"Pinch me Nancy!"
Nancy Drew glanced up from the guidebook in her hand. "What did you say, Bess?" she asked.
"Pinch me," repeated her friend, Bess Marvin. "I want to make sure this is really happening and we're really here."
"I know what you mean," said Bess's cousin George Fayne. A tall girl with short brown curls and the build of a natural athlete, George took in the hordes of travelers streaming past them in the Geneva-Cointrin Airport. "It's great to be in Switzerland at last."
"Absolutely!" Bess agreed. "Listen!" She pointed at a loudspeaker from which someone was announcing flight arrivals. "That's real Swiss!"
Nancy grinned. "Actually, that's real French, Bess. They speak French, German, and Italian here, not Swiss. Well, there is another language, which is very old, called Romansh. but it's not spoken by many people." She cast a quick glance around them. "What do you say, guys? Shall we get our bags and find out where to catch a train into Geneva."
Geneva was the girls' first stop in a summer of traveling in Europe. They had decided to start their trip in the Alps and had been lucky to get a good deal on tickets to Geneva. They weren't sure where they'd go from there. Rome, maybe? Spain or Greece? There were a few places they definitely wanted to see, but they had agreed to leave room to follow whatever adventures might come their way.
One thing was for sure -- the girls' hometown of River Heights, in the Midwest, seemed a world away right then.
"Did you really need four suitcases, Bess?" George asked her cousin while they waited for their luggage to appear on the baggage carousel.
Bess smiled sheepishly. "I guess it is a lot, but I've got to compete with all those chic European girls, don't I?" she protested, fluffing out her long blond hair. "I just hope I look sophisticated enough for European guys."
"You always look great, Bess," Nancy reassured her. "Guys will be falling all over you, as usual -- once we change out of these rumpled clothes, I mean." She glanced down at her own khaki pants and beige linen jacket, both a bit the worse for wear at the moment.
Bess shot Nancy a sidelong glance. "Speaking of guys, I'll bet you wish Ned were here."
Nancy's lips tightened in a straight line. She and Ned Nickerson, her longtime boyfriend, hadn't parted on the best of terms. "I don't want Ned to be here if he doesn't want to be here," she said in a voice tinged with irritation. "He's gotten so serious about his summer job at the insurance company that he felt he couldn't take any time off to come."
Nancy fell silent, staring blankly at the suitcases cascading out onto the carousel.
"I bet Ned's already regretting that he didn't come," George said to comfort her. "What I'm concerned about is Kevin." A worried look came into her brown eyes as she added, "He travels so much that I hardly got to see him this month before leaving. I'm afraid that being away from him for a whole summer will really kill our relationship."
Nancy gave George's arm a sympathetic squeeze. George had been going out with Kevin Davis, a sports announcer, for the past few months.
"Cheer up, you two!" Bess said brightly. "We're going to be surrounded by cute European guys all summer. And you know what they say about continental men -- Hey, there's one of my bags!"
Twenty minutes later the girls were struggling to maneuver a horribly overloaded luggage carrier through the airport crowds. They were searching for an information booth, so they could get directions into Geneva. Bess was pulling the carrier, and Nancy and George were doing their best to keep the barely balanced luggage from toppling to the floor.
"Pardon, madame. Pardon, monsieur, " Nancy apologized as the three girls kept careening into groups of travelers.
Bess half turned to Nancy. "Nancy, are you sure we're going in the right direction?" she asked. "I think we're -- Oof!"
Bess plowed straight into a handsome young man, who lurched sideways. With a startled cry, he grabbed at the luggage carrier to steady himself. The carrier veered sideways, too, and toppled over, spilling the suitcases on top of him.
"Oh, no!" Bess's voice was filled with dismay. "How terrible! Here, let me help you up." Scarlet faced, she reached out to the young man, while Nancy and George hurried to collect the suitcases before passersby tripped over them.
"It was nothing, I assure you. " Grasping Bess's hand, the young man sprang lightly to his feet. He kept her hand in his a second longer than necessary, then smiled charmingly at all three girls. "Since the suitcases seem to have broken the ice for us, let me introduce myself. I am Franz Haussman. "
Nancy couldn't help thinking of Bess's remark about continental men. Franz Haussman could only be a few years older than she was. Yet -- from his silk jacket to his sleek leather loafers -- he was dressed with the kind of elegance she rarely saw in the guys she knew at home. He had a slim but muscular build and reddish brown hair that was long on top and trimmed stylishly short at the sides and in back. His hazel eyes danced with merriment.
"Sorry I was so clumsy," Franz went on in a voice that had only a slight tinge of an accent. "I was not paying attention. May I help you gather your things?"
"I think we've got it under control," Bess commented as George gingerly balanced the last suitcase on top of the pile. From the sparkle in Bess's pale blue eyes, Nancy could tell that she had noticed how gorgeous Franz was.
"May I escort you to wherever you are going? Really, you must let me help," Franz insisted.
"Well, we are trying to figure out how to get into Geneva," Bess told him. "Do you have any idea where we catch the train?"
Franz Haussman's smile broadened. "But of course I do," he said with a twinkle in his eye. "I am en route to the same train. It is only a six-minute ride into Geneva, you will find. How ever, I must inform you that you are going the wrong way. Please allow me to lead you down to the train.
"Is this your first visit to Switzerland?" he inquired as he deftly turned the luggage carrier around for them. When the girls nodded, he said, "Well, you will enjoy yourselves tremendously here. I am always happy to return home. "
"So, you live in Geneva?" Bess asked.
Franz nodded. "Yes, but I am just now returning from Monaco. You must try to go there if you can -- especially if you like gambling."
