Book 3–Chapters 15 & 16 Excerpts

From Chapter 15, “A Colorful Ghost Town”  

The promise of severe rainstorms prevented the six detectives from exploring the mountains where Lexi and Ben had seen the lights the night before from the campgrounds. Instead, they decided to check out the ghost town Rainbow Flats. As they approached the windswept, deserted town, they spied the livery barn and headed for it to get out of the imminent storm.

“Just in case we aren’t alone, [Lanny said], I think we should tie up our horses in that barn. No sense in tipping off someone who might be hiding here—if anyone really is— that we’re around.”

Everyone followed Lanny in single file. Lexi and Gracie slid off their horses first and tackled the job of opening one of the barn’s double doors. Surprisingly, it opened almost effortlessly. The six kids walked their horses inside. All were happy finally to be out of the wind although chilly drafts still stubbornly pushed through the decrepit, wooden slats, causing a faint whistling sound.

The group quickly surveyed the inside of what had been a livery stable and found a central work area with an ice-cold forge and anvil where a blacksmith had once pounded horseshoes and other ironware. . . . Ben and his horse were in front of the others, so they ambled to one of the back stalls. Just as the boy was leading Jet into one of them, both stopped abruptly. “Uh, guys. Come check this out.”


From Chapter 16, “The Phantom Rider’s Lair”  

After stabling their horses, the detectives left the livery barn to explore the town.

The group made their way across Main Street. Lanny momentarily imagined that they had traveled back in time. He half expected a couple of disgruntled cowboys to come charging out of the saloon up ahead any second for a shootout in the middle of the street. The others, very much in the present, were glancing at windows to see if the Phantom was spying on them. As far as they could tell, they were alone.

In addition to the saloon, the row of buildings on the left once housed a barber shop, a dressmaker’s shop, the local dry goods store, and a hotel. Across the street were the former sheriff’s office, a telegraph office, a post office, and a bank. Farther up the street were the church and its cemetery, and the old schoolhouse. There were no students, teachers, preachers, or anyone else in sight now.

“Let’s check out the saloon first,” Lanny said. The others joined him as they stepped carefully over broken sections of the raised, wooden sidewalk.

Moki was the first to push open the high swinging saloon doors and step inside. Just as he did, he heard something shuffle, followed by a dreaded buzzing sound.

“Freeze, Moki!” Lanny said, grabbing the boy’s arm. He didn’t need to signal his friend a second time that a deadly danger was nearby.

Book 3–Chapters 13 & 14 Excerpts

Welcome back, Readers!

Here are two more excerpts from Walnut Street: Phantom Rider as we anticipated the book’s release on November 9, 2021.

I hope you enjoy these.


From Chapter 13, “Meow!” 

Everyone is ready to head to the campgrounds for the night’s sleepover. But Lionel forgot something and has permission from Mrs. Mayfield to hurry to the bunkhouse to retrieve it.


Lionel made it to the bunkhouse in record time. “Phew! It’s hot in here,” he said out loud once he was inside. The room was, indeed, warm and stuffy from the midafternoon desert heat that had settled in the sleeping quarters. Instead of flipping on the air conditioner for such a quick visit, he ran over and opened the back door. He stood on the threshold for a few seconds to let the cooler air rush over himself while gazing dreamily out into the gathering dusk.

Remembering his mission and its time limit, he turned and ran to the closet. There was his small suitcase on the floor. . . .

“Come on!” he shouted at the flaps. “Hey. Somebody must have locked my suitcase. Grr!” He had to figure out something fast to preserve his secret. One of the adults or kids might show up if he took too much longer.

Right at that second, however, a new problem loomed that would make his suitcase issue minor in comparison. A distinct panting sound caused Lion to look up immediately. “What the—?” he started to say as he quickly turned to see its source.


From Chapter 14, “By the Light of the Campfire” 

After lots of fun and a scrumptious meal in front of the campfire, Uncle Rocky, Catherine, Lionel, and Gracie head to their tents to go to bed. The older kids stay up for some “teen time.”


The five teens sat in silence savoring the nighttime, each other’s company, and the dwindling glow of the campfire. The waxing gibbous moon had risen high over the desert. Quiet blanketed the land with only an occasional mournful call from a distant coyote or a wide-awake red-tailed hawk’s screech. Sleepiness was beginning to overtake them one by one.

Unexpectedly, Lanny jumped to his feet. “Ben, what’s that?” He pointed high up into the mountains that formed the northwestern edge of the Mayfields’ ranch property. Indeed, a dim glow seemed to be emanating from somewhere behind one of the outcroppings.

