The Secret of the Scarecrow
Surprise in Store
“Guess what, class?” Mrs. Ramirez said. “We have a special guest today.”
Eight-year-old Nancy Drew smiled as she sat up straight behind her desk. She loved special guests almost as much as she loved solving mysteries. But who was the well-dressed woman standing next to Mrs. Ramirez?
Nancy’s best friend Bess Marvin tugged gently at Nancy’s reddish blond ponytail. “Who do you think she is, Nancy?” she whispered.
“I may be a detective,” Nancy whispered back. “But I don’t have a clue.”
Nancy was lucky to have both of her best friends in her class. Her other best friend, George
Fayne, sat a few desks down. She was too far to trade whispers but close enough to trade smiles!
“My name is Mimi Franklin,” the mystery guest said. “And I’m the owner of Darcy’s Department Store.”
“Wow,” Nancy said under her breath. Darcy’s was the biggest store in River Heights!
“Has anyone here shopped at Darcy’s?” Ms. Franklin asked.
Nancy’s hand shot up. Her new back-to-school shoes were bought at Darcy’s. She looked around the classroom to see all hands up. All except Leanne Hudson’s.
“You’ve never shopped at Darcy’s?” Ms. Franklin asked Leanne.
“No,” Leanne Hudson said. She added quickly, “But Hudson’s Apparel is having a sale on suitcases and duffel bags!”
Nancy got it. Leanne’s parents owned Hudson’s Apparel, a smaller store across the street from Darcy’s. Why would she shop anywhere else?
“Ms. Franklin is here to tell us about her special surprise,” Mrs. Ramirez said. “Go ahead, Ms. Franklin.”
Nancy sat up even straighter. What could it be?
“Darcy’s is about to decorate their store windows for fall,” Ms. Franklin explained. “There’ll be pumpkins, colorful fall leaves, and a scarecrow.”
Ms. Franklin gave a big smile and said, “Mrs. Ramirez is a friend of mine, and she tells me how creative this class is . . . so how would you like to make our scarecrow?”
Excited whispers filled the room.
“What kind of scarecrow?” George asked.
“Any kind,” Ms. Franklin said. “As long as it’s no bigger than a nine-year-old and is wearing clothes from Darcy’s.”
Tommy Maron’s hand shot up. “Does Darcy’s sell superhero capes?” he asked.
“Uh . . . no,” Ms. Franklin said.
“Phooey,” Tommy grumbled.
Mrs. Ramirez explained the next step: “Each of you will draw an idea for the scarecrow. Then Ms. Franklin will pick the best one for their window.”
Nancy smiled over her shoulder at Bess. A contest!
“Once I pick a winner, I will choose the outfit at Darcy’s that best matches that design.”
“You can work in teams,” Mrs. Ramirez said. “But no more than three.”
Perfect! Nancy thought. She, Bess, and George were already a team—a team of detectives who called themselves the Clue Crew.
“Is everybody ready to make a scarecrow?” Ms. Franklin asked.
“Not me,” a voice in the back said.
Everyone turned to see Harvey Mueller.
“Scarecrows are scary for a reason,” Harvey said. “Haven’t you guys heard of Jake McStuffings?”
“Jake Mc-who?” Kevin Garcia asked.
“Jake’s a scarecrow who wears baggy overalls and a big straw hat,” Harvey said in a hushed voice. “Every fall, Jake leaps off his pole to wander the streets of River Heights.”
Most of the kids snickered. Harvey was always making up scary stories!
“Quit laughing!” Harvey said. “Jake is for real!”
Mrs. Ramirez clapped her hands for attention.
“Okay, class,” Mrs. Ramirez said. “Let’s go quietly to the art room so we can begin.”
The kids formed a line near the door. Nancy stood with Bess and George. She frowned when Deirdre Shannon stepped behind her. Deirdre was spoiled and usually got whatever she
wanted. What she wanted now was to win the contest!
“I have the best idea for a scarecrow,” Deirdre bragged loudly. “But I’m not telling.”
As they filed out of the room George whispered, “I don’t know who’s scarier—Jake McStuffings or Deirdre!”
“I heard that, Georgia Fayne!” Deirdre snapped.
Nancy watched George’s dark eyes flash. Nobody used her real name except her grandmother—and Deirdre Shannon!
The art room had its usual paint-and-clay smell as the class filed in. Nancy, Bess, and George ran to an easel set up with paper and colored pencils.
