Judy Bolton Days

Judy Bolton Days
First annual in 1991!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A JUDY BOLTON DAY MYSTERY 3

Read Chapters 1 and 2 here: A JUDY BOLTON DAY MYSTERY 1

THE SHROUD OF THE MIDNIGHT PHANTOM

copyright 2003 by Stratomiker Syndicate

A Julie Kane Mystery set in Potter County PA at the annual Judy Bolton Day weekend in early October.


Chapter Three: POTTER COUNTY

Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

Cowering, Gina Sabreen was all, "Ohmygod! Someone is trying to kill us!"

Another volley of arrows bombarded the wall that the girls were huddled against. It was like a blur, they came so fast. Julie, with her arm around Gina to protect her, dared to look up and search the mountainside above. Two more arrows roared at them, splatting into the stones, but Julie couldn't ascertain exactly where they came from in the mass of brilliant color that blanketed the heights.

Julie's breath hissed as she drew in sharply and pulled at Gina's arm. "We have to make a run for it! I don't think they're trying to hit us, just scare us. We're too easy a target out here for any bow hunter worth his chops to miss us. Come on!"

Gina's voice was thick with fear. "I sure hope you're right!"

They wheeled to their feet as one, reeling back a little as another volley of arrows whooshed past to hit the wall, and then they began to run across the flagged terrace. Julie swooped down her hand and grabbed a couple of the arrows that had bounced afar. She crunched her fist around them and, holding fast to Gina, hastened down the path into the protection of the timber.

The storm of arrows stopped behind them as they raced breathlessly through the woods to the parking area. Only after they had flung themselves into the coupe and slammed the doors shut, locking them and fastening seat belts, were any words spoken.

Gina was trembling. She gasped through gritted teeth, "I totally can't believe that just happened!"

Her face drained of all color, Julie was like, "But it did. It sure did, honey. And I'd freakin' like to know why!"

She had tossed the two arrows on the floor by Gina's feet and now shoved the key into the ignition, firing up the powerful car. After being slammed into gear, it screeched out of the parking lot spitting gravel behind in its wake. The Jaguar roared onto the pavement and raced eastward up the mountain with a growling swoosh.

Gina picked up one of the arrows and held it in her trembling hand. She looked at it in disbelief. The lightweight arrow bore a green-black-brown camouflage pattern with bright green feathers at its tail. The girl's eyes widened as she gazed at the tip.

"Yypers, Julie! This arrow has a razor sharp broadhead point, like the ones my dad uses." She glowered angrily, all, "If we had been hit ... why we'd ... we'd ..."

"We'd be dead," Julie finished for her, adding with a scowl, "Those are carbon arrows, lightweight and deadly. They'll easily kill a buck a whole lot bigger than we are, and bears too!"

Gina shuddered, gazing sourly at the arrow. Then she threw it down to the floor. "And they were coming at us so fast! How can anyone shoot arrows that fast?"

The car had reached the top of the mountain where the sun was beaming through the tree tops with almost blinding brilliance. The road leveled off and Julie floored the accelerator, wanting to put as much distance as possible between them and the attackers.

"There had to be at least two of them," she explained in angry tones as the deep woods flew by. "Most likely, three. Those arrows were coming mighty quick. The latest hunting bows have quivers attached right to them that carry six or seven arrows. It's pretty easy to shoot one and then instantly another and another."

Gina grunted comprehension, but then she was suddenly like, "But why would anyone want to shoot at us?"

Julie looked at her uneasily, then reached over and squeezed the girl's arm to offer comfort. "I'm totally clueless, honey. I don't have the slightest idea why anyone would shoot deadly arrows at us. First of all, this is a National Forest. Hunters can hunt only in designated areas and that overlook terrace sure isn't one of them!

"Secondly," Julie pulled in a gulping breath as she eased her foot up a little bit on the gas pedal, "hunters usually do not make a target of two sight-seers. Someone was trying to scare us, Gina, not kill us. We were too easy to hit for them to miss us by chance."

Gina was cringing back against the seat's head rest, her lips set in a grim frown. Because of the big sunglasses the girl wore, Julie couldn't see the fear in her eyes, but she knew it was there.

The girl insisted, "But who would do something like that? Could it be like a practical joke? Some guys just having some stupid fun at our expense?"

Julie arched her brows thoughtfully, both hands back on the wheel. "No practical joke, kiddo. Hunters are generally too responsible to do that kind of thing. It's not likely they'd be anywhere around the overlook with quivers full of arrows and bows at the ready. Unless ....."

Julie scowled, clamping her mouth shut, thinking, No way! It couldn't possibly be ....

"Unless what?" Gina asked, looking at her fearfully.

Julie groaned. "Unless somebody was laying in wait for us. But of course, that's impossible. Who'd know we were coming this way and that we were going to stop there?"

Gina was silent for a moment, then, "But everybody stops there, Julie. The odds are pretty good. Those are the only porta-johns on this road through the whole forest." Then the girl gasped, totally, "Oh no! What if it's the stalker from Hollywood?"

Julie sideglanced the girl as the car roared around a bend in the highway. "How would he know you're coming through here? That is, if he's even out here in the East?"

Gina shifted in the seat, one hand clutching the seat belt as if for her life. "He sure seemed to know everything I was doing back in Hollywood. He'd show up at the oddest places and I'd be like, 'How'd he know I was gonna be here?'"

"Did he ever do anything violent?" Julie asked. "Like this arrow attack?"

"Only once. Usually he'd just get near me and try to touch me. Jump out from the crowd, like. But one time he posed as a paparazzi, camera and all. We were in Disneyland, me and my mom and dad and Boom Boom. We let the photographers get closer to us than usual because it seemed so safe and tame there. And then the stalker dude went nuts. We hadn't even noticed it was him, it all seemed so totally okay. He was taking pictures one second and then he just jumped right on me the next! I'm suddenly like, 'Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Mom! Dad! Boom Boom! Help!' My mother was screaming and my dad and Boom Boom pulled him off me, and the park police came and took him away."

Gina paused, shrugging her shoulders in consternation. "He's a really nice looking man in his thirties, Julie. Not a freak or a dork like you'd expect a stalker to be. But, of course, he's totally nuts and obsessed with me. You know how some fans can get so majorly obsessed."

"What happened after that?" Julie asked.

"We didn't press charges. He was released. My publicist was all, 'Gina, we don't want the publicity of a trial, not with the new CD and the movie coming out!' And we had to pay a whole chunk of money to buy up all the photos the other paparazzi had taken, so they wouldn't show up online or on the tabloid covers, or Entertainment Tonight!"

Julie grinned. "I'm hip. You had to cover it up. America's Pop Princess Attacked at Disneyland! would definitely not be a cool headline story."

