Excerpt for Secret's in the Shoe Box by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Secrets in the Shoe Box

Abby Douglas Mystery Series

By M. M. Plott

Mountain Stream Publishing

The girls watched as he opened the lid, lifted out a crescent-shaped object, and held it up into the moonlight.

“It looks like a bowl,” Linda whispered.

The sneaky old man placed the object back into the box and lowered the box back into the hole. It took a while for him to scrape back the pile of earth. Then he spread some old leaves and twigs on the ground to camouflage the area. Gory lifted the shovel and kept looking around anxiously.

He is certainly acting suspiciously, Abby thought.

Secrets in the Shoe Box

M.M. Plott

Published by Mountain Stream Publishing. Distributed by Smashwords. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means-electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise-without the prior written permission of the publisher and copyright owners.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity of real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended.

Copyright 2014 M.M.Plott


Plott, M.M.

Secrets in the Shoe Box M.M. Plott

Summary: Abby’s friend is missing and Abby needs to use her unique gift to find him.

[1. Friendship—Fiction. 2. Honesty—Fiction. 3. Mystery stories. 4. History—20th century— Fiction.]

Chapter 1

The Bad Haircut

Ten-year-old Abby Douglas sat at the kitchen table, writing in her small pink journal. “What’s the date today?” she asked.

“It’s July 14, 1962, dear,” Aunt Margaret answered.

“How do you spell ‘premonition’?”

Aunt Margaret stopped cutting Jeff’s hair. Abby’s twelve-year-old brother, Jeff, and fourteen-year-old brother, Tom, glanced over at their little sister.

“What’s that you’re writing, dear?” Aunt Margaret asked.

“It’s a dream journal,” Abby said, tapping her pencil on the table.

Tom gave his sister a snide look. “She’s been keeping track of her dreams so she can predict the future,” he teased.

“That’s not true--well, sorta,”Abby said. “It helps me sort out my thoughts.”

Aunt Margaret finished cutting Jeff’s hair. She spelled out premonition as Tom took a seat on the kitchen stool. “So is it helping you any?” Aunt Margaret asked.

Abby put her pencil to her lip, looking hesitantly at her brothers. They were both waiting for an answer.

“Well, yeah! I had a dream last night that Andy Fletcher got lost. All the neighbors in the valley were looking for him.” Abby looked at her brothers: no response. “The other night I had a dream that Andy’s mom telephoned me asking where Andy was. She was upset because I didn’t know. It seems that my dreams have been about Andy a lot lately.”

Andy Fletcher, who was a few months older than Abby, lived just down the road with his older brother, Bobby, and their divorced mother. The Fletchers and the Douglas’s had been friends since both families moved to the valley years ago. Abby considered Andy to be one of her closest friends; she could talk to him about anything.

“Maybe you have a crush on him,” Jeff teased.

Aunt Margaret finished cutting Tom’s hair. “They’re just dreams, dear; they don’t mean anything,” she said as she brushed the hair off Tom’s back.

Abby’s brothers exchanged glances, and Jeff spoke up. “I don’t know about that, Aunt Margaret. Abby’s had a few premonitions that were spot-on. That’s why Dad told her to keep a dream journal.” Abby was surprised that her brother actually spoke up for her.

“It’s your turn, Abby,” Aunt Margaret said as Tom leaped off the stool. Aunt Margaret wiped her forehead. “It sure is hot today,” she remarked.

Aunt Margaret’s arm must have been getting tired by the time she got to Abby, because something went terribly wrong. As the scissors sliced through her hair, Abby glanced down at the thick brown pile.

After Aunt Margaret stopped cutting, she set the scissors down on the kitchen table. Abby could see the concerned look on her aunt’s face. Her determined aunt stepped back, put her hand up to her chin, and rubbed it. She studied the back of Abby’s head and then made a few more snips.

After a long pause, she handed Abby a small round mirror with a long pink handle. Abby took one look at her reflection and gasped. Her hair was much shorter than she wanted it. Her brown eyes filled with tears, making it difficult to see her reflection. Too polite to tell Aunt Margaret what she thought of her new haircut, Abby leaped off the kitchen stool and ran down the long hallway.

Sherlock, her faithful terrier, followed at her heels. Slamming her bedroom door, she dropped down on her bed and cried. Why couldn’t I have had one of my stupid premonitions to warn me about this haircut? Abby thought. She lay on her bed feeling sorry for herself. A short while later Abby could hear her father, Jerry Douglas, washing dishes.

