Welcome to the third day of "Mystery Week!" For those of you who are just joining us today, please read Monday's post for a list of the rules for the giveaway/contest, as well as the first part of the story. Then you can read yesterday's post for the second part. Soon you'll be all caught up! ;)
Before I get to the latest installment of the story, I wanted to add a chance for you to get an extra entry in the contest. If your answer in the e-mail is close to the actual conclusion of the story (and you're not the only one who is close to the correct answer, which means I'll have to do a drawing), then you can get an extra entry by telling me what show I got the name of my characters from. It might be easier to guess after reading tomorrow's installment of the story. Please include your guess in your official e-mail entry. Hope that makes sense! If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section.
And now, for another part of the story:
The Nature Trail (Part Three)
By Amber Stokes
Her day went by unfulfilled. No word from Ned, and no answers to her questions. To console herself, Callie picked up Chinese food after work. Surely Kung Pao chicken, steamed rice (never fried rice), and a fortune cookie would make her feel better. Of course, she preferred to eat Chinese food with Ned, but that would have to wait for another day. At home, she grabbed a paper plate, dished out large portions of food, and ignored all of the uncertainties in her mind. Until she heard a noise outside, that is. Quickly shoving another bite of the chicken into her mouth, she pretended that it was simply a raccoon or a fox rummaging through the trash. Although a human could just have easily knocked over the garbage can… Fine. She would check outside, and then go back to her dinner. Pulling back the curtain in her living room, Callie was startled to see someone in the yard near the gravel driveway. It was that man from the nature trail! He had a medium-sized cardboard box near his feet, and he was once again crouching over something. Placing a hand over her heart, Callie ran to the front door. Hastily unlocking it, she rushed around to the driveway and yelled, “What are you doing here?” Was this simply déjà vu? The man jumped and dropped something, but before she could call out to him again, he grabbed the box and ran down the road.
Callie’s heartbeat seemed to be racing with his retreating form. About to return inside and lock the door, her eyes landed on a spark in the grass where the man had been kneeling. No! The spark became a flame, and her heart came to a halt. She couldn’t think, couldn’t move.
“Callie!” The voice spurred her into action. “Ned! The grass—it’s on fire!”
Ned came running from across the road where there was a path that connected to the nature trail. She ran to meet him, and watched as he took off his jacket and started to beat out the fire. In a matter of moments, the flame had disappeared. Had he arrived any later, Callie didn’t want to know what would have happened.
“Oh, Callie.” Ned opened his arms and she threw herself into his embrace, letting the sobs break free from her terrified heart. “That man could have set the whole yard on fire! My beautiful land…”
“Shhhh,” Ned comforted her, rubbing her back gently. “I hate to think what could have happened.” Gulping, Callie pushed away from him, confused by the remorseful tone in his voice. His hand shook slightly as he grabbed his singed jacket from the ground. His almost black hair looked burnt in the soft light of early evening, and his face was rather red, like he was the one who had been set on fire, rather than her yard.
“What were you doing on the nature trail, Ned?”
His gaze met hers, and he shook his head. “I was just taking a walk, Callie.” “I’m going to go finish my dinner. We can talk more later.” She didn’t care if she sounded absurd. She would be safe inside—at least, safer than out here.
And with that she turned around and headed back around the house to the door. But when she looked back once, she saw Ned crouched over the same spot where the other man had been. He looked sad as he picked up an item and walked down the driveway toward the road. Before he put the item in his pocket, she got a glimpse of it. It looked very much like a candle.
To Be Continued...