"Right. You're in the business. You know. Sometimes you have to bend over backwards and even pay for a story not to get out there."

"Well, it's not likely that he'd be here out in the Allegheny National Forest packing ammo for bow hunting season," Julie said decisively, "even if he did come out east from California. He might be able to tail you and your dad but he couldn't possibly know your pre-planned route in advance, so he could be there befor
e you."

Gina looked thoughtful for a moment, then her quivering lips formed a little smile. "You're right. We didn't even discuss the route we'd take to Coudy. It's the way we like to come, so it's a natural. Even if we'd been overheard discussing the trip, which isn't likely, no one would've learned the route we were intending to take because it wasn't talked about."

Julie nodded in agreement, glancing in the rear view mirror. The road behind, as far back as she could see, was clear. She'd been checking now and then as they sped along, but she hadn't seen even one vehicle behind them on the road. They were not being followed; that much she knew. She gritted her teeth with a hardened expression. What sense did it make for someone to ambush Gina with a volley of deadly arrows? Julie realized she had a sure-fire mystery on her hands.

They passed through a couple tiny villages, both hardly more than small groupings of buildings, old houses and general stores, along the high country road. The sun continued to gleam down as if in total abandon, sending shafts of light piercing through the high tree tops to dazzle the colorful foliage of the lower growth shrubs and bush. The forest floor was a thick carpet of red, yellow, and orange.

The girls continued to chat, shifting the topic to journalism, music, guys, Judy Bolton and the weekend ahead. They felt safe now, the dangerous episode far enough behind them. But Julie kept watching the rear view mirror. Experiences in her past had taught her never to let her guard down when danger was in the air.

Gina looked out the window on Julie's side at the Bradford airport as they passed it by. There were only a couple small buildings, and the one long runway of the airfield ran down the middle of a huge open meadow literally on the top of the mountain they were on.

The girl chuckled. "This airport cracks me up. Bradford is a few miles north of here, but it's so in the mountains that the flattest spot they could find to land planes is on a mountain top. I love it! Where I live in Erie is totally flat everywhere. Probably the flattest part of all Pennsylvania."

Julie nodded at that. "Yep, P. A. is all about mountains, the heart of Appalachia. It's a theme used in many of the Judy Bolton books. Some written in the 1930s, like The Voice in the Suitcase, give a great historical description of life in Appalachia during the Great Depression."

"That's such an eerie book," Gina enthused, calm and relaxed now. "It was so freakin' mysterious how that suitcase could talk, and weird how Judy had to houseclean for those people, of all things! But she did stay for Thanksgiving, at least. And it was so totally different from The Yellow Phantom, a couple books before it. In that one Judy was living in New York in a penthouse and working as a literary editor!"

"And she was only sixteen at the time," Judy pointed out. "A very young editor, that's for sure. And don't forget the book in between, The Mystic Ball. She exposes that fraudulent Madame Wanda, who was doing that phoney fortune telling scam at the local theater."

Gina was all, "Gosh, I love those books. Judy was just a girl from Pennsylvania, like me. An average girl, but she was really smart and clever. She had great parents, a fab brother in Horace, friends galore, and all those great mysteries to solve. And she was realistic, too. She made mistakes, got angry at her friends, even fought with them."

"And she grew up and got married in the series, too," Julie added. "Something none of the other girl detective characters did back in those days."

Gina smiled fondly, all dreamily, "I love it when Judy and Peter get married in The Rain
bow Riddle. They have that awesome double wedding with Arthur and Lorraine at the Farringdon-Pett mansion, and the bridesmaids wore those rainbow color dresses. It was so romantic! I'd love to have my wedding there."

"And to think, that book came out in 1946," Julie said. "That's fifty-seven years ago. Back in 1996 when it was Judy and Peter's 50th wedding anniversary, the Chamber of Commerce and the Judy Bolton fans reenacted the double wedding on the lawns outside the mansion, complete with those rainbow dresses on the bridesmaids. I sure wish I'd been there to see that!"

Gina was all, "Oh, me too! That's right when I was first reading the Judys and I would have loved to see it. The Chamber of Commerce gave me a tour of the Farringdon-Pett mansion when I was in town last summer. It's really totally amazing in there. What a place!"

Julie had seen the house several times but she had never been inside it. It was an old red brick Victorian mansion with twin towers set back on spacious lawns on route 6 at the eastern edge of Coudersport. Built in the lavish mid-19th century style favored by the lumber barons, the house was one of only a handful like it remaining from that era in the northern tier of the state.

In the Judy Bolton books, the author had used the site as the Farringdon-Pett mansion, the home of Judy's friends Arthur and Lois Farringdon-Pett and their parents, Farringdon's leading family. In real life the house was the home of several generations of the Benton family, wealthy and important Potter County residents. The house's importance in the Judy Bolton books had made it a local tourist landmark, although it was impossible to get into the house unless you knew someone in high places.

"I'd love to see the interior," Julie told Gina. "I know it's been empty a few years now since old Mrs. Benton has been living in the nursing home, but it's still filled with all her treasures, I've heard."

Gina's turned to Julie with excitement, all, "Ohmygod! You should see it, Julie! Fab-ola! The house is so totally awesome and filled, and I mean filled, with tons of Victorian furniture, the real stuff from when the place was first built. It's like stepping back in time. And Mrs. Benton collected angels! They're all over the house, Julie, hundreds and hundreds of them! All sizes and shapes. Huge statues like from a church, others - oh, such dramatic ones, like from cemeteries. And smaller ones too, all over the place, porcelain, glass, china, wood, everything you can imagine. Angels everywhere! I'm sure that's why they're hesitant to let the fans tour the house. What with all the furniture and angels, you have to be very careful not to knock anything over."

Julie's eyes widened at the thought of it. "Sounds so awesome, honey. I'd love to get in there and take some photos for my story. There's a rumor I heard from a couple of the fans that we might get inside this trip."

"That'd be majorly cool. You'll love it, Julie. It's really spooky, too. All those winged statues everywhere really sets a weird atmosphere. And it's supposed to be haunted! Some kind of phantom who comes at midnight. The legend goes back to slavery days when the house was a stop on the Underground Railroad. You know, it's right on the little Allegheny there in town. They'd get the runaway slaves into boats and ferry them out into the woods on their way up to Canada and freedom. One of the young masters of the house is the ghost. He was the son of the owner back then and was helping a group of runaways into a boat when he got shot by raiding government agents. He fell into the river and drowned in the following confusion."

