The Haunting of Elmwood Manor
(A Pekin Dewlap Mystery)
By Pamela McCord
Published by: Acorn Publishing
Publication date: March 1st 2019
Genres: Middle-Grade, Mystery
Pekin Dewlap hasn’t seen a ghost since she was twelve. But she’d do anything to get them back. Starting a ghostbusting business with her two best friends, Amber and Scout, seems like the perfect way to accomplish her goal. Of course, playing with ghosts isn’t high on their wish list, so Pekin has to do some arm-twisting to get them on board.
Once committed, Pekin and her friends find themselves in deep, trying to solve the disappearance of fourteen-year-old Miranda Talbert. Miranda went missing in 1918, and her spirit has wandered the halls of Elmwood Manor for the last hundred years.
In the midst of finding Miranda, discovering her budding feelings for Scout, and consoling a terrified Amber, Pekin is met by an angry ghost set on thwarting her plans. Will the Ghosties be able to help Miranda, or will Pekin’s business die before she solves the mystery?
The idea was scary. Exciting. Overwhelming.
She wanted to tell her best friends, Amber and Scout, about her new ghost-hunting business. Amber being Amber, she would freak out and say no way before Pekin could explain all the reasons it was a good idea.
Pekin had decided to do all the legwork before telling Amber and Scout about her big plan. Get her ducks in a row, be ready to answer any question or objection they threw at her. The next day, she would convince her friends how exciting this adventure would be.
Despite her anxiety, Pekin slept fairly well and was awake half an hour before her 7:30 a.m. alarm. She rolled onto her back and opened her eyes, nervous at the prospect of coming clean with her friends. With extra time before needing to get ready for school, Pekin propped up on her pillows and looked around her room, going over her plans.
Her bedroom reflected her personality, more practical than all fan girlie over the latest boy band. She kept it clean, her bed made every morning. Clothes were never tossed on the floor. She wasn’t into the rumpled look. A full-length mirror was tacked to the closet door for examining her outfits, since changing her clothes multiple times before deciding on the perfect look was her norm.
Two posters graced the walls, both copies of the ones hanging in Agent Mulder’s office in The X-Files, one reading “I Want to Believe” and the other proclaiming “The Truth is Out There.” A white bookcase reflected her obsession with the paranormal, as it was stocked with tales of haunted houses and ghostly visitations. Ghosts weren’t the only thing Pekin loved. Her bookshelves also contained a healthy dose of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books. Sure, they were popular when her mom was a kid, but they were still full of great ideas for teenage sleuths and fueled her daydreams of solving mysteries.
Her gaze fell on a photo of the three friends she’d stuck in the mirror of her dresser. She loved this picture. It was taken six months ago, and showed Pekin, bookish and nerdy, and Amber, looking short next to Pekin and Scout, her beautiful auburn hair wisping around her face. Then there was Scout. Tall, good looking in a Bill Gates sort of way, glasses, studious. And the reason Pekin loved the picture.
Pekin had known Scout since second grade (he was in third grade at the time, an older man), and this year he’d blossomed (if you could say that about a guy), shooting up three inches, getting contact lenses, losing the braces. Her heart plunked the first time she saw him after summer break was over and he’d come back from spending two months in Europe with his family. But he couldn’t know about that, and she made sure not to let on that she liked him, not even to Amber, who would no doubt let it slip to Scout. Pekin would be so embarrassed if he knew.
Twirling a strand of blonde hair around a finger, she pondered how to approach Scout and Amber. Pekin wanted to be a ghostbuster. She wanted excitement, and imagined herself and Scout searching for ghosts in haunted houses. Amber would be there, too, of course, but Amber didn’t figure in Pekin’s daydreams the same way Scout did.
Still dressed in pajamas, Pekin wandered into her walk-in closet and inspected her options. Jeans, of course, but what top? She selected a white T-shirt with a big orange Cheshire Cat grinning on the front. She loved the way her hazel eyes popped when she wore it. Running her fingers through her hair, she turned sideways so she could admire the way it fell around her shoulders and down her back, then headed for the bathroom to brush her teeth and shower.
During her shower, Pekin considered her outfit, the one she’d picked for the day. Scout once said that the Cheshire Cat was his favorite Alice in Wonderland character. She hoped he’d notice her shirt and admire it the way she wanted.
As if. The three of them had been friends for ever. They’d grown up together. Scout probably thought of her as a sister. Just because she now saw him in a new light didn’t mean he felt the same about her.
Amber had already started attracting attention from boys. Pekin was a bit jealous, but not about the other boys. She only wished Scout would notice her in that way.
Pekin stepped out of the shower and used a wide-toothed comb for the damp tangles of her hair, confiding in Grandma Virginia that this business was a perfect fit for her. She’d been obsessed with all things ghost for as long as she could remember. She couldn’t count the number of times she, Amber, and Scout had sat in her family room watching scary movies or TV shows.
Pekin was nervous about meeting Amber and Scout for lunch. She’d been nervous pretty much all the time since she’d taken steps toward making her big idea a reality. As her planning had taken shape, she’d found it hard not to give off any clues that something was different with her.
The time had come to fess up.
