immediately for their hotel and disembarked, somewhat tired but looking forward to baths and a good dinner.
As the driver and porters were unloading the luggage, the professor went inside to register the group. In live minutes he reappeared, clearly irritated.
"Attention! I have some unfortunate news. The hotel says that they received a call about four hours ago canceling our reservations. We have no rooms for tonight!"