Gina paused and took a deep breath, shuddering at the thought of such an incident. Then, "And to this day he haunts the place, appearing at midnight, the time of the raid, wrapped in the shroud he was buried in. Oooh, isn't it creepy? They call him the Midnight Phantom. Supposedly, that's why old Mrs. Benton went to the nursing home, because the phantom would appear to her and scare the bejeebies out of her. It'd be a scary ball to stay in that house!"

"Maybe that's why she collected the angels?" Julie suggested, turning the wheel to round a bend on the highway. "To ward off the phantom? Could be. Some people believe that religious objects like that have mystical power of their own."

She glanced in the rear view mirror again, and then went on, "There's some kind of mystery about that Benton woman and her family, something in the past. I heard about it but never had the time to look into it. We're always so busy on the Judy Bolton Day weekend. She had a son, a little boy, who died under mysterious circumstances years ago, oh like back in the 1940s. And the angel collection is supposed to have something to do with the matter."

Gina gushed, "We can investigate! You've solved mysteries. You're a detective. Sounds like one of your adventures, like when you saved that movie star in her castle overlooking the lake. And I just loved that latest story of yours when you attended the Nancy Drew convention in New York City and solved that mystery at the old Stratemeyer mansion out in New Jersey. Julie, that was really something. So hu-u-u-u-ge! And the 9/11 connection about the missing girl just floored me!"

"It sure was totally amazing," Julie agreed. "And who would ever think such a deep mystery could be solved from a clue in an old Nancy Drew book?" She chuckled. "Well, at least we know no such excitement can befall us in Potter County!"

Then her eyes saw a car close behind them in the rear view mirror, and her mouth opened slowly in apprehension. She looked at Gina, all like, "Duh! I mean I hope nothing happens. That attack at the overlook has just got to be an isolated incident, don't you think?"

Gina smiled and reached over, squeezing Julie's hand that was resting on the gear shift. "Yes, I think so. But I'm not scared anymore, Julie. We're okay for now and in a little while we'll meet up with Boom Boom, and for sure no one can harm me when he's around."

Julie was relieved that the girl felt confident that things would be okay. She braked as the car began descending a long grade leading from the high country down to the valley that followed the Allegheny River along route 6 into Coudersport, where the river had its headwaters just north of town. As they neared the low country the forest began to thin out and houses began to appear along the road. A sign welcomed them to Smethport, a small industrial town on the Allegheny. Then they were driving through a pristine neighborhood of big old wood frame Victorian lumber baron mansions, all beautifully restored and lining the road like regal ladies happily showing off all their gingerbread.

Gina was like, "I just totally love these houses! Don't they just kill you?"

"They sure do," Julie agreed. "I live in an old Vickie in Jamestown, quite like these lovelies. My mom owns an antique shop and the house is filled with treasures. I have a two-floor suite in the tower, my bedroom and a circular staircase to the library above it. You'll have to come visit sometime. I can take you out to Baldwin Manor, the castle on Chautauqua Lake. It's a real French chateau, and you could meet Anne Baldwin."

Gina smiled happily. "I'd love to, Julie. I adore watching her old movies. Oh, I'm so glad we met! I definitely need a really good friend who is totally hip about the entertainment biz but isn't Hollywood herself. Someone real. who I can totally trust. You are the bomb, Julie Kane!"

Julie chuckled inwardly at the heartfelt compliment. She'd met so many big stars in her work, interviewed them all and, although they were mostly wonderful people with engaging personalities, Gina stood head and shoulders above them all. She hadn't become jaded by success and wealth and fame and the privileges and perks that came with them, nor by their pitfalls and negative repercussions.

Route 59 ended at a curve in the road where it met route 6. The big houses fell back behind them and smaller homes began to line the road as they continued down into Smethport. It was a small town and they quickly dove through the business district and continued along route 6 with the color-splashed mountains up high around them now, glimpses of the river at their side. In no time they had passed through the towns of Allegany and Roulette and then a large wooden sign on the roadside welcomed them to 'God's Country', the local nickname for Potter County.

AS they drove past the sign, Gina shouted, "Yay! We're in Potter County, Julie. Isn't it majorly huge just to be here? This place is just so totally special because it's where Judy Bolton lives!"

Julie just smiled her agreement as the hills of forest flew by. Then the woods gave way to farms as they neared town, century-old farmhouses stately standing on hillocks overlooking meadows and grazing land. Black and white cows, horses, pigs and goats all watched the car speed by, looking as if they were wondering who was in it, where they were going, and why they themselves couldn't go too.

Gina hunched her shoulders and sighed. "Farms! Wouldn't it be wonderful to be a farmer's wife? I mean, he'd have to be a real hunk of a guy, of course. And you could live with him in a place like these and raise a family and lead a wonderful peaceful life."

Julie let out a little hoot, giggling like a child.

Gina frowned questioningly. "What's so funny?"

"You are!" was Julie's reply. "You have the single most fabulous life in the world right now. Like Elvis, or Marilyn Monroe. Madonna. I can see VH1 doing The Fabulous Life of Gina Sabreen. And here you are dreaming about being a farmer!"

Gina tittered along with her. "Oh, you know what I mean. No matter what we may be doing, Julie, it all comes down to being in love, having a happy home, and raising a family. And no place would be more dreamy to do it in than here in Potter County!"

To that, Julie snorted, all. "Maybe you, honey. But not me. No way. I may settle down on a farm one day with the love of my life, but it won't be for a long, long time. I have to go, go, go, girl. All over the world! Before all that!"

The 'Welcome to Coudersport' sign greeted the girls from the side of the road and Julie slowed the car down. Residential homes and businesses like beverage stores, car dealers, government offices and pizza shops began to line the highway. Not a minute later she turned into the parking lot of the Westgate Inn, situated between a produce store and a government farm aid office. Across the street was a car wash and a huge General Motors car dealership.

"Home sweet home," Julie said with a sigh. "Or should I say 'our Potter County home away from home?'"

Gina unbuckled her seat belt. "It's so cool to be back here! This is more exciting than when I arrived in Rome in the spring. Oh," she pointed to a black Cadillac sedan parked in the lot, all, "That's Boom Boom's car. He's already here. Good! Let's not say anything to him about the incident at the overlook, okay? He'll just get all totally chronic over it and try to keep me on a leash."

Julie pulled into a parking space near the big sedan, her brow furrowing. "Okay, for now we won't tell him. But we have to discuss this, Gina. He has a right to know. It's his job to protect you."

"Okay, we'll talk about it later. Maybe we can tell him tomorrow? I'd just really like one evening free from being kept in his pocket!"

The motel was a three-storey modern building looking very much like a Holiday Inn. Coudersport was too small a town to boast a motel belonging to a nationwide chain, and the Westgate was locally owned as were most of the others in the area. It was right on the shore of the Allegheny River, at this point small and narrow, a little wider than a creek. The river's headwaters were located north of town and it wound through Coudersport growing in size as it moved on west through the mountains whose creeks fed it.