“Beats me,” Ben said. “There’s nothing up there except rocks and trees.”

“Maybe someone’s camping out up there,” Lexi said, now on her feet.

“Or maybe someone’s lost, and that’s an enormous flashlight,” Rani offered.

“Whoever it is, they’re trespassing on Mayfield property,” Moki replied.

Ben nodded. “I’ve got an idea. What if two of us ride Jet and see how close we can get to

the source?”

Book 3–Chapters 11 & 12 Excerpts

Hi, Readers,

These chapter excerpts continue our march toward the November 9th release of Walnut Street: Phantom Rider. I hope you’re enjoying them!


From Chapter 11, “A Rough Start”

The next morning, after a rough start but a delicious breakfast, the saddle club kids left for the horse arena. The six detectives were about to begin another day’s investigating when the house phone rang. Cody’s veterinarian, Dr. Jameson, was on the line.


The six detectives turned to leave as well, but the landline phone in the living room rang. Ben picked it up. It was Dr. Jameson. They spoke all too briefly. Lanny immediately sensed the veterinarian had not found out anything that would help them identify the horse and rider.

Ben confirmed the bad news. “She said Lightning doesn’t appear to have been registered, and the local farrier hasn’t worked on a white Arabian stallion for many years.”

“Well, at least we now know we’ll have to keep investigating about that,” Lexi said with a shrug. She pushed past the others and out the front door while positioning her large straw western hat on her head.


From Chapter 12, “Gold Mine Search”

 The six detectives are on the northern rim of the mountains overlooking Gold Mine Acres Ranch. They had split off into two teams—the girls in one, and the boys in another—to search for Papa’s gold mine.


After the boys had traveled a ways, Ben said, “Hey, guys, come check this out.” He had slid off Jet and slowly walked a short distance toward some brush. Lanny jumped off Sam, hoping Ben had found the entrance to Papa’s gold mine or at least some gold-bearing ore. No such luck.

“I think it’s a rattlesnake den in an old rabbit warren,” Ben said. “Yup, here are some rattlesnake droppings at the entrance. Rattlesnakes like to keep their dens clean, so they push the waste out.”

Moki stayed on his mount. “Oh, great. First a snake den with possible fangs of death. Then snake poop. Count me out. Ben, maybe you can find a new friend—like Lanny!—who can get behind your weird reptilian interests.” He shuddered knowing snakes were nearby. The three boys exchanged grins.

Lanny was, indeed, interested and spent a moment looking. “Cool, Ben, but time’s flying. We need to get back to searching for the mine.”

Ben agreed and remounted Jet. Moki was happy to put some distance between himself and the den of doom.

Meanwhile, the girls’ team had focused on the rocks and trees defining the hillside. . . .

Book 3–Chapters 9 & 10 Excerpts

Hi, Kids and All,

As promised, the Book 3 excerpts continue as we anticipate the November 9 release of Walnut Street: Phantom Rider.

I hope you saw the book’s cover reveal last week. In case not, I’ve included it below.


From Chapter 9, “An Aunt and an Uncle”


During dinner, everyone discusses getting some kitchen help quickly for injured Aunt Maisie.


“I better be up and about by morning, or there won’t be any breakfast,” Aunt Maisie said shaking her head. She stared at the plate of food she’d hardly touched.

Mrs. Mayfield replied, “Oh no you don’t. Walk on that foot too soon, and no dancing for you come party time Saturday night. We’ll just all get up earlier and pitch in.” Her worried look and tone of voice were not lost on Lanny.

“I have an idea,” the boy said. “Let’s call Uncle Rocky. I bet he’d come out and help in a flash.” Rocky Donovan, or “Uncle Rocky,” as everyone called the gravelly-voiced man, was the Wyatt-Marlton family’s friend, cook, and houseman. He and Dr. Wyatt were long-time friends, having met at one of Dr. Wyatt’s archaeological excavation sites. Uncle Rocky had been employed by the twins’ parents a few years before the two kids were born.

Aunt Maisie’s fork stopped in midair. “A man? In my kitchen? No, thank you.”

“But Uncle Rocky is the best chow jockey this side of the Rockies,” Moki replied.

“And he’s a sweet, charming teddy bear who always insists on a spotless kitchen after cooking,” Lexi added. “You’re gonna love him.” She left out the part about him liking an occasional cigar.


From Chapter 10, “The Phantom Rides Again”


The six older kids were given permission to stay up a bit later, so they could do some cooking. After cleaning up the kitchen, they were ready to head to bed.