The number “2” was hanging upside down. She thought she saw something move in the third-floor attic window, but upon closer inspection the window was empty and she couldn’t for the life of her pinpoint what had caught her attention. Even so, goosebumps broke out on her arms, and the hair on the back of her neck prickled and stood on end.
Pekin was both excited and leery. She liked the idea of having a client, but it suddenly hit her that she would have to deal with an actual ghost. Apparently, a ghost who didn’t like visitors. From the comfort of her bedroom, it hadn’t seemed such a scary proposition. Seeing ghosts in the past was one thing, an encounter with a potentially violent entity was on a whole different level.
Scout waved his hand in front of his face. “It smells like a house that hasn’t seen a human in 50 years.” He walked into the room to the right and pushed aside the heavy drapes covering one of the tall windows along the front of the house. Before he could say “now we can see,” they covered their noses and mouths, coughing and sneezing as decades of dust billowed out of the threadbare curtains, and tumbled back out the front door so they could breathe fresh air.
Pekin noticed a stairway leading up to a single door at the top of the next landing. It was narrower and ricketier than the main staircase. “We have to go up there.”
Amber stamped her foot, disturbing layers of dust. “No! This house is dirty and ugly and I hate it. I won’t go into another scary room.”
Scout looked skeptically up the stairs. “I don’t particularly want to go up there either.”
“You guys, it’s part of the job. What if that room is where Miranda hangs out?”
“Hence, I don’t want to go to that scary room.” Amber crossed her arms and pressed her glossed lips into a tight line.
“Why are you making me do this?” Amber scrunched her shoulders as if to make herself as small as possible. She shined her flashlight around the dark room and screeched when her beam fell on a scowling face.
“Quit complaining. We have work to do,” said the face in question.
“But…what if we find something?”
“That’s the point, silly.”
The third-floor room’s only window was opposite the door. Pekin’s flashlight picked out mist-shrouded forms as she made her way to the window. A cold chill ran down her spine as she remembered seeing something in that window when Campbell drove her past 12 Elmwood. She thought she had seen something. She peered out the window, then stepped back and stared at her reflection in the window, holding her breath, preparing to run if a scary, ghostly shape appeared in the glass behind her, á la a million haunted house movies. When nothing happened, she allowed herself to breathe again and swung her flashlight back into the room.
Pekin headed down the hallway. She gulped before grabbing hold of the doorknob. It turned, but the door didn’t open. Pekin pushed on the door, and jammed her shoulder into it, but it wouldn’t budge. Before she could take her hand off the knob, the house seemed to shudder and moan. She slowly backed away, then turned and ran back to her friends, and they all flew down the stairs.
Scout and Amber turned in time to see what looked like a nickel roll across the floor. Pekin followed the coin as it rolled out the door of the study and made a sharp left turn and then a right before it bumped into the bottom step of the staircase and fell over. She gulped. The coin seemed to have a deliberate destination in mind. She hoped her friends hadn’t noticed, but when she looked over her shoulder she saw two faces looking back.
Amber pointed at the window and stammered, “There was a face. I saw a face.”
“What kind of face?” Pekin wanted to know.
“The scary kind! It was wavery and vague.”
“Was it Miranda?” Pekin asked.
“I don’t know. It was wavery. And invisible.” She brushed at the grass on her bottom. “And did I mention it was scary?”
“If it was invisible you wouldn’t have been able to see it,” Pekin said logically.
“Miranda,” Pekin whispered, stepping inside. She whispered again, a little louder, but there was no answer. She stepped backward, but was pushed from behind. The door slammed shut, plunging her into darkness. Landing on her hands and knees, the flashlight went flying off into the distance. She was too scared to feel any pain where her knees had been skinned raw from hitting the hardwood floor. She crawled around, searching for the flashlight.
She scrambled backward on her rear end until she felt the door behind her. Jumping to her feet, she grabbed the doorknob. It twisted uselessly in her hand. She was trapped. She pounded on the door, calling for help she was certain would never come. She cried as she thought about how they’d find her cold dead body in the morning. Her ghost would wander the halls of Elmwood with Miranda and the thing under the bed.
A sound came from the direction of the bed, like something heavy being drug out from under. Or was crawling out from under. And scary, scary laughter. She covered her face with her hands and prepared to die as something cold wrapped around her ankle and started to pull her across the floor.
Pam was born in Arkansas several decades ago. She’s not sure if that makes her a Southern Girl or if moving to Southern California when she was five revokes her Southern Girl card. She started writing later in life when she was challenged by a friend to create a book out of his story idea. Reaching the first 5,000 words was a milestone, but with time and hard work she managed to finish an entire book, much to her surprise. Since then, she’s written several novels, in several genres. Romance, middle grade and paranormal comprise most of her work. Pam has spent over 40 years working as a legal secretary at a law firm in Orange County, California. Aside from writing, she follows the stock market, buying, selling and trading stocks and options. In contrast to that, she loves trips to Las Vegas where she can spend many happy hours at the Pai Gow tables. She shares a condo with her very own My Cat From Hell TV star, Allie, who manages to exude just enough affection to make her scary feral ways tolerable.
From one bookaholic to another, I hope I’ve helped you find your next fix.
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