"Looks like some of the other Judy Bolton fans are here too," Julie observed as the girls clambered out of the car. There were several other cars parked in the lot and she recognized a couple of them as belonging to her book friends. "Some will arrive today, early birds like us, and others tomorrow on Friday. Let's check in first and then we'll come back later for the luggage."

Gina agreed and the girls entered the lobby. A middle-aged couple was registering at the front desk and there were others sitting on the suites of furniture in the spacious lobby. One group was by a table where Julie knew the continental breakfast was laid out every morning. The big coffee pot was there and a tray of donuts and brownies, and Julie recognized those around it as Judy Bolton fans.

It only took a few seconds for them to spot her and raise their voices in chorus.

"Julie Kane!"

"Hey, Julie Kane is here!"

"Terrific! Now the fun begins!"

Instantly the members of the group were on their feet. They rushed across the room and circled around Julie and Gina.

The Sabreen girl whirled around, eyes wide with amusement. She was all, "This is so entirely cool, Julie! It's you they're making a fuss over, not me. They don't even know who I am. I love it!"

Gina stepped inside, giving the people room to fuss and fawn over Julie. They looked at her curiously but they were busy shaking Julie's hand, smooching her cheek, and patting her back. There were a dozen or so of them, mostly women. and a few men, too. At length, when the buzz died down a little bit, Julie introduced them all to Gina, who knew she'd never remember all the names and was glad they were all wearing name tags, along with pin-back buttons advertising The Vanishing Shadow, the movie.

Then they were totally all over Gina, exclaiming about her Judy Bolton red hair, her singing and acting and her role in the movie. Questions were flung at her like rice at a bride as they wanted to know all about the filming the past summer and what it was like to be the girl picked to portray Judy Bolton on the screen. It took about ten minutes for this new excitement to subside and finally most of the fans drifted away with promises of catching up with them later.

Remaining were Diana Gordon and Parks Boniface, the two fans who had been organizing the Judy Bolton Day weekends since the beginning. Both were middle-aged and a little older than Gina's parents, the girl was thinking. To her, the blonde Diana looked like she could have had a career as an Italian movie queen a couple decades ago and Parks, dressed in jeans, a camouflage sweatshirt, and wearing a hunting cap, very handsome and rugged, could've been one of her dad's hunting buddies. They both assured the girl that her presence among them this weekend was nothing short of totally fabulous.

"I'm bonkers to be here myself," she let them know, all, "And I came here with Julie Kane, girl reporter! Is that cool or what?"

"The epitome of cool, I'd say," laughed Parks, eying both of the girls approvingly. "Two redheads are always better than one, you know, and you look enough alike to be sisters."

"Maybe even twins," Diana agreed, stepping back to look at them better. "And, of course, you both look like Judy Bolton. Hmm ... will the real Judy please raise her hand?"

Laughing, Gina raised hers. She was like, "Yo, that's me. I'm still officially Judy through this weekend. But of course," she turned to Julie, "the fab Miss Kane here can easily take my place if needs be."

"Nothing of the sort," Julie was quick to reply. "We'll have a total dragnet covering you to keep you in check. You'll not escape the watchful eyes of the Judy Bolton fans!"

Parks excused himself and left for the assembly room to make name tags for Julie and Gina and fetch them The Vanishing Shadow buttons. Gina watched him walk away and let out a little sigh. "Hunk-dude! He looks like the stuntmen back at the studio, not a literary group coordinator."

Diana and Julie chuckled. "Oh, he's a real character, Parks is," Julie told the girl. "He helped me solve that mystery at the Nancy Drew convention in New York last summer. We had a ball. And not only that, we faced some pretty serious dangers together."

"I know. I remember the story you wrote about it," Gina said. "I guess it'd be sort of fun to be in serious danger with him, huh?"

Julie snorted and didn't answer, so Diana butted in, "Julie flirts with him shamelessly."

Julie grinned. "Of course I do. I flirt with all the guys. A girl has to use her God-given charms to make her way in the world. Besides, he's old enough to be my dad."

"Which, I suspect, makes the flirting all the more fun?" Gina teased.

"You got it, girl," Julie tossed back. Then, "Diana here is America's number one Judy Bolton fan. She and Parks started the Judy Bolton revival back in 1991 and now fifty, sixty or more fans show up here every year for Judy Bolton Day. The town and the residents all get involved and all 38 of the books in the series are now being reprinted by Applewood Books."

Diana, dressed conservatively in slacks and a sweatshirt decorated with pumpkins and black cats, tried to play down the praise. "Plenty of others helped along the way," she told Gina, "and most of them will be here too this weekend. They'll all be happy to meet you and interested in what you still have to do for the movie."

"They'll be shooting footage at the parade on Saturday for a music video," Gina told her. "The song featured in the movie. That's why my hair is still red."

Diana nodded. "We had heard something about that. In fact, we were discussing the parade when you girls came in." The woman sighed happily. "All this and a parade too. What a terrific time we'll have! Oh, and I have a special bit of news, Julie." she added, lowering her voice. "I received a special invitation from the Chamber of Commerce for three or four of us to spend the night at the Farringdon-Pett mansion tonight, the Benton house. I'm going to stay there, maybe Parks, and you two gals are definitely included to join us. Won't we have fun?"

"I'd love to!" Julie cried. "What an experience that'll be. I doubt I'd get any sleep. And I can photograph the interior for my Lifestyles article about Judy Bolton Day weekend."

But Gina only groaned with disappointment. "Oh, man, I'd love to go too. But I know my bodyguard won't go along with it. He'd want to be there too. He's just such a stickler to the formula when it comes to protecting me."

"Uh - oh," Julie interrupted her, watching as a man approached them coming down one of the hallways leading to the first floor rooms.

He was a tall black man, huge as a brick wall like an NFL linebacker, and he was dressed like a rapper in baggy jeans and tee-shirt with the usual bling jewelry around his neck. His shaved head topped a handsome face of rugged features and Julie thought him to be very attractive in a tough-but-sexy way.

But, unfortunately, the expression on his face wasn't attractive at all. It was plain awful angry. He was staring at Gina and positively glaring. Julie knew that the man had to be Boom Boom, Gina's bodyguard, and that he was apparently very angry at her.

Julie grabbed Gina's shoulder and turned her in the direction of the approaching man.

"Lookit!" she whispered. "Is that Boom Boom?"

Diana turned to look, too, as the Sabreen girl gulped audibly.