"Gambling?" Bess echoed.
"But of course," Franz said. "Monaco is famous for its gambling, you know. The casinos were very, very good to me this time."
Nancy didn't want to get involved with any gambling and was relieved when Franz changed the subject, asking what the girls were doing in Geneva. Nancy grinned as Bess launched into the story of their trip. There was no doubt about it -- Bess had a crush on Franz already.
"Nancy's been so busy with her cases that I wasn't sure we'd ever get here," Bess said before Nancy could stop her. "You know, she's a very famous detective back home."
For a split second Franz Haussman gave Nancy an edgy glance. Then he recovered his easy charm and smiled broadly. Nancy wondered if she'd imagined his discomfort.
"A detective?" Franz repeated casually. "How -- unusual. I hope you are not working on your trip," he said gallantly. "It would be a pity to spoil your first visit to Geneva. "
Then quickly changing the subject, Franz said, "I am meeting a friend tonight at a club on Lake Geneva. Would you care to join us?"
"Let's!" Bess exclaimed, her blue eyes sparkling as she turned to George and Nancy.
George nodded readily. "I'm game," she said. "Sounds great. We're up for anything," Nancy agreed, smiling at Franz Haussman. "Just do me one favor, though -- tell us exactly how to find the club from our hotel. If we got lost in the airport, who knows what might happen once we actually get to the city!"
"This place is just as gorgeous as I thought it would be." Bess sighed, staring out the taxi window.
The three girls said goodbye to Franz after their train had arrived in Geneva's Gare Cornevin. Now they were on their way to the hotel they had chosen from one of their guide books.
As Nancy gazed out at the streets of Geneva, she felt pretty excited herself. The city was beautiful -- a combination of a medieval storybook town and a sleekly futuristic city. Gabled, turreted houses stood next to glass-fronted office buildings, and narrow cobblestoned streets alternated with smooth paved ones. The people they passed looked happy, everything was spotless, and Lake Geneva was a dazzling expanse of blue.
"Wow!" Bess said as they passed a massive fountain of water shooting up out of the lake.
"That's the Jet d'Eau -- a jet of water," their taxi driver told her, half turning in his seat to talk to the girls. "It is more than four hundred feet high and is our most famous landmark."
Soon after, the taxi pulled up in front of the Hotel du Lac, which was on a quiet street a couple of blocks from Lake Geneva. Nancy was glad to see that although the building was modest, the hotel was pleasant and welcoming, with neatly tended window boxes and a small but clean lobby.
"You check us in, okay, Nan?" George murmured under her breath as the three girls approached the desk. "My French is a little weak."
Nancy, too, felt a bit uneasy. She'd taken lots of French in school, but suddenly it all seemed to disappear.
"Bonjour, mesdemoiselles, " said a smiling, apple-cheeked young woman at the desk. "Puis-je vous aider?"
That part Nancy understood at least. The clerk was asking if she could help them. "Oui, merci, " Nancy replied. "Nous -- uh -- nous -- "
"Nous vouloir to check in," Bess added helpfully.
"Bess, you just said, 'We to want to check in'!" Nancy whispered.
Luckily the clerk smiled her understanding. She slid a register across the counter to the girls, who signed it gratefully. Then she riffled through some papers, found a key, and handed it to Nancy. "Quarante-deux," she said.
Since the number on the key was 42, Nancy figured the clerk had been telling them their room number. "Merci beaucoup, " Nancy said. Then she turned to her friends. "What do you say we unpack and then maybe take a look around?" she suggested.
"And get something to eat," George added. "I'm starving."
"Starving? I know just the place," came a man's voice from behind them.
Startled, the three girls turned around. For the second time that day Nancy found herself facing a handsome young man. He was tall -- at least six foot three, Nancy guessed -- and blond, with a rangy build, broad shoulders, and the greenest eyes Nancy had ever seen. He was dressed in well-worn jeans, a black T-shirt, and leather sneakers. Except for his accent, Nancy would have taken him for a fellow American.
"I'm Mick Devlin," the guy said. "I'm an Aussie -- from Australia, that is. You're Americans, eh? And this is your first trip to Switzerland."
Nancy found that she couldn't stop staring into his deep green eyes. She was grateful when George spoke up. "Well, you're right," George said, laughing. "I can't believe it's so obvious that this is all new to us."
"But that's great!" Mick said, grinning. "Let me show you around. You don't know it yet, but you picked a great part of town to stay in. Let's see," he added. "We'll start by getting you some food. Bread and cheese at a fantastic bakery right across the street. Then we'll head up to the rue du Marche and take a walk around the Vieille Ville -- that's the Old City. If there's time, we'll see the European headquarters of the United Nations and go shopping on the Left Bank and take a look at the flower clock and visit my favorite spot in Geneva -- the Watch and Clock Museum. Geneva's the watchmaking center of Switzerland, you know -- "
"Whoa!" Bess exclaimed, holding up a hand. "You sure know the city. Do you live here?"
"Oh, no," Mick said lightly. "Just passing through. I'm a tourist, like yourselves. But I've been here for a few days."
Nancy was impressed by how well he seemed to have learned Geneva. "It all sounds great, but we just got off the plane," she told Mick. "We need a little time to unwind before we start hitting the tourist attractions. "
"Okay," Mick agreed with an easy grin. "I'll give you ten minutes. If you're interested, come back down then and meet me here in the lobby. If you don't show, I'll figure you're napping instead."
It was a tactful way to avoid seeming too pushy, Nancy thought. After exchanging a quick glance with Bess and George, she told him, "We'll definitely meet you here in ten minutes. And thanks very much, Mick."