“It’s not fair! Linda and Mary get to go to the beauty parlor with their moms to get their hair styled!” Abby declared in a loud voice, making sure her father could hear her. Abby got out of bed and gazed into the mirror, imagining her hair being long and blond and her complexion pale and clear, like her best friend, Linda Berit. “Why couldn’t I have long blond hair like Linda or curly red hair like Mary?”

Instead, Abby saw freckles scattered across her nose, boring brown hair and eyes, and long lanky arms and legs just like her brothers. There was no mistaking a Douglas; they all looked alike, Abby thought grudgingly.

Despairingly, she tugged at her short brown hair, trying to make it longer.

“How am I going to face my friends looking like this?”

“Your hair will grow back,” called Abby’s dad from the kitchen. “Aunt Margaret did the best she could. She’s been a big help to us around the house, and she took time away from her own family. You should be appreciative instead of complaining. I’m disappointed you didn’t come out of your room to at least say good-bye to her before she went home.”

Aunt Margaret, his younger sister, had “mothered” Abby and her brothers since their mother passed away. I love when she visits, and she is fun to be with, Abby thought. He’s right, I shouldn’t have acted like such a baby.

Mr. Douglas turned on the television, the volume so loud it ended the conversation. As Abby lay back down on her bed, with her arms crossed under her head, she heard President Kennedy speaking about the Cold War. Trying not to listen, Abby concentrated on the reflection of car headlights as they drifted along the bedroom wall. I hate hearing bad news on television, she thought as she covered her ears with her pillow.

Sherlock lay next to her with his belly in the air. She looked at him, thinking about the day her dad brought Sherlock home from the local animal shelter. Shortly after her mom passed away, Abby had overheard her dad talking to Aunt Margaret. He was concerned about his children; he hadn’t seen them smile or laugh for months. A few days later, he came home and knocked at the front door, pretending that he had forgotten his house key.

Tom opened the door, and a lively, brown terrier puppy came frolicking into the living room. The playful puppy jumped on Tom and then pounced over to Jeff. He twirled around and ran over to Abby, jumping up on her lap. He licked her face and wagged his little tail so fast it was a blur.

Sherlock licked Abby’s eyes, mouth, and nose. She could smell his puppy breath as he cleaned her whole face. Abby’s dad smiled, and his eyes became misty as he watched his children smile and laugh again. Sherlock became a new family member, adding warmth and security to the Douglas family.

Abby smiled as she recalled that day. She began rubbing Sherlock’s stomach. The rhythm of the chirping crickets and croaking frogs from the lake nearby slowly lulled her to sleep.

A short while later, a knock on the bedroom door startled Abby awake. “Good night, Abby,” her dad whispered as he leaned his head inside her bedroom. “It’s ten o’clock, and I have to work tonight. I’ll see you in the morning.” He closed the door quietly.

Abby looked over at Sherlock. “I can’t believe I fell asleep. I feel guilty about the way I carried on about my hair. I’m sure thankful that Dad isn’t like Richard Gory’s father.” Sherlock tilted his head as though he understood everything Abby was saying.

Tom knocked and then poked his head inside. “Who are you talking to?”

“I was talking to Sherlock,” Abby replied.

Tom stepped inside the dark room and flipped on the light. “So…what happened with our strange neighbor, Mr. Gory, today? I saw Richard at Bobby’s house, and he looked pretty beat up.”

Abby sat up in bed and leaned on her elbows. “The gang and I were playing kickball in our front yard. At first I heard a man yelling, then I saw Richard Gory run through the yard. His dad was chasing him. Mr. Gory kept stumbling and falling. I saw him hit Richard with a long leather belt. Richard’s shirt was torn and bloody. The next thing I knew, Andy Fletcher lunged toward Mr. Gory, clutched his arm, and ripped the belt out of his hand.”

Abby paused and took a deep breath. “Then I heard Mr. Gory curse at Andy. Gory stumbled back toward his house, and the old wool cap that he wears all the time fell off his head. When he turned around to pick it up, he yelled at Richard and told him that he’d better not come back home or he’d get another whipping. Andy invited Richard to his house until his dad got a chance to sober up. It’s too bad that Richard’s dad drinks so much.”

Tom leaned his slim, six-foot, lean frame over, resting his elbow on Abby’s tall dresser. “Andy is one of the only people brave enough to stand up to him. Mr. Gory gets really mean when he drinks.”

“I know, but I’ve overheard Gory threaten Andy a few times, and Andy doesn’t seem to take Gory’s threats seriously, but I think he should.” Abby paused for a few seconds and then said softly, “Tom, I’ve had a few strange visions lately, and I don’t like them. They scare me.”

Tom grabbed a small stuffed bunny off the dresser and tossed it at his sister. “You’ve been having premonitions for a long time, and they’ve helped to keep you out of trouble. You’ll know what to do when the time comes. Now try to get some sleep.” He flipped the light off and closed the door.