"Yipes!" Gina gasped, all, "Ohmygod! Darn it! It's Boom Boom and he's really pissed. He must've talked to my dad and found out I came here with you, Julie. Yobs, girl, we are really gonna get it!"

Chapter Four coming soon!














Monday, September 9, 2013

LOST DANA GIRLS MYSTERY!

I thought this Dana Girls fanfiction mystery was lost when my computer with its files crashed and AOL did away with its webspace at the same time. But Google had it archived! Yay, Google! So now we'll use those pages until I get a new site set up!


An all-new vintage Dana Girls mystery!
Completely online and free!

THE SECRET
OF THE ICE CASTLE
This is a full-length fanfiction mystery in the original 1930s
Mildred Wirt style. It takes place at a haunted English manor house
in the hills north of Penfield in which a flute-playing ghost roams
the halls on long winter nights accompanied  by a wolf.
Shift the scene to nearby frozen Indian Lake and a white stone
castle on Spirit Island where the local Indian burial grounds
were once the scene  of a notorious crime.
Louise and Jean are asked to solve this mystery from
both the past and present, and they meet up with thrills and chills
as they track down clues in the bleak winter landscape.


What the reviewers said ten years ago ....


"It was just like reading one of the original novels by McFarlane
or Benson. I just want to say thanks for making such a delightful gift
available to all of us."
.....Frank Quillen, series books aficionado


"This 'new' original-style Dana has all the literary plot
development of the first (Danas). The strong setting, the familiar
leading characters, the pranks, thecoincidences
 (I love those coincidences), and an unusual mystery - all ring
very true to the series book series, Dana Girls."
....Susabella Passengers, series books fanzine

"The Secret of the Ice Castle is marked by a high sense of adventure.
It is a gripping mystery that compelled my attention
throughout the reading. I was more than pleasantly surprised
to read it, and gladly give it a 9+."
....David M. Baumann, Starman series author

Click HERE for Part 1

Click HERE for Part 2

Click HERE for Part 3

Click HERE for Part 4



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

DANA GIRLS ICE CASTLE 2

nancy drew nancy drew nancy drew

Complete text of this full-length Dana Girls mystery online now
at this alternate site:

Dana Girls: The Secret of the Ice Castle



A 1930s Dana Girls fan fiction mystery:
THE SECRET OF THE ICE CASTLE
An eerie twin-towered castle of white stone on an ice-bound island on a frozen winter lake, a nearby English manor house haunted by a ghostly flute-playing figure who roams the halls at night accompanied by a wolf, and a mysterious kidnapped girl from the past all come together in one of the most thrilling Dana Girls cases ever!

"It was just like reading one of the original novels by McFarlane or Benson."
............. Frank Quillen, series book aficionado

"This 'new' original-style Dana has all the literary plot development of the first, the strong setting, the familiar leading characters, the pranks, the coincidences (I love those coincidences!), and an unusual mystery - all ring very true to the series books series, Dana Girls."
............ SUSABELLA PASSENGERS, series books fanzine


"THE SECRET OF THE ICE CASTLE is marked by a high sense of adventure. It is a gripping mystery that compelled my attention throughout the reading. I was more than pleasantly surprised to read it, and gladly give it a 9+."
............ David M. Baumann, Starman series author



  

Chapter Two: A SURPRISE INVITATION


The old crone's face bore a hostile expression as she stopped in front of the tower and planted her feet firmly in the snow. She made a movement with the rifle indicating that the girls should move on.


"Just skate yourselves right away from here, young ladies. We shall have no visitors here at Spirit Island!"


Louise stared at the woman agape for a moment, then her cheeks began to burn red with indignation. "We skated close to shore to get a look at the castle," she told the woman. "We are not committing any crime."


"Furthermore," added Jean, a scowl on her face and her hands on her hips, "we happen to know that this property belongs to Rutherford Symington, for whom our uncle captains a luxury liner. I'm sure he'd not mind the nieces of a loyal and important employee taking a close look at his property."


The old woman's expression altered slightly, but her beady eyes narrowed as she lowered the rifle so it was no longer aimed directly at the girls. "Then be off with you! You have come as close as the law allows. This island is private property and no trespassing is allowed."


Evelyn, too, had an insulted expression on her face. "We are students at Starhurst School for Girls," she said. "My parents used to socialize with the Symingtons. It is an outrage to be threatened with a firearm when we have done no wrong."


Louise gave Evelyn an encouraging smile, then turned back to the fur-clad crone. "How do we know you have a right to be here? As far as anyone knows, the castle is no longer inhabited. What are you doing here?"


The woman's eyes were like black stones, and they flashed angrily at Louise. She raised the rifle and screeched, "I will not be questioned by nosy trespassers!"


The rifle cracked and a loud report split the peaceful wintry calm as a bullet whizzed over the girls' heads. All three of them cringed as they ducked down, knowing that the shot had been much too close for comfort.


"Go away and don't come back!" the hostile woman shouted.


Evelyn had turned and began to quickly skate away. Needing no further urging, Louise and Jean were soon at her side and the trio sped for shore.


"Goodness! Who is that woman and what is she doing there?" asked Jean breathlessly, tossing a quick look back over her shoulder. "And what is she hiding?" Louise wanted to know. "I doubt that Mr. Symington has an armed guard protecting his Ice Castle from trespassers."


"Especially an old witch like that," Evelyn agreed. "Just imagine! Being fired upon while ice skating!"

"It's outrageous," put in Jean. "We shall go to the authorities immediately."


"I have a better idea," Louise said. "We'll have Uncle Ned ask Mr. Symington if his Ice Castle is being guarded. I strongly suspect that he doesn't know anything about that woman."


Jean nodded in agreement, her eyes alight. "It appears we have stumbled upon a mystery, girls. Something very strange is going on at Spirit Island!"


Mysteries were nothing new to the Dana girls. They had a knack of running into them wherever they went, and they had in the past proved themselves of being capable to follow them out to satisfying conclusions. Upon beginning their studies at Starhurst School for Girls, Jean and Louise solved their first mystery when they found the missing Starr jewels by the light of a study lamp. Many other strange and sinister cases followed and the girls gained a name for themselves as amateur detectives in and around Penfield. Recently, while on a holiday trip to New York City, the sisters had come to the aid of a homeless woman and solved the mystery of The Specter in the Snow. Now, it appeared they were on the verge of another startling riddle, this one concerning the Ice Castle of Spirit Island.


The three girls had rounded the point on the island's end when Jean suddenly exclaimed, "Look! In the woods! I just saw a flash of red."


She was pointing to the back shore of the island that they were quickly approaching. Louise and Evelyn followed her gaze, but there was nothing to be seen in the thickly wooded area leading up from the shore.


