Dear Readers and Loyal Newsletter Subscribers,
We are getting closer to the release on FEBRUARY 1 of Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets, Book 1 in my Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries series. I continue offering excerpts from the story.
Last time, I featured the first half of Chapter 2.
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 FEBRUARY 1.
But for now, sit back and hopefully enjoy the conclusion of Chapter 2:
Lexi and Lanny didn’t arrive home on Quince Street until the late afternoon. As they walked through the back door into the large, well-equipped kitchen, they were greeted by the spicy aromas of freshly chopped cilantro and cheesy homemade enchiladas, and by the family’s cook and houseman, “Uncle” Rocky. He’d joined the family shortly before the twins were born. He had been the cook for one of Dr. Wyatt’s archaeological excavations, and the two men struck up a long-lasting friendship.
Lexi squeezed the middle-aged man around his big aproned middle. “We’re on a new case.”
“Great. I hope we’ll get to hear all about it at dinnertime,” the gravelly-voiced New Yorker said. “Which reminds me, your parents are home. Dinner’s in a few minutes. Go wash your hands, pronto.” He accentuated the last word with a beat in the air from his large chopping knife.
The twins were proud of their famous parents, Dr. Ian Wyatt and Dr. Becky Marlton. They usually left for their jobs at the ARC at the same time every weekday and came home together, walking hand in hand or riding their bicycles. Lexi had her father’s green eyes, dark hair, and love of ancient cultures. Lanny had inherited his mother’s creative sensibilities, curly blonde hair, and unusual blue-violet eyes—“Liz Taylor eyes,” as Uncle Rocky called them, referencing the beautiful, purple-eyed actress. Even though Elizabeth Taylor was a woman, Lanny couldn’t be happier about the comparison. One of his hobbies was watching old Hollywood movies, and he admired all those stars from long ago. In fact, one of his all-time favorite actresses was Miss Taylor.
Soon, the five were seated around the enormous kitchen table that often accommodated neighbors or guests from the ARC. During the meal, Lexi and Lanny shared their new case with the family. Their parents weren’t ones to worry. Uncle Rocky worried plenty enough for everyone. Still, Dad didn’t like the sound of a chase. “A theft is one thing,” he said, “but I don’t want you getting in over your heads.”
“The police are handling that part, Dad,” Lexi said. At Uncle Rocky’s snorting sound, she continued, “Really. You can check with Moki’s dad if you don’t believe me.” She had them there. She and her brother never lied. It was a point of pride for their parents.
“Okay, then,” Dad said, “anything we can do to help?”
“Yes. Please explain to us what exactly happened to Dr. Thornsley,” urged Lexi. She leaned over and tightly squeezed her father’s lower arm with both hands. Hearing him wince in pain, she quickly released her grip. Grabbing flesh when exuberant was her bad habit.
“Well,” he said as he set his fork down and massaged his arm. “It was last October when the theft occurred. Our family was out of town as you might remember. The urn Dr. Thornsley had found last summer in Egypt was on loan to the ARC from the British Museum in Cairo. It was stolen the very first night it arrived here.”
“Some people still believe he stole it,” said Mom with a pained look in her eyes.
“How could anyone believe that a man of Dr. Thornsley’s character and reputation would do such a thing?” returned Uncle Rocky. He shook his big sphinxlike head.
Lanny asked, “Dad, do you and Mom believe Dr. Thornsley stole the urn?” He slathered more salsa across the enchilada on his plate.
“Not for a second. For one thing, all the evidence against him turned out to be circumstantial,” replied Dad.
Lexi looked up from her meal. “Wait. What does ‘circumstantial’ mean?”
Lanny, the walking dictionary, pounced. “‘Circumstantial’ means that the so-called evidence gathered was not determined to be worthy enough to be able to lead to an indisputable conviction of guilt in a court of law.”
“Okay. Thanks, I think,” Lexi said. Her brother was smarter than anyone else she knew, except for her parents, of course. But she didn’t tell him too often, or it might go to his head.
Dad continued, “Besides, we will always feel, as does Uncle Rocky, that Dr. Thornsley was too honest and devoted to Egyptology and the laws and ethics of archaeology to ever commit such a crime.”
“I still can’t believe he’s not with us anymore,” Mom said with a catch in her voice.
“No one ever said how he died,” Lanny nudged, hoping for information, not tears.
“Massive stroke,” his dad explained. “Perhaps from being under a terrible strain for six months following the theft.” He finished the last bite of tortilla left on his plate.
“What a waste of a terrific person and a great life,” Uncle Rocky sighed, hauling his tall frame up from his chair to serve the ice cream dessert. The others passed their dinner plates to Dad who rose and set the stack by the sink.
“Get this,” Lexi said. “While we were waiting for the police to arrive, Mrs. T shared some bad news she got this morning from Dr. Abbott. He told her Dr. T can’t be honored at this summer’s annual Paradise Days Festival. I just don’t understand that.” She scowled.
Dad returned to his seat. “Well, my princess, there are some people at the ARC and from the public in general who still have unfavorable opinions about Dr. Thornsley’s part in the theft. They feel that until the urn is found and returned to the ARC, and until any possible culprit or culprits are arrested and convicted for its theft, doubts about Dr. Thornsley’s innocence and integrity as a scientist will surely remain. Honoring a man who might be guilty could embarrass the ARC.”
“That’s so unfair,” replied Lexi, pushing away her chocolate dessert with a pout.
“Who at the ARC is in charge of finalizing the festival honorees’ list?” asked Lanny. He took a large bite of his ice cream.
Lexi had to admire her brother’s many qualities. He could separate out his feelings and get down to the business at hand. That’s what made him the leader of their detective agency.
“Dr. Abbott is the director, so he has the final say,” replied Dad. “But he must take into consideration what the ARC’s festival committee of scientists and art historians advises.”
“Before you ask, your dad and I couldn’t be on this year’s nominating committee since we served last year,” Mom said regretfully. Her ice cream was starting to resemble chocolate soup like Lexi’s.
“Life just isn’t fair sometimes, and that makes me angry,” Lexi said, scowling more intensely now and slumping at her place.
“I know, sweetie,” Mom replied. “But remember. You four kids are on the case now. That means you’re doing your part to set matters right. Think positively.” She stroked Lexi’s hand.
“Which reminds me,” said Lanny as he sat erectly. “We have our direction for tomorrow. The four Botanic Hill detectives’ first stop will be the ARC to see Dr. Abbott.”
Come back next time when the author will explain what motivated her to create the Botanic Hill detectives as “super sleuths” and their mysteries.