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A Clue

A Clue

Tracy Mumford

I killed Nancy Drew. She had it coming.

That blonde may have charmed her way into the laps of every police officer this side of River Heights, but being a former teen detective only gets you so far. When you’re a strung-out 35-year-old asking the way to “The Hidden Staircase,” it’s not as cute.

Nancy and I went to high school together, not that she spent much time in the classroom. She was always off after some old clock or out casing the Shadow Ranch. Driving her little blue roadster wherever she pleased. Pointing her finger at widowers and gas station attendants with little to no evidence. “He did it!” she’d say, with the confidence of a repeat beauty queen. “You can tell by his footprints!”

“He did it!” she’d say, with the confidence of a repeat beauty queen, “You can tell by his footprints!”

The local paper never published the conviction rate on her cases—let’s just say it was lower than her GPA. She charmed her way into Midwest State after high school—she managed to find the college president’s missing corgi. What a coincidence.

Her semester abroad in Argentina was the beginning of the end. The southern hemisphere didn’t stop her snooping; there was the case of la casa mysterioso. She pinned that one on the gardener—she never met a man with dirt on his hands that she liked.

It was in Argentina that she discovered a certain white powder, a habit that cinched its way around her life like a trench coat. She started solving cases purely for the reward money—missing dogs, missing babies, missing candlesticks that she’d shoved down the front of her pleated skirt.

She started solving cases purely for the reward money—missing dogs, missing babies, missing candlesticks that she’d shoved down the front of her pleated skirt.

Some of us came up the right way. Some of us wore blue because it was the uniform, not because it brought out our eyes. Some of us didn’t just play “pin the tail on the donkey” after two martinis to find our suspects.

The case of The Thirteenth Pearl put things over the top. Through her father’s connections, she managed to smuggle a rare pearl into the country, a priceless specimen from Japan. Maybe she wanted a fix from it or maybe it was her last score, but Nancy flashed that gem all over town before a fax came in from Interpol: Stolen.

I confronted Nancy, River Heights Red Devil to River Heights Red Devil. There was still time, I said, to make things right. She could give up the gem and be the town sweetheart again. But she was in too deep. Her boyfriend Ned had been kidnapped for the fifth time, and if she didn’t make good, he was about to lose two inches off the top.

I had her cornered in Sal’s Saloon, but she slipped out the back through a false door. Every place in this town has a false door, enough for us to all move around without ever being seen. It’s hard to fall in love in a city of secret passages.

Every place in this town has a false door, enough for us to all move around without ever being seen.

My chief ordered me to track her down. Her golden-haired brand of justice had come to an end. I followed her pointy-toed footsteps back to the Moss-Covered Mansion, the site of the last great case she’d solved.

It had involved a murder, a gypsy, a missing heiress, a needy elderly lady, a reclusive artist, an airplane accident, and a forest fire. Naturally, the delivery man had done it. Nancy discovered his signature brand of chewing gum at the scene.

But the spearmint spree was now a thing of the past, and the mansion stood in disrepair, home only to the ghosts of girl detectives past. I eased the door open with my shoulder, ready for that keen intellect of hers to strike me from afar.

The front room was littered with her trophies, and there she sat on a brass-bound trunk, whispering to herself. At the creak of the door, she stuck me with her feverish gaze, and for a moment, I can be sure we both wished we were somewhere else, somewhere far away, at Larkspur Lane or the Haunted Showboat. At Pine Hill or the Hollow Oak.

But none of those were in the cards.

She smiled as she pulled that little pearl-handled revolver on me, the kind you keep in your leg garter for foreplay.

I didn’t have a choice, in the moment. It was me or the world’s greatest disgraced former teen detective.

I killed Nancy Drew.



Tracy Mumford writes and makes radio in Minneapolis. Her work has appeared in Lit Hub and Revolver, and on the BBC. 

Illustration by Jeremy Anderson.

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