"Maybe it was a bird," Evelyn suggested. "A cardinal, perhaps."


Jean pointed. "No, there it is again!"


Louise pushed on forward. "I see it too. It looks like someone moving through the trees. Somebody in a red coat!"


"Yes, now I see," Evelyn agreed. "Who can it be? Don't tell me there is a second person inhabiting this island."


"We shall soon find out," Jean said, skating on and pulling the other two girls along with her. "Something strange is going on here and I feel it is our obligation to investigate."

"My feelings exactly," Louise replied quickly, with a nod of her head. "Uncle Ned is an employee of Mr. Symington's, and our family's good fortune depends on the stability of the shipping company. Something might be going on here that possibly could undermine it."


With that noble purpose in mind, the three Starhurst girls skated closer to the shore scrutinizing the woods for the red-coated stranger.


"There," Evelyn whispered as they reached the thick trees at the edge of the woods. "Someone is leaning against a tree."


In the gathering gloom about twenty yards from shore a figure wearing a red hooded jacket could be seen leaning against the trunk of a thick old tree.


"He or she must be resting," Louise said in low tones. She pointed at the ground on shore. "Look, there are footprints here in the snow."


Jean nodded. "That hooded figure must have walked across the ice from the shore and is now headed to the Ice Castle."


"Shall we follow?" Evelyn asked apprehensively, still wary of being near the island. "What if this person is armed too?"


Jean and Louise were not eager to approach the stranger after the recent experience with the angry woman with the rifle, but their curiosity demanded that they do something.  Deciding on a different tact, Louise cupped her hands around her mouth and called out:


"Hello! Hello there!"


Startled, the mysterious figure whirled away from the tree and spun around, showing a pale wide-eyed face framed by the red hood.


"Why, it's just a girl," Jean exclaimed. "She can't be any older than us."


Immediately, the pale-faced figure spun back around and began thrashing through the trees and underbrush in the direction of the Ice Castle on the other side of the island.


"Oh, don't go," Louise cried out. "Stop!"


Instinctively, all three girls had stepped onto the shore and started to run after the retreating figure. However, even though the snow was deep and offered some support, running along the ground on ice skates proved to be difficult.


"We'll never catch up to her," Jean groaned as they watched the girl disappear into the gloomy forest.


Evelyn grunted in agreement. "I should think we'd break an ankle first."


"I wonder who she is," Louise mused as they slowed their pace. She momentarily grabbed onto a tree for support. "Just watch your step. Perhaps we can follow her tracks for a while."


Cautiously, the girls plodded on as they followed the footprints of the hooded stranger. But soon their ankles began to ache from the effort, and a light snow had begun to fall.


"We had better turn back," Evelyn suggested. "It is getting dark and it's snowing too. We must return to the lodge and get our boots, then hurry back to Starhurst. And I don't think it wise to get too close to the Ice Castle again."


Jean and Louise agreed, although if it were earlier and they were wearing boots they both would go on further. The direction in which they were headed would eventually lead them to the back of the Ice Castle, and their natural curiosity to get to the bottom of a mystery would spurn them on regardless of the woman's warning, although they certainly would proceed with great caution.


"We'll come back another day," Louise declared, as they turned to go back. "And we'll carry our boots out to the island so we can investigate."


"Wait a minute," Jean called out, tapping upon a tree at her side. "This is the tree that the girl was leaning on when you called to her, Louise. Look! a piece of cloth from her coat is snagged on this little knob."


The knob was a small spike from a broken branch. Louise picked off the small piece of red wool that was stuck onto it and turned it over in her glove.


"It must have torn off when she whirled around," Evelyn surmised.


"Most likely," Louise agreed. "It's not much to go on, but at least it's a clue."


"Oh!"


The other two girls heard Jean gasp and watched as she dropped to her knees and thrust her hand into a tangled thicket next to the tree. A moment later she withdrew a small leather case.


"The girl must have dropped this when we startled her," she said excitedly, getting back on her feet and brushing the snow off the zippered case. "This could be something important. Shall we look at the contents?"


Louise looked up at the falling snow and shook her head in dismay. "We really must hurry home. It's dark now and snowing, and we have quite a hike ahead of us. Let's save it for later and look at the contents after dinner. And," she added with a smile, "it gives us a definite reason to come back here. We'll have to return the case to its owner."


Although they were intensely curious about the contents of the mysterious case, the girls were in complete agreement that they must hurry back to Starhurst. Jean pocketed the case along with the piece of cloth, and they made their way back through the woods in the descending gloom and quickening snowfall.


Once back on the ice the going was easier and the girls discussed their recent experience as they skated across the open reaches. Jean wondered if the woman with the rifle could be an Indian woman, for there once had been tribes living along the lake.


"It is possible," Evelyn responded. "That would explain the furs and long thick hair. There is a reservation across the lake and some Indians still live there, although many have moved away as they integrate into society."


"We know one thing for sure," Louise commented. "The island is not haunted by ghosts and apparitions. That woman and the girl were as real as you and me. And the light in the tower window and the rifle were real too."


They all three cringed at the memory of the bullet whizzing over their heads and quickened their pace. Within minutes they stepped ashore in front of Forest Lodge and hurried onto the long verandah that spanned the front of the old log building to change into their boots. They had left them on a shelf in a storage area for skis, snowshoes, and other sporting gear across from the front windows. No guests were outdoors at the moment and the place seemed almost deserted. But the girls knew that the dinner hour was near and they could see a few people milling around in the cozy interior.


"Wouldn't it be fun to stay here tonight?" Jean suggested after they had changed from their skates.



"We could get a room with a fireplace, have a delicious meal, then get up at dawn and skate out to explore Spirit Island."


Evelyn chuckled grimly as they stepped off the verandah. "We'd be in a real stew with Professor and Mrs. Crandall if we stayed, although it certainly would be a lot of fun. Let's hope we get back to Starhurst in time for the dinner bell, lest we get in trouble for being late."


Jean and Louise knew exactly what Evelyn was hinting at. Lettie Briggs, a fellow student who was very jealous of the Dana girls and their friends, was always looking for a reason to get them in trouble. Even if they could sneak into the dining room after the bell had rung, Lettie would surely call it to everyone's attention.


The falling snow, however, remained on the lighter side and did not hamper the girls' progress. They hurried along the winding road which skirted Indian Lake and soon arrived at the highway which led into Penfield. They were highly invigorated from the afternoon spent outdoors in the cold weather and made quick time back to the grounds of the highly regarded school for girls.


"What an adventure we had at Indian Lake today!" Evelyn exclaimed as they entered the dormitory through a back service door, stomping the snow from their boots. "We'll have to meet later to inspect the contents of the leather case we found."


