Devil’s Elbow, Book 2 in the Harbor Secret Series, is now available on Kindle! Hard copy to follow in a few days. I’ve attached the Prologue and Chapter 1 for your reading enjoyment.
The screams of the girls penetrated the thin tent, drifted into the field surrounding it, and were finally absorbed by the edges of the thick forest.
“Keep it down in here,” Judy advised as she stuck her head into the tent. “We troop leaders are trying to enjoy a bottle of sparkling cider in peace.”
“Sorry, Aunt Judy,” Kylie apologized, throwing her aunt a nine-year-old grin of uneven teeth, “but Vicky just had a really scary ghost story.”
Judy sniffed in dismissal. “There are no such things as ghosts.”
“Yes, there are,” Cammy corrected.
Judy looked at the nine-year-old with wavy blonde hair and freckles. “No, there aren’t.”
Cammy leaned in to the lantern that sat in the middle of the circle of Girl Scouts. “Yes, there are, and I’ll prove it.”
“How?” Judy asked impatiently.
“By telling a true story.”
Judy started to roll her eyes.
Kylie scooted over. “Come sit next to me, Aunt Judy.”
Judy hesitated. “I really should be getting back. I don’t want Stella to eat all the cheese.”
“Staaaaaay,” the girls pleaded in unison as Kylie pulled at her aunt’s arm.
Judy let out a sigh and dropped to the floor of the tent, crossing her legs. “Okay, fine. Tell your true ghost story.”
Kylie wrapped her arm around her aunt’s and snuggled into it as Cammy started to speak.
“This all started when my mom was a baby,” Cammy began as she leaned her face closer to the lantern for emphasis. “My grandma and her baby were driving home to Cross Village through a terrible snow storm when they saw a man walking beside the road.”
“Did he jump in front of the car?” Jennifer asked.
“Shhh,” the other girls quieted the interruption.
Cammy waited for the silence to return before continuing. “He was tall and thin, wearing a tan coat that went to his knees, and carrying a satchel.”
“What’s a satchel?” Kylie interrupted.
“It’s like a briefcase but made of soft leather,” Cammy informed.
Judy smiled fondly at the girls as Cammy continued.
“He had long, scraggly black hair, and his face was very pale.” Her own face was calm as she stared into the light from the lantern and continued. “My mom was just a baby and sleeping in the back seat, but her mother stopped to offer the man a ride.”
“Then he stabbed them all?” Laura interrupted.
“Uh, no. Cammy wouldn’t be alive if that happened,” Jennifer pointed out.
“Duh,” Kylie chimed in. Judy nudged her, and Kylie held back further comment.
“So then what happened?” Laura asked, pushing a strand of long, blonde hair behind an ear.
“So he got into the car, but he never said a word,” Cammy continued. “My grandma tried to make conversation, but he just stared straight ahead and didn’t comment.”
“So then what happened?” Kylie couldn’t help herself.
Cammy leaned back and parted her hands mystically. “So, when they got to Devil’s Elbow, he started to bang on the car door. My grandma stopped the car, and he got out without ever saying a word.”
“So where does the ghost part come in?” Judy asked impatiently. “Seriously, there was only one block of cheese left, and Stella needs more cheese like she needs a hole in the head.”
Kylie gave a yank on her arm, and Judy bit her lip.
“When the man got out of the car and my grandma started to pull away, she looked in the rearview mirror, and he was gone.”
“Well, they were in the middle of a snow storm,” Judy commented.
“No. My grandma stopped the car and looked back, and he had totally disappeared.” Cammy made a gesture with her hands to replicate the disappearance.
“Okay. So is that the end of the story?” Judy asked, starting to rise.
“No,” Cammy continued. “Three days later, my grandma was working in her kitchen in Cross Village. She turned around and saw him looking in the window at her.”
“Eek!” the girls shrieked.
“Wait,” Cammy continued. “When my grandma went outside, he wasn’t there. When she looked under the window he had been peering into, there were no footprints in the snow.”
“Eek!” the girls shrieked again.
“Yeah,” Judy commented as she slowly got to her feet, “I think this might have happened during your grandma’s cocktail hour, which I happen to be missing.” She stepped to the door and turned back. “Try to keep it down, girls. I don’t want anyone calling out Harbor Vice with noise complaints.”
Kylie watched her dog Cupcake tiptoe next to the edges of the waves as they rushed into the Good Hart Beach.
“I don’t think she’s ever going to learn to swim,” she told local fire chief and boyfriend Jason Lange, who stood thigh deep in the cold water of Lake Michigan.
“Try throwing a stick out,” he suggested.
Kylie glanced around the white sand beach before picking up a stick, waving it at Cupcake, and throwing it a short distance towards Jason. “Go get it, Cupcake.”
Cupcake yipped but made no effort to get more than the bottoms of her paws wet. She skipped around anxiously.
