The beginning of this week was filled with Eliza Knight’s romantic tales… And as most of you know, I am also a mother. My oldest daughter is an avid reader—and a pre-teen. My books are not for the pre-teen audience. She has begged me to write some stories that she can read, and so I have had a great time writing the first two books in a mystery trilogy Mystery #1: The Mystery of the Old Black Diary and Mystery #2: The Mystery at 321 Chestnut Street (the 3rd title will be released at Christmas this year— Mystery #3: The Mount Falls Ghost Mystery). In 2012, I will release a middle-grade fantasy novel, The Secret Staircase.
So that my romance readers and middle-grade readers do not get confused, I invented a new name for myself, M. Leigh Ingles. You can visit my corner of the web for updates and buy links here: http://mleighingles.blogspot.com/
I’m thrilled to share with you, the first chapters of Mystery #1: The Mystery of the Old Black Diary and Mystery #2: The Mystery at
321 Chestnut Street today.
Mystery #1: The Mystery of the Old Black Diary
Ashlynn peered out the window of her family’s mini-van as they arrived at their new Victorian style home at
321 Chestnut Street. With a tall turret on the left side, a rusty green iron rooster turning in the wind at the turret’s top, the house looked like it came straight from one of those redesign your old house shows her mom watched—or maybe even a ghost story.
Was the house haunted? She shuddered at the thought.
The house was eerie, tall and white clapboard with darkened windows. A slanted black slated roof had spires and chimneys poking out. A porch wrapped around the front, and met in the middle with wide wooden stairs, and a set of dark wooden double doors.
Rain had started to fall in the late afternoon and dripped in rivulets down the windows of the van. The sound of the water splattering, windshield wipers going and the crunch of gravel under the tires reminded her of a Halloween movie she’d seen on television last year.
Why did they have to move in the rain? For that matter, why did they have to move at all? But she knew why… Mom and Dad wanted to move back to the town they grew up in, so here they were,
. Two more days, and then she’d start a new week at a new school, and have to meet all new friends. The thought was daunting, but mom promised next summer they could make a trip back to Rock Bend to visit old friends—and Mom even said maybe her best friend Patricia could come and visit in the spring when she turned eleven. Mount Falls
Even if she was apprehensive about the move, she was glad they’d finally arrived. The anticipation of seeing their new home had been driving her up the wall! What would her room look like? Their backyard? Was there a park nearby? What did her new school look like? And could she find a special spot to hide from her two sisters—seven-year-old Dania and six-year-old Lizzie?
Most of all—she’d have her own room, and wouldn’t have to share with her sisters. Now, that was a plus! A space to call her own, no one digging through her drawers to steal her socks, and her hairbrush wouldn’t disappear either.
As if on cue, her two younger sisters broke out into high-pitched squeals upon seeing a tire swing hanging from a humongous old oak tree covered in red and yellow leaves, just to the left of the house.
“Look, Ash!” her sister Dania grasped her arm and pointed at the swing. The tire swung in the wind, as did the branches.
“Isn’t it awesome?” squealed Lizzie, the youngest of the Morgan sisters.
Ashlynn smiled. “Yeah, I can’t wait to swing on it. I call dibs!”
Her younger sisters pursed their lips in pouts and conceded.
“Just teasing guys, you found it first. I’ll go last.” Ashlynn loved to tease her sisters. It was her way of getting back at them for messing with her things.
“Yay!” they shouted in unison.
“Girls look at that!” Their mother’s voice was full of wonder. She pointed to a rainbow that appeared out of the clouds over the old white house.
The rain slowed to a drizzle and by the time they reached the circle drive and parked out front, it petered out completely.
“Awesome!” Dania and Lizzie shouted as they rushed from the car.
But Ashlynn didn’t say anything. As she stared at the rainbow, the blue, orange, purple and yellow mixing and flowing like a water-colored painting, a shadow appeared in the top window of the turret. She must have imagined it… There wasn’t anyone here. The realtor had already given them the keys, no more paperwork to fill out…
“Mom, have the moving guys already brought all the furniture?”
