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Dead Wood Detective Agency: A Narrative Fiction

I cleared my throat. “But this is—” “Listen, I’ve been shooing away lookie-loos all morning. ” I got off my bike, reached into my pocket, pulled out one of our cards, and handed it to her. She read it aloud: “Dead Wood Detective Agency. Twist Tisalton—Seth Holloway—Madison Mischief. We will investigate anything, from misdemeanors to mayhem. And mystery is our middle name. ” She looked me, amused, a pimply smile playing upon her cheeks. “I see. ” “Ghosts are our specialty, ma’am,” Seth added. “But don’t get me wrong, we do enjoy the occasional bump off or break-in. “Ah, okay. ” She glanced at the card.

“So you and your friends look into stuff, huh? ” “Yes, ma’am. We’re here on official business, testing a theory,” Twist explained. “And I’m sure if my assumptions are correct, the chief will be awfully pleased. ” She narrowed her eyes. “Hey, weren’t you kids here the other day with Chief Chizelmen when he discovered the secret room? ” I nodded. “He’s a family friend, officer. ” “Right. Well, go on in,” she ordered, in a tone she probably used on her dog. “But don’t dawdle. ” We trudged up the gravel path and skipped inside.

Seth and I started looking around the first floor for more secret rooms. But Twist didn’t waste time. He ran up the rickety stairs to the second floor, stood in the upper hall facing us and screamed. Seth and I looked at each other and I could tell we were thinking the same thing: Twist has lost it. I mean all of it, including his nuts and bolts. “Wow! Can you say . . . weird? ” Seth whispered. “What is he doing? ” I shrugged. “I have no clue. ” Twist strutted down the stairs, stood in the middle of the vaulted parlor, and screeched again.

Afterwards he went outdoors, and we followed him. Well? ” he asked the police officer. “Could you hear me? ” “I heard a couple of shouts,” she told him. “One sounded muffled. The other one was a little bit louder, but you closed the door. ” “I know,” Twist said. “I’m attempting to duplicate the events of the other night, and according to a source someone had yanked the door shut. ” Twist looked around. There was a big, scruffy clump of decorative shrubs at the corner of the house. “Okay, I’m going to stand behind those. ” Twist pointed to the hedge. “You stay here and listen. Then tell me what you hear.

He strolled over, slipped in behind the bush, leaned out, and yelled. The cop nodded. “I heard you that time,” she said. “Loud and clear. Hey, what are you trying to prove? ” “I’m trying to figure out where the apparition stood when it shrieked,” Twist said, his face pensive before breaking into a grin. “And I have a hunch it was outside. Unless it used a megaphone. ” “Huh? ” The officer raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t know ghosts had pockets. ” “What do you mean? ” Seth said. “Well,” she told him. “The phantom would have to carry the loud speaker someplace. ” He smiled. “That was a joke, right? “Yes. See you around, kid. ”

The policewoman waved and gave us a small, dazzled smile as if we were her long lost pals. We waved back as we tore down the drive and stopped at the end where it became a wall of short, scrubby-needled pines. “So listen,” I said. “I wrote out our investigation plan: One, interrogate suspects. Two, collect and review evidence. Three, determine the perpetrator’s motives. I think it’s best if we begin at the top of the list and work our way down. I have the names and addresses of all the eyewitnesses who reported to the police after seeing the ghost.

So I picked the address next door to Gray Meadow Manor and figured we could start there. ” We hung a sharp left then rounded a corner just as a car swerved into a driveway framed by pink flamingos. A man hobbled out and almost knocked a yard gnome over as he kicked the driver’s side door closed. Once we got closer, I could see that it was Mr. Greene, but he seemed older somehow. “Hi,” he said and started to cough and hack so hard his face turned bright red. After the hacking subsided, he leaned into the back seat of his car and grabbed a bag of groceries.

Twist jumped off his bike and plowed across the overgrown grass to the car. “Let me carry those sacks in for you, sir. ” “Thank you, son. Come in, all of you. It’s too hot out here. Do you want a drink or something? ” We nodded. Mr. Greene unlocked the front door and stepped inside. “Why don’t you sit and let me make you some iced tea? ” He pointed to several dusty, orange recliners next to a pile of books in a small den. The room smelled like coffee and clothes left in the washing machine too long. I flopped into the chair closest to the door and glanced over my shoulder.

Heavy drawn velvet drapes the color of honey blocked out most of the sunshine, making it hard to see. But once my eyes adjusted to the muted warm, buttery glow, I noticed that a watercolor plastered with dragonflies and lotus flowers hung in the hall. Then a streak of muted light caught the edge of an antique bronze sculpture of Buddha holding a string of beads. It sat beside a triangular shaped hat on a carved nesting table. Mr. Greene came back into the room and handed us each a glass. I thanked him and took a sip of the cool, sweet drink. “Are you feeling all right, Mr. Greene? ”

His wrinkled faced puckered into a smile as he scooted back on a musty, brown leather sofa. “I’m okay. ” He took a blast from his inhaler. “I have a touch of asthma. ” “Oh. ” I frowned. “Are you sure? ” “Of course, my dear. ” He picked the cap up off the table. “Do you know what kind of hat this is? ” “No, but it’s awesome. ” “It’s called a tricorne. A sea captain gave it to me. ” Mr. Greene narrowed his eyes. “Hey, I know you. You’re the girl who was at the house the other night. And,” he pointed to Seth, “he was there too. But I’ve never seen you before. ” Twist handed him one of our cards.