"Come to our study after dinner," Louise invited as they hurried up the stairs. "We'll open the case and, hopefully, whatever is in it will shed some light on this new mystery."


Neither the Dana girls nor Evelyn saw the other girl who was standing just within a utility closet on the landing. The girl pressed herself to the wall as she heard the happy voices and her eyes widened at the word mystery. She waited until the other girls had gone upstairs, then hurriedly ran up to her own suite.


The girl was Ina Mason, the one and only friend of the troublesome Lettie Briggs, with whom she roomed in the dormitory. She burst into their suite calling:
"Lettie! Lettie!"
"Why, what is it, Ina?" Lettie Briggs responded, standing before a mirror and admiring a new fur hat she had purchased that afternoon.


"It's the Dana girls," Ina said breathlessly. "They hurried into the back door downstairs while I was emptying our waste basket. Evelyn Starr was with them. They'd been ice skating at Indian Lake and had an adventure! They found a new mystery and also a leather case someone obviously lost. They are meeting in the Dana's study after dinner to open it."


Lettie slowly removed her new hat, eyeing her chum speculatively in the mirror. Her pinched and rather unpleasant-looking face wore a sly smile.



"Good work, Ina! I'm dying to know all about it, of course."


She handed the new hat to her friend. "Please put this away for me. I'll go eavesdrop by their door in hopes of learning more. I'll meet you in the dining room for dinner."


The girl quickly made her way to the hall outside the Dana suite, in which Jean and Louise were changing into clothes suitable for the dining room. The leather case and piece of red wool had been placed on a table next to the sofa in their study and Jean, now dressed in a skirt and sweater, retrieved them to place in a desk drawer.


"Oh look," she called to Louise. "Someone brought in our mail earlier."


She put the case and piece of cloth safely into the top drawer and picked up the envelopes that had been placed on the desk. She was flipping through them as Louise came into the study from the bedroom.


"One is from Uncle Ned!" Jean cried, retaining it in her hand as she placed the others back on the desk top.


"Do open it," Louise urged, checking her wrist watch. "We have a couple minutes to spare before we have to be in the dining room."


Jean quickly slit the envelope with a letter opener and pulled out the missive from their beloved uncle. As she scanned the sheet an astonished expression came over her face.



"What is it?" Louise asked. "You look quite amazed."


"I certainly am!" Jean exclaimed. "We have been invited along with Uncle Ned and Aunt Harriet to spend the weekend at Bleak Acres, the Symington estate outside Penfield. There have been strange goings-on at the old mansion, terrifying Mr. Symington and his wife. And Uncle Ned seems to think that you and I can solve the mystery!"
Read the complete novel on the website listed above!


DANA GIRLS ICE CASTLE 1

nancy drew nancy drew nancy drew

Complete text of this full-length Dana Girls mystery online now
at this alternate site:

Dana Girls: The Secret of the Ice Castle


A 1930s Dana Girls fan fiction mystery:
THE SECRET OF THE ICE CASTLE
An eerie twin-towered castle of white stone on an ice-bound island on a frozen winter lake, a nearby English manor house haunted by a ghostly flute-playing figure who roams the halls at night accompanied by a wolf, and a mysterious kidnapped girl from the past all come together in one of the most thrilling Dana Girls cases ever!

"It was just like reading one of the original novels by McFarlane or Benson."
............. Frank Quillen, series book aficionado

"This 'new' original-style Dana has all the literary plot development of the first, the strong setting, the familiar leading characters, the pranks, the coincidences (I love those coincidences!), and an unusual mystery - all ring very true to the series books series, Dana Girls."
............ SUSABELLA PASSENGERS, series books fanzine

"THE SECRET OF THE ICE CASTLE is marked by a high sense of adventure. It is a gripping mystery that compelled my attention throughout the reading. I was more than pleasantly surprised to read it, and gladly give it a 9+."
............ David M. Baumann, Starman series author








 
Chapter One: THE ICE CASTLE

"I feel as if I can skate right into the sunset. Don't you?" asked impetuous fair-haired Jean Dana as she did a spin on the ice, the skirt of her stylish skating suit twirling out about her.

Her older sister Louise, whose dark hair and sedate expression gave indication of a more serious personality, was skating right behind her. "It's several miles to the hills across the lake," she said, a slight smile quirking her lips. "To catch that sunset you'll surely have to put some speed on!"

"Six miles, to be exact," agreed the Dana girls' friend Evelyn Starr, who was ice skating with them on frozen Indian Lake. "The sun will have set and gone by the time we shall get there."

The three girls were on a winter outing in early January, enjoying an afternoon away from their studies at Starhurst School for Girls, located near Penfield. The beautiful lake, situated in the hills just north of the school, was a popular resort area in the summer months, but it seemed isolated and remote now in the chill of winter. They had changed into their skates and left their boots on the verandah of Forest Lodge, where there had been evidence of a few guests in residence, but no one else was in sight now as they executed their spins and turns on the smoothly frozen bay.

"I don't think we shall actually go clear to the far shore," Jean laughed gaily, stopping her spin with the toe of a skate. "But what say we skate out to that island?"

She pointed to a wooded island perhaps a half mile ahead where the bay opened up into the lake. Already it was beginning to look like a black silhouette against the red and purple sky.

Evelyn look startled. "That's Spirit Island! Goodness, no one dares to go there."

Louise sent her a curious glance. "Why ever not? What could possibly keep people away from such a lovely island?"

"It's said to be haunted," Evelyn said plainly. "You have never heard the legends?"

Jean shook her head. "No, we haven't. Remember that Louise and I have only been in the region since we've been attending Starhurst. We did not grow up here as you have."

Evelyn nodded. It was true that she had lived near Penfield all her life. Starhurst School for Girls had been her family home. Through a series of misfortunes her parents had been forced to sell the old mansion and its sprawling grounds. Professor and Mrs. Crandall, the school's headmistress, had purchased the property and turned it into the exclusive academy. Evelyn had been able to stay on at Starhurst as a student thanks to the Dana girls' effort in finding a cache of missing family jewels, which had restored good fortune to the girl and her brother after their parents' deaths.

"Haunted?" Louise said with a laugh, grabbing her companions' hands and pulling them along with her. "Come, let's skate a little closer and you can tell us all about it."

Evelyn went along reluctantly. "Well, not too close, okay? There is an old Indian burial ground on the island and the ghosts of the dead Indians are said to haunt it."

"That's a delightful legend," Jean grinned, her eyes sparkling. "I'm surprised you allow it to frighten you, Evelyn."

The girl shook her head. "You don't understand. There is far more to the story." She pointed ahead. "Look. You'll be able to see as soon as we round this point."