“Yes, sweetheart. Want to go see your room?” her mother answered, displaying one of her winning smiles.
“Of course,” Ashlynn answered.
“You’re going to love it,” Dad exclaimed as he too got out of the car. Ashlynn followed, surprised that the air around the house was warm after a late September rain. “Come on, I’ll show you. Your room is right up there.”
Ashlynn gulped. Her eyes widened. Dad was pointing to the window where she’d seen the shadow cross just moments before.
“All the way at the top?” she asked, biting her lip to hide the quiver in her voice.
Her dad shook his head. “Just under it. That top one is the attic.”
She breathed an audible sigh of relief and was pleased to see the sky blue curtains with white butterflies she’d picked out hanging prettily behind the glass.
Her sisters jumped up and down on the porch, encouraging Ashlynn and their parents to climb the five stairs and open the door. They too couldn’t wait to see their rooms, and she was sure, they wanted to race through the house to find new spying spots. Dania and Lizzie were always hiding—and listening in on her conversations on the phone with her friends. Secretly, Ashlynn couldn’t wait to find her new spot too. She loved nothing more than to curl up in the afternoon with a good book, and read until her mom called her down to dinner. With two rambunctious sisters, that required some cunning and a secret location.
She glanced at the old oak tree. Maybe dad would consider building her a tree house? She’d have to ask him about it over dinner.
With one last look at the darkened attic window, and a sigh of relief at no longer seeing the shadow of a figure, Ashlynn followed her family into the house.
Mystery #2: The Mystery at
321 Chestnut Street
Butter. Milk. Eggs. Sugar. Flour.
Those are the ingredients needed to make delicious, melt in your mouth, fluffy pancakes!
Ashlynn measured the flour, milk and sugar carefully into the mixing bowl, before pouring milk and cracking the eggs into the mixture. She stirred until all the ingredients were mixed, leaving it a bit lumpy like the directions said.
“Whatcha doin’?” Lizzie wandered into the kitchen while rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
“Making pancakes fro everyone.” Ashlynn kept on stirring the ingredients.
Lizzie’s eyes widened. “From scratch?”
Ashlynn nodded her head enthusiastically. “Yeah! Do you think everyone will be excited?”
Lizzie leaned over the counter to peer into the bowl. “Smells good. I think they will love it. No frozen pancakes this morning!”
Ashlynn chuckled, “Not that there is anything wrong with Mom’s frozen pancakes.”
“Right,” said Lizzie, “we just wanted to try out a recipe, right?”
“Right! I think it’s ready for a pan.”
Ashlynn grabbed one of her mother’s skillets from the cabinet and placed it on the stove, then stared at the dials.
“Do you know what to do?” Lizzie asked.
“I think it’s this one.” She pointed to the dial that had a colored dot in the same spot on its diagram as where her pan rested on the stove.
“Looks right to me,” Lizzie said with a shrug.
“Let’s give it a shot.” Ashlynn took a deep breath and turned the dial. The coils under the pan slowly turned orange, and heat emanated from beneath. “Awesome! We got it right.”
“Now, you just have to try to cook those pancakes without burning them.”
“Thanks Lizzie,” Ashlynn said sarcastically and rolled her eyes. But in her mind, those were her exact thoughts. She had forgotten to ask her parents if she could use the stove, and really hoped she didn’t set the house on fire.
“Just saying…” Lizzie trailed off. “Did you ask if you could use the stove?”
“If you aren’t going to help, and you’re just going to make fun of me, then go somewhere else,” Ashlynn retorted.
Lizzie’s face fell. “I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings Ashlynn, you don’t have to be so mean.”
Ashlynn immediately felt bad for yelling at her sister. It was a fact, she would have to pay attention so she didn’t burn the pancakes, and since she’d never made them before, she was really uncertain about it—and she should ask her mom at least.
“You’re right, I’m sorry. I just really wanted to make breakfast perfect for everyone.”