Then he reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out his glasses, and nudged them up the bridge of his nose. “Thank you for the drink, Mr. Greene. My name is Twist. I’m their friend and a co-sleuth at the Dead Wood Detective Agency. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions? ” “Go ahead,” he replied. “I don’t have anything to hide. ” His accent sounded more pronounced than it had the other night. It was strange—southern, definitely barbed with a prairie twang, and mixed with something nasally. “Can you tell us what happened on the night you saw the ghost? ” He coughed again. “Sure.

I was sitting on my porch with a neighbor from across the street discussing the weather. A man whom I had never seen before walked up and asked if we wanted to go over and peek at the MacBride mansion before it was torn down. Well, we weren’t doing anything, so I grabbed a couple of flashlights out of my garage and gave one to my neighbor. Then the three of us headed over there. On the way, we saw another guy sitting outside and the men asked him to join us. He acted like it would be fun to visit a supposed haunted house. He said we might even see a ghost, and as it turned out, we did.

The entire night was awfully peculiar. ” “Had you never seen the guy who asked you to peek at the house before? ” Seth asked. Mr. Greene shook his head. “I don’t think so. But I’ve never been very good with faces. Sometimes, in my more lucid moments, I’ll see someone once and remember them. Like I did with those two over there. Other times, well, it’s like the old saying: there one minute and gone the next. ” He rubbed his palms together and swiped at the air, as if miming dust being scraped off and swept away by the breeze. “So maybe I’ve seen him before, and maybe I haven’t. ” How many men were there when you reached the house, Mr. Greene? ” I asked.

“Four,” he said. “Somebody else said there were five. I know there were four of us when we started up the drive. After we heard the scream and began searching for its source, I didn’t count. It was terribly dark and chaotic. When we left, we split up. My neighbor and I thought we had better report the incident to the police. I don’t know what happened to the others. ” A doggy door burst open and the small, wire-haired terrier bounded through and leaped on Mr. Greene’s lap. “Get down, girl. ” He laughed. “Where are your manners? ”

She stretched out next to his feet, panting. “Do you remember Ting-Ting? ” “Yes. She’s such a good dog. ” I smiled. “Well, thank you so much for your time, Mr. Greene. ” He got up and stumbled over to open the door. “Okay, everybody circle up! ” I ordered once we were outside. “There’s another name on my list. So here the plan. We’ll pedal to the junkyard. Have lunch. Then interrogate the suspect. ” “I thought we were questioning a witness, not a suspect? ” Twist insisted. “Whatever. It’s the same thing just a different word. ” I rolled my eyes, jumped on my bike, and rode like the wind beneath the rose-colored sky.

Twist rocketed up beside me. “Different terms. Different meanings, Madison. ” “He’s right. ” Seth said, performing a flying dismount beneath The Tisalton Plastics, Glass, & Other Salvage Materials Yard sign and slung his bike into a patch of shade. “Fine, you win. We will question the witness after lunch. Are you happy? ” I asking, leaning against the iron gate. “I won. I really, really, won. Triumph at last. ” He threw his arms up in the shape of a V—meaning victory and knocked on the trailer. Jack let us in. “What’s up, Twist? ” Jack said. “Seen any ghosts lately? ” He shook his head. Hey, last night you heard me yell, right? ” “Yell? Nah. ” Jack snickered. “I heard you squeal like a stuck pig, though. ”

“Little girl. Stuck pig. Whichever. It’s all good. ” His eyebrows knit together. “The point is you heard me. But would you have heard me if the window hadn’t been open? ” “I guess not. ” He shrugged. “What’re you getting at? ” “The screams everyone heard and the dog that didn’t do anything! ” Twist pounded on a stack of old tires lying in the yard to emphasize his excitement. “Huh? ” I glanced at Seth. He looked as confused as I was. “What are talking about? Do you think the dog screamed?

Or is the dog the ghost, and that’s why he didn’t do anything? Wait. He did do something—he whined. ” “I don’t have time to explain,” he said and ran into his room. I gave up and followed him. I think Seth did too. Twist grabbed his phone, put it on speaker, and dialed Emma MacBride. “Hello? ” “Miss MacBride, this is Twist Tisalton, Madison and Seth’s friend. ” “Oh, thank goodness! ” She sighed. “I’ve been trying to reach you all day. You’re not going to believe this, but my nephew Ryan is gone. ” “Gone? Where did he go? ” “You don’t understand! ” Her voice trembled. “He’s been kidnapped. ”

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