A few minutes before ten o’clock, the [six detectives] headed for the back porch door, having decided to go to the bunkhouse by way of the backyard. No sooner had Ben switched off the kitchen lights when the kids heard what sounded like a horse approaching from a distance. Approaching thunderously.

“That’s the sound I heard before,” Ben whispered, careful not to mention the Phantom Rider in front of Gracie. But it didn’t matter now.

“Gracie, stop!” he shouted, reaching to keep her from opening the screen door. It was too late.

Book 3–Chapters 7 & 8 Excerpts

Hi, Kids and All Readers,

I’m back with more excerpts as we anticipate the November 9 release of Walnut Street: Phantom Rider.

If you’re seeing this today, September 9, on my news page, it’s also Cover Reveal Day! I’ve added it below. I think the Phantom looks scary! I hope you do, too.


From Chapter 7, “Horse Sense and the Law”


The six detectives continue questioning Cody residents and are now at the sheriff’s office talking to Sheriff Buckley and Deputy Buchanan.


“It’s too bad more kids aren’t taking advantage of the great opportunity your parents are providing at the ranch,” the sheriff said with a head shake.

Ben shrugged and replied as politely as he could, “Maybe if we find out who’s been stealing things from the ranch, it’ll get more families back on board.”

The sheriff frowned. “Any more thefts out there since my last visit?”

“Yes,” Ben replied, then sighed. “Jax, our hired hand, told my dad this morning that more bridles and some spurs were taken last night. Dad’s going to call you about it later today to report it. Oh, and here’s another note the thief left. It was tacked to the barn door.” Ben handed the note to the sheriff, who observed that it was made from letters cut out and glued to a piece of dirty, crumpled paper like the last one. It read, “Get out now, or next, you will be injured!”



From Chapter 8, “Important Ranch Discussions”


The four Botanic Hill Detectives are back at the ranch and decide to question the two hired hands about the white Arabian stallion Lightning.


The kids were on their feet, heading for the stables, with Rani already out in front as usual. They found the two hired hands busy finishing the grooming and stabling of Bella, Zippy, and Mrs. Mayfield’s horse for the night. . . .

The kids stood there for a minute watching the men, hoping the two might remember something about the Arabian horse. But nothing more was said, so they turned to leave. . . . But as the four started to head toward the bunkhouse to clean up, they heard a scream followed by a moan. It came from the back of the ranch house.

Book 3–Chapters 5 & 6 Excerpts

Hello, Kids, and All Readers,

           Anticipating the November 9 release of Walnut Street: Phantom Rider, I am continuing to share excerpts from two chapters every Thursday via my weekly News Blog at


As a preview of coming attractions this fall, here are some scenes from Chapters 5 and 6:


From Chapter 5, “Papa Mayfield’s Treasure Box”


A discussion of the ranch’s different kinds of horses occupied the lunch feast of barbecued-beef sandwiches, potato salad, green beans with bacon

bits, a huge homemade apple pie—compliments of neighboring ranchers and friends Mr. and Mrs. Hollister— vanilla ice cream, and all the milk the

kids could drink.

Catherine dug into her thick slice of pie, then touched Mrs. Mayfield’s arm and whispered, “I think I’m already getting to like it here.” The two exchanged big smiles.

After eating the last bite of pie on his plate, Lanny set his fork down and asked, “Mr. Mayfield, do you have any information here at the ranch about Papa Mayfield?”

“You must have read my mind, Lanny,” he replied. “Ben and I are planning to show you detectives Papa’s big treasure box as soon as you’re finished eating.”



From Chapter 6, “Horseback Ride to Cody” 


[The six detectives] immediately spotted a beefy, middle-aged man in a cowboy hat sitting at a desk behind the big front counter. His nameplate

identified him as “Parker Wells, Assayer.”

“Well, hello, Ben and Gracie,” Mr. Wells said over the top of his newspaper as he rocked in his squeaky wooden chair. “What brings you kids in here

today? And who are your friends?”

“Hi, Mr. Wells,” Ben said with a wave.

He and Gracie introduced the detectives by their names but left out their detective titles. During their ride, Lanny had asked them not to draw attention to their case. “We have some questions

for you.” Ben looked at Lanny, who took his cue.

The boy got right to the point. “Mr. Wells, we’re wondering if you have a record of the claim for Papa Mayfield’s mine from the 1870s.”


So, get a clue, all Readers. Keep returning to my website each Thursday into November at for the next set of excerpts. I hope you’re enjoying them.

And please don’t forget to check my website events page on September 9 for the Cover Reveal for Walnut Street: Phantom Rider at I think you’ll like it!