Monday, September 13, 2010

Mystery Week: Part One

Was it the reader with the book in the library? Or perhaps the blogger with the heavy laptop in the hall? Yes, dear readers, today is the first day of "Mystery Week," and I've got something different in store for you, which will require your participation! So grab your magnifying glass and notebook and join me in this five-part story of intrigue!

Rules:
  • During the next five days, I will be sharing a mystery story I wrote, divided into five parts so as to give only one piece of the "puzzle" each day. The story is set at an actual place in my home county, a nature trail which I love to walk on with my family--especially my grandpa, who recently had a bench dedicated to him because of his work on the nature trail. (Click HERE to read a post from the summer about his bench.) However, the story is a work of fiction.
  • This is not your traditional giveaway. That is to say, you will not be entered into the giveaway simply by leaving a comment on this post. In fact, while I encourage you to leave comments and share your thoughts, the only way to be entered into the giveaway is to e-mail me at: stokes[dot]a[at]suddenlink[dot]net.
  • You must e-mail me on or before Thursday, September 16, 2010. No entries will be accepted after Thursday (PDT).
  • Your e-mail must include your best deduction as to the conclusion of the story I will be sharing with you over the next several days. The answer closest to the correct conclusion will be the winner. If more than one person is close to the actual conclusion in their description, I will do a drawing from those names. The final part to the story will be revealed on Friday, September 17, 2010, along with the name of the winner.
  • Why ask you to e-mail rather than simply comment? Well, I do want to hear your thoughts through the comments, but I really want everyone's final "guesses" to be confidential, so that each person can come to their own conclusion without feeling like they are simply copying someone else or were influenced by someone else, if the person so desires.
What is the prize? Excellent question! Thanks to a very generous donation from a dear friend, I have all three books of the "Brides of Bonneterre" series by Kaye Dacus to give away!!! The books are gently used but still in great condition. One person will receive all three books--a whole series to add to the winner's bookshelves!


One more thing: I am opening up this contest to readers from the United States and Canada! So I'll be looking for your e-mails within the next few days--anytime before Friday when you feel confident in giving your best guess.

Following is the first part of the story. Let the detective work begin!


The Nature Trail
By Amber Stokes

The nature trail in the woods near her home was Callie’s favorite place in the world. She loved going there in the early evenings especially, when dusk settled upon the trees and made the world come to life like a page from a mystery novel—both engaging and a tad foreboding.

Unfortunately, the setting sun she loved so dearly was hidden this particular evening by thick clouds, and darkness was stealing away her beloved bewitching-hour. Ned would hate it if he knew I was out here at night. Of course, now that fall was approaching, Ned would just have to deal with her need for some form of relaxation after a long day at the Foundation. And it only made sense to walk the nature trail that stretched between the Foundation and her home rather than get a ride that would take all of five minutes.

Breathing deeply, Callie felt her whole body relax as she emerged into the clearing. Not too much farther to go, and then she would be able to call her boyfriend from the safety of her home while eating a few peanut putter Dove chocolates. There was no better way to end a day.

The smile that had slowly softened her face at that thought disappeared faster than the last remnants of daylight. Someone else was on the nature trail, up ahead a ways, coming out of the orchard that was heavily guarded by some small pines. That place was so overgrown; what would anyone be doing there? A transient. Of course. This county was filled with homeless people, and one of them thought he could stroll right into her refuge and take over. No way.

Calling to his now crouching form, she said, “You—what are you doing here?” As soon as the bold words left her mouth, Callie wished she wasn’t all alone, in the descending dark.

The man stood and turned to her. Even across the short distance his body registered panic. He dropped something he had been holding and bolted into the woods.

Callie stood as still as the trees that hid the man from view, clutching Ned’s jacket tighter around her. What had she just seen? After a moment, she walked down the narrow path of wood chips in the field, veering to the right when she saw the object the man had dropped. Kneeling in the grass, she picked up a small box. She shot a glance to the woods, wondering if she should satisfy her curiosity or simply leave the box for the man to pick up later. What if it was drugs? Shouldn’t she take something like that to the sheriff?

Swallowing hard, she let her hand hover over the lid. Odd. She pressed her lips together as she studied the elegant white box. It looked more like something someone would bring home from the mall, instead of a box used to house an illegal substance. One more look around and she opened the lid. She inhaled sharply as she lifted a beautiful necklace from the soft cotton it lay on. The pendant looked to be composed of diamonds and emeralds alternating in the shape of a teardrop. Grasping it tightly, questions raced through Callie’s mind. As her eyes lifted, she saw the entrance to the orchard. Standing up, she placed the necklace back in its box and held it as she pushed past the tree branches that worked as a door to the hidden place.