“What should our scarecrow look like?” Nancy asked.
“Totally fashion forward!” Bess said.
“How about a computerized scarecrow?” George suggested. “He can wear blinking lights and maybe talk!”
“It’s a scarecrow, not a robot!” Bess argued.
George heaved a sigh. “Sometimes I can’t believe we’re cousins, Bess.”
Neither could Nancy. Bess had blond hair and blue eyes and loved clothes more than anything. George had dark hair and eyes. She loved computers . . . and clothes, too—as long as they were comfortable enough to do cartwheels in.
“Here’s my idea,” Bess said. She quickly drew a scarecrow. Over it she drew a dark red coat, black leggings, yellow boots, and a hat decorated with flowers.
“Pretty!” Nancy swooned.
“Not bad,” George admitted.
When everyone was done, Ms. Franklin checked out the drawings. Nadine Nardo, Kendra Jackson, and Marcy Rubin designed a sleepover scarecrow wearing colorful pj’s. Peter Patino, Quincy Taylor, and Kevin Garcia were proud of their scarecrow wearing sports clothes and sneakers.
“After our scarecrow is in the window,” Quincy explained, “he can be the mascot for our soccer team—the Green Monsters!”
Next Ms. Franklin checked out Harvey’s sketch. His scarecrow looked just like Jake McStuffings, of course. Leanne’s scarecrow was nothing but a stick figure.
Nancy couldn’t wait for Ms. Franklin to check out their scarecrow. But she wasn’t the only one. . . .
“Look at my Hollywood scarecrow, Ms. Franklin,” Deirdre called. “Isn’t she glam enough for the red carpet?”
“Very nice, dear,” Ms. Franklin said with a quick glance. She then breezed past Deirdre to Nancy, Bess, and George’s easel.
Ms. Franklin studied the scarecrow in the flowered hat and yellow boots before flashing a huge smile. “That outfit is fabulous!” she cried. “And we have clothes just like that at Darcy’s.”
She then turned to the class and said, “You all did an amazing job, kids, but I believe we have a winner.”
“Yippee!” Nancy cheered.
“Not fair!” Deirdre snapped while Nancy, Bess, and George high-fived. “They’re detectives—not designers!”
“Now we’re designing detectives.” Bess smiled.
After the class quieted down, Mrs. Ramirez explained that they would build the scarecrow on Friday before the dismissal bell. That was only three days away!
“Darcy’s will have the most stylish scarecrow ever!” Ms. Franklin declared. “Thanks to Nancy, Bess, and George.”
“Yeah,” Deirdre muttered. “Thanks a lot.”
Nancy, Bess, and George didn’t have time for sore losers like Deirdre. They had just won a major contest—and that called for a milk-and-cookie celebration!
“Ready? Go!” Hannah called out.
Nancy, Bess, and George picked up their glasses of milk and began to drink. Until Hannah said—“Stop!”
The girls giggled as they quickly put down their glasses. They loved playing Hannah’s stop-and-go game when they drank milk with their cookies.
Hannah Gruen was more than just the Drews’ housekeeper. She had been just like a mother to Nancy ever since Nancy’s own mom died, when Nancy was three. Hannah gave the best hugs and baked the most awesome oatmeal-raisin cookies!
“I like our scarecrow,” George said between
chews. “But whatever happened to regular overalls and straw hats?”
“Overalls and straw hats?” Bess said, rolling her eyes. “George, that’s so Wizard of Oz.”
Nancy was about to take another sip when her puppy barked loudly in another room.
“What’s up with Chocolate Chip?” Bess asked.
“Maybe she doesn’t like being named after a cookie,” George joked.
Nancy, Bess, and George found a still-barking Chip in the living room, her paws against the windowsill.
“She’s barking at something outside,” Bess said.
“It’s probably a deer,” Nancy said. “There are lots of deer around here in the fall.”
The girls peered out the window. It was getting dark early.
“That doesn’t look like an animal to me,” George said.
Nancy looked closer until she saw what
George meant. A small, shadowy figure was dancing across her front yard wearing baggy clothes and a big hat!
“Who was that?” Nancy said as he ran away.
“You mean what?” George said slowly. “Baggy clothes, huge hat—I think we just saw a scarecrow.”
“Yeah.” Bess gulped. “A real live scarecrow!”