Dear Readers and Loyal Newsletter Subscribers,
As we get closer to the release on FEBRUARY 1 of Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets, Book 1 in my Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries series, I will continue offering excerpts from the story.
Last time, I featured the first half of Chapter 1.
So get a clue, Readers. Please let me know what you think. And don’t forget to mark your calendars and purchase my book at Amazon.com in paperback and/or eBook on FEBRUARY1.
But for now, sit back and hopefully enjoy the conclusion of Chapter 1:
. . . Nothing. It must have been his imagination. Or maybe Mrs. T’s next- door neighbor was passing by in his side yard. Being a detective with a tendency toward curiosity, he decided to investigate.
Setting the pieces of the sphinx down on Dr. T’s desk, he unlocked the doors and stepped outside into the mild breeze. Scanning the area, he saw no one and concluded the shadow could have been caused by some fluttering branches of the nearby weeping willow tree. He hesitated a moment, shrugged, and returned to the study, making certain to relock the doors. Then, he carefully picked up the sphinx pieces off the desk to show the others.
“Lanny, you better hurry before Moki eats all the cookies,” Rani shouted over her shoulder just as the boy was rejoining the group. Cookie scents wafted to his nostrils, but he didn’t have food on his mind.
Mrs. T’s eyebrows knitted together as she stared at Lanny’s hands. “What do you have there, Lanyon?” she asked. In answer, he put his palms face up to reveal his find.
“Oh, that was my husband’s paperweight. He bought it in one of his favorite dusty, old curio shops in Giza on a trip to Egypt many years ago. It must have been too near the edge of his desk and gotten jostled off during the earthquake.”
A moderate earthquake had, indeed, rumbled through their coastal resort town of Las Palmitas that very morning and snaked its way up into the group’s beautiful neighborhood of Botanic Hill. They were all too familiar with earthquakes in Southern California.
“How he treasured that little sphinx so.” She gently took the precious pieces from Lanny, cradling and inspecting them momentarily. “Fortunately, I think I can easily fix it.”
Lanny watched the rest of the squad finish the snacks. He turned toward Mrs. Thornsley and said, “You said you called us here today to tell us about Dr. T’s urn. Is it from the same expedition where he found the mummy mask that’s on the wall in his study?”
“Yes, Lanyon, though the mask is just a copy of the original. My husband found both objects in Egypt at the royal burial grounds in Abydos last summer along with other treasures.” The widow quickly pulled something from her pocket. “Here’s a photo he took of the urn right after it arrived in his office at the ARC last October for study and display. He estimated the urn and mask to be 5,000 years old and priceless.”
The kids crowded around the photo. “It’s beautiful with all the golden swirling lotus designs on the black enamel paint,” Lexi said. Her voice swelled with pride over Dr. Thornsley’s discovery.
“And it contained a mummified Egyptian cobra,” said Mrs. Thornsley with hiked-up eyebrows.
“Whoa!” Moki called out, abruptly removing his hand from the photo’s edge. “Why would anyone want to keep a snake, even a dead one, in a jar?” He brushed his hands as if to remove something squirmy and toxic. Snakes didn’t exist in his native Hawaiʽi. He was no fan of reptiles.
“It’s a tomb burial urn, Moki, and snakes were sacred to ancient Egyptians,” she replied.
“A ‘sacred snake’? Sorry, but those words don’t seem to go together in my head.”
The woman paused. Her face had turned ashen again, but she slowly continued. “I realize you kids might already know some of this information, but you won’t know all of it. After all, you’ve been busy solving other mysteries. You see, my husband was the last ARC employee to see the urn before it disappeared. The police couldn’t find any other suspects, so he was blamed for stealing it. He died in shame from the rumors after a long and brilliant career. Oh, how I wish now he had never gone to Egypt last year to find that urn.” She closed her eyes tightly to squeeze back any more tears and sighed. Silence engulfed the room.
Then, Mrs. Thornsley squared her slumped shoulders and went on. “Since law enforcement agencies seem to have hit a dead end in their investigations, I want to hire you four to find the urn and who really stole it, return the object to the ARC, and restore my husband’s good name.”
“Mrs. T, Lexi’s right. We’ll find out what’s going on,” Lanny replied. “In fact, we’ll gladly take the case. But the theft occurred last fall. It’s June now. Something must have happened recently to make you call us today. What was it?” He hesitated to question her. Would she dissolve in tears? Worse, would she call him “Lanyon” again? Moki delighted in teasing Lanny about his real name. But they needed to know why she had called.
“Yes, Lanyon, two things have happened. Dr. Abbott called me this morning and—”
But before the widow could continue, Rani gasped and pointed at the window. Mrs. Thornsley turned and uttered a little cry, drawing her hand up sharply to her mouth.
“What the heck!” Lexi shouted as she sprang to her feet.
Through the large front window, a face disguised by what resembled the death mask of an Egyptian pharaoh was gazing in at them. Sensing discovery, the trespasser immediately ducked away. The kids raced to the window in time to see someone squeeze back through the dense hydrangea bushes, rocket across the manicured lawn, and jump the hedge.
“The front door!” Lexi shouted, “Go, go, go!” She headed for the door with the two guys behind her. Rani was already there, yanking it open and bolting outside ahead of everyone.
“Teach that Mask Face a lesson,” Moki hollered as he almost tripped over a footstool. “It’s not nice to look in other people’s windows.”
“I’m with you, bro,” Lanny replied. “Catch that nut!”
The four kids tore across Mrs. Thornsley’s lawn and sprang over her low hedge in their hot pursuit of the brazen, masked trespasser. At the end of the block, they cut the corner sharply, not looking back to notice the broken branches and trampled flowers they left strewn down Nutmeg Street.
Come back next time for the first half of Chapter 2.