Sure, the place was covered with even more weeds, and the grass was browner and taller than it had ever been. But just as she was about to give up, Callie saw a newly dug hole not far from where she stood. Upon closer inspection, the hole appeared to be just the right size to hide the box she held in her hands. The man had been planning on burying the necklace!

Running her tongue across her bottom teeth, Callie walked out of the orchard and thought about what she should do. Was the necklace stolen? Was it the last keepsake of a love gone wrong? But why had the man run away if it was as innocent as that?

Callie frowned, but decided to carry the box back home with her. Ned would know what to do. Uncertainty rushed her steps as she tried to outrun the complete darkness of night along with the unanswered questions that hounded her.

To Be Continued...

20 comments:

Kav said...

Oh, this sounds like fun! I'm a Trixie Belden wannabe. :-) I'll have to read the first part of your story more carefully when I get home from work.

:-)

Project Journal said...

Ummmmm Amber! This will be deliciously entertaining for me to fill my boring evenings!! Lol! As long as it's not on the weekends...when I'm home, I'm soooo busy! This is going to be awesome, I can tell already.

Can't wait to read more....ugh suspense. One of those love to hate type of things!!
Talk soon!
Hannah

Amber S. said...

Kav,

I'm glad it sounds like fun to you--I certainly had fun writing the story! ;) I confess that I don't think I've heard of Trixie Belden. Is she a fictional detective?

I won't be expecting too many people to send me e-mails before Thursday, because this is one of those stories that unfolds bit by bit, so it's hard to make a guess at the very beginning about what's going to happen at the end. All this to say--there are more clues to come! ;)

Thanks for your enthusiasm!

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Hannah,

No worries--all of the story will be revealed before the weekend, so hopefully it will be a fun way to spend your evenings when you're not doing homework. ;)

Thank you for your excitement! :D I'm so glad you can join us for this week! And I know just what you mean about suspense...it's how I feel when I'm anticipating a book coming in the mail. I love knowing that something is coming, but I'm just so impatient to hold it in my hands! ;)

~Amber

Project Journal said...

Oh man, Amber, don't even tell me about homework! Mine is done soooo early! I have TOO much time right now, believe it or not! It'll be really good to have something to do *grin* So thank you for supplying my entertainment for the week....3 1/2 days and 4 nights until I'm home again!! YAY!

: P

Hannah

Amber S. said...

Hannah,

Oh, boy, am I jealous right now! ;) I know homework will help me learn, especially since a large part of it is reading, but if I had more time...I have a very nice TBR stack calling out to me!

I'm glad you have the weekends to look forward to, especially getting to spend time with your family. :) Do you have any books you can read for fun right now? Enter lots of giveaways if you don't! ;)

Talk to you later!

~Amber

Julia M. Reffner said...

Hi, Amber. I enjoyed your story. I'm sorry, don't think I will be participating this week...found out I have jury duty. So I guess that's my mystery week:) Wanted to let you know as I was excited about it though :)

@Kav, I love Trixie. Need to get ahold of those books for my girl.

Project Journal said...

Lol Amber! Well, keep in mind, I'm a freshman and it's only the second week : P Sooooo, the work is coming I'm sure! However, I think I'd rather have a little bit more possibly *knock on wood* because then there'd be SOMETHING to do!!

And I've been reading Wicked for a while, but it's difficult to read in the suite. Too much noise from the other people and their people too : ( Usually I'm really good about being able to tune it out, but....noth here. It's really distracting!!
Hannah

Amber S. said...

Julia,

I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it, although I'm bummed you might not get to read the rest of it! :( I haven't ever had jury duty yet, but from what I've heard I know it's not the most fun thing in the world. ;) I hope it goes well for you!

Maybe you can stop by on the weekend if you get a chance to find out how the story ends. ;) Completely up to you. Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by!

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Hannah,

Oh, for the day that I would actually *want* more homework! ;) *sigh* But that's great that you want to learn, and I'm sure you'll soon be in the same position as me. It can be hard to balance homework, classes, church, reading, working out, blogging, etc., and I can't say that last year I did a very good job at it. I'm feeling a little better about balance this year, but it IS only the first few weeks in. ;) But I'm sure as long as I keep my priorities straight (I need to remember--God first!), then everything will be fine.

I forgot that you were in a suite! I'm sure that must get very noisy, which does make it hard to read. Could you maybe go outside (not sure how warm it is there) or go to the library or something? I hope my blog is enough to keep you entertained for a while! ;)

~Amber

Project Journal said...

Oh Amber, your blog does keep me entertained : D It's nice to know that there is someone who's kind of in the same position as me! It is tricky to balance it all...

