George recently started doing a lot of volunteer work for CARING, a youth organization in town. After convincing Nancy and Bess to join her, they all stop by the next day and meet Lena, the woman in charge of the organization. They also get to see the kids playing soccer against YES, the competing youth group. One girl gets so pissed off that she slams a soccer ball and sends it flying towards Bess, but George stops it with a head butt. Brittany, the girl, comes over to apologize after her coach makes her.
Nancy then gets in the middle of two boys fighting right off the soccer field. One of them, Dino, is so impressed by the karate moves she used to get in between them that he asks her for lessons. Bess also meets Josh, some random hot guy. Though they want to work with kids, Lena gives them the job of going out and about in the neighborhood to sell random energy bars to make money for the organization.
Several people living in their homes refuse to open their doors. Only one man agrees to buy from Nancy, and a woman screams at her coming back again so soon. That makes her realize that she went one block beyond the area Lena gave her. Nancy then sees several police cars some of nowhere as cops draw their guns and shout at her not to move.
The cops tell her that there were a string of robberies on that street over the last few weeks. They warn her to let the neighborhood know before they visit the next time. At the CARING office, Nancy sees a city map that has all the streets they already targeted marked off but her blocks, the ones people said were already hit by the organization, are still open. Bess says it must just be a mistake.
They then meet Alex, who is handsome and works for the organization. He seems super cheerful and talks about how much he loves music. When he drops his bag from the music store on the ground, Nancy sees a receipt that shows he spent more than $300 that day. That's a lot for someone who tells them that he's pretty much broke.
While playing some random game with the kids, Nancy meets Maria, one of the coaches. Maria teachers her kids to go all in and whip Nancy's team. During a confrontation, Nancy tells her that kids shouldn't act like that. Maria tells her to mind her own business and that she has way more experience. Bess then starts choking and turns bright red.
It turns out that someone spiked her fruit juice with hot sauce. Dino tells them that he saw Brittany with a dark blue bag earlier that looked just like Bess's bag and was acting super suspicious. Nancy confronts her, but the kid gets pissed off because she was actually in her own bag. I swear I read something like this in a Fear Street book. While leaving that day, Nancy hears someone say that there is a spy in the organization.
It's actually just Maria bitching some more. When she leaves the room and Nancy offers her support, Lena agrees to let her take on the case and see if there is someone from YES messing with the organization. Lots of random things happen. Brittany jumps in the water at the pool and lands right on top of George. When George asks if she did it on purpose, Maria shows up and yells at her. Dino finds out that someone stole the bottle of hot sauce from the cafeteria too.
Then, Maria accuses George of stealing money. She says that she gave George $300 that she raised from energy bars to give to Alex who never got it. Alex actually shows up the next day with the cash and says he put it in the desk drawer and forgot about it. Nancy learns that the blocks from that neighborhood that were covered were actually covered by YES, which is proof that someone got the schedule that Lena created in advance. Also, the society people in River Heights have donated to both organizations.
After hearing Josh (remember him?) chatting with Alex about going something wrong and being all suspicious, she confronts him. He swears that they were just talking about planning new events and promises he didn't do anything wrong before taking off as fast as his hot butt can carry him. When Nancy goes roller blading later, one of her brake pads comes off and almost injures her. Dino tells her that he saw Brittany messing with a pair of skates earlier.
Nancy has a talk with the girl and learns that she was working on her own skates. Dino confesses that the skates she had weren't even the same colors as Nancy's skates. He keeps wanting to help her, but she eventually has to tell him that he's too young. When she gets home, she learns from Hannah that someone in a CARING shirt was there that afternoon and trying to sell energy bars. Lena then reveals that there was no one from the group out working that day.
Hannah doesn't recall much about the girl except that she wore black glasses and had long blond hair. No one George or Lena knows who works there matches that description. The girl even told Hannah not to pay until her order arrived. Nancy thinks someone is selling fake bars to make CARING look bad, but I'm guessing that it's people casing homes.
They then get together and stage a reenactment of when someone tampered with Bess's juice. Someone saw the bottle that Brittany had glitter in the sunlight. Since only glass glitters and Brittany was drinking from a plastic bottle, Nancy realizes that the little girl was the one who tampered with the bottle. As they head back to the office, someone grabs Nancy from behind and tries to strangle her. It's been a few books since her life was seriously in danger, so it's about time.
Josh runs in and shouts at Maria to let her go. Maria says that she caught Nancy snopping around, listening to the kids talk, and needed to stop her. After some back and forth, Maria finally confesses that she and Brittany did spike the drink but only as a gag way to “welcome” Bess to their group. Lena decides to give it some serious thought as to what to do next.
Happy that they solved the case but still concerned over who messed with her skates, Nancy has a sudden realization. People always pay for their energy bars with smaller bills, but the money Alex handed over that was supposedly from Maria were all brand new $20 bills. Maria says that the money she gave him included at least $50 in single bills, but Alex doesn't come in that day and they aren't sure what to do next.
After randomly going to some skating competition between both groups, Nancy gets the go ahead to check out the pledge donation sheets in the head office. Not only does she wind up finding the glasses that the woman wore to her house but a list of addresses that were robbed in recent weeks. The very last address has a date listed of that very day and is a house right down the street from her.
That makes her realize that Lena was behind the same thing and they go chasing after her. Though she almost gets away, they catch her in the end. The cops go to the address listed and find Alex trying to break into the house. It turns out that Lena would send people out to addresses that YES went to so that if the cops found a link between the robberies and CARING, they'd also find a link with YES. Alex confesses his part in everything and gets arrested. At the very end, Josh makes a comment about getting a big donation and wonders how Lena will react. After sharing looks and laughs with her friends, Nancy tells him that Lena probably won't have an opinion.
*When Josh tells Nancy that the YES group competes directly with CARING for money, she wonders why they need to fight and not get along. Does she seriously not realize how competitive grants and fundraising campaigns are?
*On the other hand, why does River Heights have two different youth groups? Can't the two groups just merge and share resources?
*Nancy seems surprised that so many people gave to both CARING and YES but I'm not. If you have a ton of cash, why not donate to two youth groups?
*It seems kind of weird that they make the kids sell energy bars to make money. I know they need to raise money, but there are other things kids can do beyond selling energy bars door-to-door.