Jason waded closer to shore and picked up the stick. “Cupcake, look,” he said as he waved it in the air before dropping it in the water in front of him. “Look, Cupcake,” he tried again when she didn’t respond.
The black, six-month-old puppy wasn’t looking at the fire chief. She was looking behind her towards the tall beach grass that separated the beach from the woods.
“Oh, no,” Kylie heard Jason say as she started to follow Cupcake’s gaze.
At the edge of the grass was a young deer trying to get to the lake for a drink.
Kylie made a lunge for Cupcake, but it was too late. Cupcake darted towards the deer, and the deer darted down the beach.
“Cupcake!” Kylie called before taking off down the beach after the puppy. Kylie was a seasoned runner, but the puppy was faster, and the deer was fastest. She hadn’t made it fifty yards before Jason passed her, his long, strong strides quickly leaving her behind.
The deer ran down the beach before turning left and running through the grass and into the forest. Cupcake and Jason followed. Kylie took up the rear.
“Ouch! Ooch! Ouch!” she exclaimed as her bare feet encountered the prickly gravel road of Lower Shore Drive. She hopped painfully across the road and followed the deer path towards the bottom of the bluff. “Cupcake!” she called as she headed into dense forest.
“She’s over here,” Jason called.
Kylie stepped over sticks as she trotted up the deer path that ended at a small pond hidden in a narrow ravine. Cupcake stood at the edge of the pond, her hair on end as she growled towards a thicket of saplings.
“The deer went in there,” Jason gestured towards the small thicket.
“Well, grab Cupcake so she doesn’t scare the poor thing.”
“She’s pretty worked up. You grab her.”
Kylie let out a sigh and stepped towards the puppy, who let out an uncharacteristically loud growl. “Cupcake Marie, what is the matter with you?” Kylie scolded.
“Marie?” Jason lifted an eyebrow at her. “She has a middle name now?”
Kylie ignored him as she stepped towards the growling puppy. “What’s the matter, Cuppie?”
Cupcake kept her focus on the thicket. Kylie grabbed the dog’s collar and held her back before dropping to her knees to peer ahead and see what the puppy saw. “Oh, my gosh!”
“What?” Jason moved next to her and dropped to all fours to peer into the thicket.
“It’s an opening in the bluff.”
Jason looked at the small deer trembling inside the opening that was barely large enough to house it.
“You’d never notice it if you weren’t down at this level,” Kylie whispered.
“Let’s move back and let it leave,” Jason advised, starting to crawl backwards.
“Come on, Cupcakie,” Kylie said as she lifted the forty-five-pound puppy into her arms and moved towards the road.
Cupcake barked and tried to break free, completely unhappy with the situation.
“Let’s go back and get the truck,” Jason decided. “Maybe the deer will feel comfortable enough to leave without us around.”
Kylie struggled to hang on to the puppy that squirmed and fought the whole way back to the truck. “I’ve never seen you like this,” Kylie told the large puppy. “What is wrong with you?”
“Maybe she likes venison,” Jason commented dryly.
Kylie threw him a disapproving look. “She doesn’t even chase squirrels. That deer was bigger than she was. It’s just not like her.”
A half hour later, the truck pulled up to the deer path, and the couple walked up the trail, Cupcake lagging behind in a reluctant walk on her leash.
Kylie looked at the thick and silent trees that lined either side of the path and felt herself shiver. For the first time she noticed how quiet it was. “Where are we, anyway?”
Jason’s eyes traveled up the bluff that towered above them and observed how it sunk in sharply to hide the pond. “Devil’s Elbow.”
“Her hair is standing up again,” Kylie observed Cupcake when they reached the pond. “This is so weird.”
Jason dropped to all fours and crawled towards the cavern. “The deer is gone. Come on.”
Cupcake growled again.
“Come on, Cuppie, the mean ol’ deer is gone,” Kylie assured.
The couple crawled forward through the thicket on their hands and knees, dragging a growling Cupcake behind them.
Jason pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, switched on the built-in flashlight, and shined it into the small opening. “It must have been carved out by that spring coming out of the base of the bluff,” he observed as his light reflected off of the trickle of water running down the back wall and through the center of the cave.
“And it looks like the place where baby deer go to die,” Kylie observed.
Jason moved his flashlight to illuminate the array of tiny hooves and bits of bone in the center of the cavern. His expression sobered, and his tone lowered. “Stay here.”
Kylie watched as he crawled into the small cave for a closer look before coming out.
“What did you see?”
He crawled back through the underbrush. “Let’s go,” he repeated.
Cupcake was more than happy to oblige as she pulled Kylie along after Jason.
Back in his truck, Jason rested his hands on the steering wheel and stared straight ahead.
“What is it? What did you see?” Kylie asked.
Without turning his head, Jason answered, “I think those were human remains.” Shocked, Kylie didn’t respond; and he continued, “I’m going to have to call it in.”
(End of excerpt.)