- 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.
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...