Yeah a suite definitely has its' perks, but it has major downsides too. The upperclassmen are all interested in partying : / They've already had alcohol during the first week of classes! Last Thursday was "Thirsty Thursday". It definitely doesn't tempt me, it just makes it awkward when they're wandering around drunk! I don't know, sometimes I don't feel like I can complain, but other times it's just like ugh!

Ummm it's cold here already! Lol...not to mention wicked rainy this week. We're in New Hampshire, girl!! It. Is. Cold! But it'll get colder : D
Hannah

Amber S. said...

Hannah,

Oh, thank you! I'm glad. :D And yes, it certainly can be tricky trying to balance it all--but it is indeed a comfort to know we're not alone! Not only are both of us going through the college experience, but we know that God is with us. What a comfort!

I'm so sorry about the situation in the suites! I can't even imagine how awkward and hard that would be. I go to a Christian college, so I don't really have to deal with drunken classmates. Again, I'm so sorry! :(

And bummer about the cold weather! The fall colors must be beautiful, though. :) It gets pretty rainy here, too, but we've had some nice late summer weather recently.

I'm enjoying "chatting" with you!

~Amber

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ Amber, Unfortunately even at Christian colleges it happens. It is just more well-hidden. My husband had a "suite" mate that had a "hidden" issue with alcohol.

I'm so glad that you haven't encountered it, though. I was so blessed with godly college friends as it sounds like you are.

I hope you have a great week!

Amber S. said...

Julia,

I know you're right, but I haven't really come across much of it. Yesterday our campus pastor was encouraging us in chapel to be more open about our own life stories, because we need to remember that we are forgiven and we need community. I hope that those who might be hiding things like that will seek God's strength to move past it and His love to know that they are not unforgivable. And may I remember the same with all of my own sins, as well!

I have definitely been blessed with wonderful friends here, and I'm glad you had the same experience at school, as well! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts! :)

Hope your week is great, as well!

~Amber

Julia M. Reffner said...

I so agree with that, Amber. I know as God reminds me about my sins I have more mercy for others. So true.

P.S. Today is my day off, so I'm spending a bit more time than usual on the computer. I'm praying that I keep my mind off the case so I can enjoy this day with my family and relaxing. God is so good.

Project Journal said...

Yeah, I don't know what's worse, Julia, having them try to hide it or just do it in the open? : S Like I said it's not like it tempts me, yuck! Not my choice...but it makes it much more unmanagable. I'm trying to keep an open mind about...well everything at least right now! Come next year, I might be commuting because I'm about 40 minutes from home, it would cut out a big chunk of the cost, I could work during the week to help pay for this school (it's wicked expensive, if not out of my budget!), and I could have a bit more flexability with my schedule....to plan it. As it is right now, I could commute. I have one 8am class, but that's still doable. An early morning but that's ok every now and again! Lol....it's just so hard to not be home....I really do hate that part of it. And the people, for the most part don't help. Most of them have made the friends they wanted to make friends with and that's that. Seriously after that point, they're very closed minded which stinks...

*sigh* Ah well, still trying to keep that mind open!! *half grin-ish* Lol...

Okay, I've got to get ready...have you ever heard of Tommie DePaolo? He lives in town and is coming to speak at noon. Have to finish something up then I'm out the door!

It's always great talking with you too! But the "chatting" thing is even better : D
Hannah

Amber S. said...

Julia,

Thank you for your response, and I hope you have a wonderful day with your family! :) God is beyond good, indeed!

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Hannah,

It sounds like a good plan--it can be a big extra expense to live on campus, and if you would be willing to wake up early enough, you could still stay with your family and save money. :) There are a lot of aspects of dorm life which I really enjoy, but I think if I was going to a secular college I probably wouldn't feel the same way. And I don't even know what I'm going to do when I graduate in two years...but God knows what the future holds, so I just need to trust in Him! :D

I hope you can make some good friends, and no matter what, know that God is with you and your blogging friends are here for you! :) Feel free to e-mail or comment whenever you'd like!

I've never heard of Tommie DePaolo, but I hope you enjoy his talk! It's been fun talking with you, too!

~Amber

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Wow Amber! You sure have a talent for writing I'm really enjoying this story! I confess I'm not much of a mystery fan but lately I'm starting to get into it after reading Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julie Grey series and now your short story.

Sorry I was so late stopping by but I've been busy busy busy planning my brother's birthday party this week, reading books with reviews dues and getting ready for my own b-day next week!

XOXO~ Renee

Amber S. said...

Renee,

Awww, thank you! :D You are so sweet, and it means so much to me that you're enjoying the story even though you're not much of a mystery fan! I like some mystery stories, even if it's not really my favorite genre, and I had a fun time writing this story. :)

That's so sweet of you to plan your brother's birthday party! Happy birthday to him! And happy early birthday to you!!! :D

Oh, and I know what you mean about the pile of review books... ;)

~Amber