Lizzie smiled and placed her hand on Ashlynn’s shoulder. “It will be perfect, because you thought of it, and because you tried your best.”
Ashlynn laughed. “You sound like mom. And speaking of mom, I’m just going to go ask her really quickly.”
Ashlynn rushed upstairs and asked her mother , who agreed it was okay as long as she was down there. Together they made it back to the kitchen where her mom hid in the background so Ashlynn could still feel like she was cooking all by herself.
Lizzie clapped her hands. “Let’s do this.” She then sprayed cooking oil onto the pan.
Ashlynn dipped a ladle into the bowl and then poured a big circle of pancake batter onto the pan.
“The directions say that when the sides of the pancake bubble that we have to flip it over,” Ashlynn said.
“Look, Ash! Bubbles!”
“Wow, I didn’t expect it to happen so fast,” Ashlynn exclaimed and grabbed a spatula to flip the pancake.
Several minutes later, they had a perfect stack of pancakes.
“Wow, that was easier than I thought.” Ashlynn gazed at the stack with renewed confidence and pride. “Let’s go announce breakfast!”
Everyone sat around the table, tentatively tasting the pancakes. Their eyes grew wide when the fluffy perfection touched their tongues.
“Wow, girls! These are great!” Dad said.
“The best I’ve ever had,” Mom said, nodding her head empathically.
“I had no idea you guys could cook! No more frozen pancakes for me,” Dania added, shoveling a forkful into her mouth.
“Did I ever tell you about that pancake mystery?” Dad asked, wiping syrup from his chin.
“The pancake villain, who instead of egging or toilet-papering houses, was covering houses and cars in pancakes?” Ashlynn said, recalling the article from the library she’d seen last fall.
“That’s the one!” Dad clapped his hands together, and wiggled his brows with excitement.
“Tell us,” the girls exclaimed as one.
“Well, it was probably when I was a teenager. I walked out of the house, and something warm and sticky hit me square in the face. It covered my entire face!” Dad covered his face with a pancake from the pile.
The girls laughed so hard, they started snorting, Lizzie actually snorted milk out of her nose, which only made them laugh harder, and Dania fell out of her chair. Ashlynn reached over and plucked two eyeholes for her Dad out of the pancake.
“Did you catch the guy?” Ashlynn asked, flicking the little circles at Dania, who then flicked them onto Lizzie.
“By the time I peeled the pancake off my face, syrup was dripping into my eyeballs. I did happen to catch a glimpse though, and he was smaller than I was, so he was either a small man, or another teenager like me.”
“Or a girl,” Dania said.
“Very true!” Mom said. “Maybe it was a girl who had a crush on Daddy.”
“Ew!” the girls said in unison, before breaking out into a song about their dad and some silly little girl sitting in a tree.
“Oh, come on. Daddy was too much of a dork. No one had a crush on me but your mom, and who knows why!” He laughed, at their mom’s perturbed look.
“Anyways, I still say it was a girl,” Mom said. “Who’s with me?”
Ashlynn tapped her chin, and was about to speak when a shadow crossed over the table. She gasped, and looked toward the window at the source of the dark shadow.
An odd black cat, with almond shaped, intelligent, yellow eyes. The cat stared straight at her, without moving, as if studying her. Chills ran up and down Ashlynn’s arms—making her arm hairs stand on end.
“Whose cat is that?” Lizzie asked in a whisper.
“I don’t know,” Dania whispered back.
“Why are we whispering?” Mom asked. “It’s outside the window, it can’t hear us.”
“But it can see us…” Dad said in a quiet voice. “Booo-ahahahaha!” Dad shouted, making all three girls jump and once again Dania fell out of her chair.
“Dad!” they shouted as one.
When Ashlynn looked back at the window, the cat was gone. She jumped from her seat and ran to press her face to the sun-warmed glass. The cat ran halfway across the yard before turning back around and meeting her gaze. He was staring at her…
She had to find out what that cat wanted. One thing was for sure, they definitely had another mystery at
321 Chestnut Street.