Gliding swiftly on the smooth ice, they had neared the wooded island and were approaching a narrow point that jutted out from its main body. Louise was just about to ask what it was that they'd soon see, when the words she was about to emit were suddenly stilled on her lips.

"My goodness!" was all she could say instead, as they glided around the end of the point.

"Oh .... it's so ... beautiful!" Jean fairly gushed, as the trio came to a halt in front of the main part of Spirit Island that faced the open reaches of the lake.

"It's beautiful, all right," Evelyn agreed, her voice slightly aquiver. "But terrifying too. You see, like the island, it's haunted, and few people dare to venture even this close."

Set into a clearing about a hundred feet from the island's shore was a castle-like structure of white stone, now glittering like a smoldering fire as it reflected the setting sun it faced. Its many leaded windows gleamed like jewels, and two towers with crenellated battlements, one on each side, loomed above the rest of the gabled roof line.

"This gorgeous house is haunted?" Louise gasped in awe. "It looks like a castle of ice, created by a wizard for a magical winter carnival."


"Exactly," Evelyn agreed. "It is known as 'The Ice Castle' and was built by aging shipping magnate Rutherford Symington as a winter retreat years ago when he was a young man."

"Why, his company owns the Balaska, Uncle Ned's ship," Jean said excitedly.

The Dana girls' uncle, Ned Dana, was the captain of a large steamship which traveled to all ports world-wide. His home was in nearby Oak Falls and he shared it with his maiden sister Harriet, the girls' aunt, and the girls themselves when they were not in attendance at Starhurst. Orphaned at an early age, they had grown up under the loving care of their aunt and uncle. Cora Appel, a somewhat dimwitted but loyal servant whom the girls nicknamed 'Applecore', was also part of the household.

"But why is the castle reputed to be haunted?" Louise wanted to know. "What haunts it? The ghosts of the Indians?"

As they skated a little closer to the glittering white castle nestled in its wintry setting amongst tall bare trees and towering fir and pine, Evelyn told them the story of the unusual habitation.

"Rutherford Symington grew up at Bleak Acres, the family estate not far from Penfield. He vacationed here at Indian Lake in his youth. He stayed at Forest Lodge and would often row out to this island, even though the legends made it taboo to hike about the old burial grounds."

Louise nodded sagely. "A young man, especially one from a wealthy and prominent family, would surely pay no mind to ancient taboos of a primitive people."

"He habitually vacationed here in the winter," Evelyn continued, "for he was an avid cold weather and winter sports enthusiast. As the years went by and he took over the management of the family's shipping interests, he had more and more of a need for a nearby place to which to retreat. So he purchased the island from the government with the provision that he must leave the burial ground areas untouched. They are on the other end of the island. On this end he built his winter castle with rare special white limestone imported from far off Nova Scotia.

"Many happy times were had at the Ice Castle, despite the scary legends of the island. That never stopped the Symingtons and their friends from coming here. Until ....."

Evelyn shuddered and looked wide-eyed at the ornate house with its beautiful twin towers.

"Until what?" Jean begged, enrapt by the story.

"Rutherford had married in his early twenties," Evelyn went on. "Within a year his wife gave birth to Baby Lorraine. She was a golden vision, this beautiful child, like her lovely mother. My parents knew the Symingtons and often socialized with them. Little Lorraine was a wonderful child and everyone loved her dearly."

Louise's brow knit in a furrow and she frowned. "Something happened to her, didn't it? Something dreadful?"

"You are right," the Starr girl nodded. "She was kidnapped at the age of ten while the family was vacationing here on the island. It was a sensational case that made headlines across the nation. We, of course, were too young to remember it. The Symingtons despaired at the loss of their golden Lorraine. You see, to this day she has never been seen again."

A gloved hand flew to Jean's heart. "The poor child! I wonder what happened to her?"

"No one knows," Evelyn said with a sad sigh. "Many leads were tracked down throughout the years, but not a trace of the girl was found."

"Were there no demands for ransom?" Jean queried.

Evelyn shook her head. "That was one of the many unusual aspects of the case. Even though there had been signs of a struggle and abduction, there were never any demands for ransom.  It was as if the child disappeared off the face of the earth. Afterward, the Ice Castle was closed up, never to be used again by the family because of the memories here.

"But," the girl went on, "rumors abound, and there are those who swear that strange apparitions have been sighted on the castle grounds, especially at these times in the dead of winter."

The three girls gazed at the massive fortress which was now less than two hundred feet away, so close to the island's shore they had glided. It was still reflecting a fiery glow from the sunset. Then, suddenly, as the sun swiftly sank below the far hills, the red glow vanished in an instant to be replaced by the brilliant white of the ice-like stone.

Then; "My gosh! Look!" Jean cried, pointing at the tower on the castle's north side.

Louise and Evelyn's eyes flew to the window atop the tower beneath the battlements of the roof. A flickering light could be seen within the leaded window, like a sputtering candle caught in a draft.

"It's a light," Louise gasped. "Someone is in the tower!"

Evelyn glided slowly backward on the ice, fear in her eyes. "It might be the ghost," she cried. "Oh, let's get away from here!"

"Nonsense," Louise said. "There are no such things as ghosts. Someone is in the tower and they have lighted a lamp or a candle. Let's go knock on the front door. Surely whoever is in there will answer our call."

"But it's too late," Evelyn argued, wanting to get far away as quickly as possible. "The sun has set and we must return to Starhurst in time for dinner."

"I agree with Louise." Jean overruled. "Perhaps the Symingtons rent out the castle these days. A winter vacationist might be here. Or" she mused in a lower tone, "maybe something sinister is going on."

Evelyn gave her a wry glance. "I doubt very much if the family would permit anyone to use the castle, and the legends would surely scare off almost everyone from desiring it. That light is bound to be connected to something very mysterious, and you Dana girls just cannot resist a mystery!"

"Then we shall knock on the door," Louise declared, "and if someone answers we shall act like we are just passing by on our way back to Starhurst and making a neighborly call. Come, let's go."

She and Jean began to skate closer to the island, but the Starr girl held back.

"You two go. I'll wait here."

Jean was just about to urge Evelyn to join them when a sudden harsh voice shattered the wintry stillness of Indian Lake.

"Halt! Do not come any closer or I shall shoot!"

Startled, the three Starhurst girls gaped ahead. Around the side of the north tower of the Ice Castle came a ghastly-looking figure, an aged crone with streaming black hair. She was dressed in a coat of dark fur pelts that reached down to her heavily booted feet, and her beady black eyes glared angrily at the girls.

In her arms she held a rifle and its steel muzzle was aimed directly at them!


Read the entire story at the website listed above!