Abby tucked herself inside the covers. I don’t like knowing that something is going to happen, especially when I don’t know what that something is, she thought. She rolled over, snuggled closer to Sherlock, and fell asleep.

Chapter 2

The Stranger

The next morning, Sherlock lay on his back, his feet in the air, as Abby rubbed his warm belly. “Well, Sherlock, I have to get up and face the day.” She rose out of bed reluctantly and glanced at the calendar on her wall with a picture of a collie puppy. Thrusting her fuzzy pink slippers on her feet, she slowly shuffled down the long, narrow hallway.

Jeff stood in front of the kitchen stove. “The water’s hot. I just poured myself a cup of tea.” He handed Abby a plate as he sat down. “Here, I made an extra piece of cinnamon toast,” he offered.

It’s not like him to be nice to me in the morning. My hair must really look bad, Abby thought as she let Sherlock out the kitchen door. After an awkward moment of silence, she said, “I’m not looking forward to everyone’s comments about my hair today.”

“Quit feeling sorry for yourself, Abby. Your hair will grow back,” Jeff said as he leaped up from the table and left the room.

Abby, a “tomboy” probably because she lived with all males, was a little outspoken and always curious about things. She missed her mother but didn’t like to talk about her. She was much more impulsive than her best friend Linda and more independent and didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her.

She drank her tea and finished her toast. Jeff was right. She wasn’t going to let her hair ruin her summer. She dressed in a pair of blue jean shorts, a blue cotton T-shirt, and an old pair of white tennis shoes. I plan on getting wet and muddy today, she thought.

As Abby walked down the hill toward the Spring Valley Lake, a blue Chevy drove past. Abby got a good look at the license plate: OHIO 1962. “I’ve seen that car around before,” she said to herself. “I wonder whose it is.”

Abby continued down the hill and spotted Mr. Wright. He was standing by the water, holding a jar with colorful powder. “Hello, Mr. Wright,” Abby called out. “What are you doing?”

“Hi, Abby, I just dumped some chemicals into the lake to try to get the seaweed under control. It looks like no one will be able to swim in here for a few days.”

“That’s fine with me. I don’t like the seaweed brushing up against my legs when I’m swimming. It gives me the creeps, like someone is grabbing me from under the water. Where’s Mary?” Abby asked.

“She’s already down by the creek,” Mr. Wright answered.

Abby spotted Josh Bender—“Froggy” to his friends—walking across the baseball field toward the creek. He pushed his round, gold-rimmed glasses tighter to his face. “Hey, Abby, is that you? What happened to your hair?” he asked, his voice surprisingly raspy for a young boy. One of his friends at school gave him the nickname Froggy because of his unusual voice, and the name stuck. He reached into his pocket, brought his asthma inhaler to his mouth, and took a deep breath.

“Yes, it’s me, and I don’t want to talk about it,” Abby yelled back.

Froggy was a stout, good-natured boy with curly brown hair. He enjoyed playing practical jokes and performing magic tricks for the gang. Abby and Froggy met up and walked across the baseball field next to the lake. Froggy remarked, “It’s too bad they don’t use this field anymore.”

“I had fun watching the baseball games every week,” Abby said.

“I liked it when the players tossed each other into the lake after the games,” added Froggy.

As they approached the creek, Abby yelled, “Hey, guys.”

Mary and Linda were already waiting by the tree-lined creek bank near an old oak tree. A thick hemp rope hung down from a branch that stretched over the water.

“Hey, Linda, I got one for you,” Froggy said. “Did you know that the elephant is the only mammal that can’t jump?” Linda looked at him and rolled her eyes. Froggy had always found Linda a challenge to get to laugh. She was a very sensitive, very shy personality who planned everything. But he managed to get a giggle from her after he began singing and shaking his oversize belly, imitating a rock singer.

The blazing sun was directly overhead. “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting hot,” Mary said. Abby looked at Mary’s curly red hair and pale complexion. Mary, an only child, was creative when it came to dressing. She was good at picking out color schemes and original-looking outfits that all the girls liked. She was wearing her hot-pink bathing suit top and a pair of shorts with a bright tie-dyed T-shirt wrapped around her waist.

“You’re already starting to burn; you better put your T-shirt on,” Abby suggested and then looked at Froggy. “I wonder where Andy is.”

“I don’t know. He said he’d be here,” Froggy said. Abby, Mary, and Linda stood on the creek bank as Froggy braved the cold water to retrieve the rope. He jumped in the water, making a big splash, and swam out to the center of the deep creek. In chest-deep water, Froggy grabbed the rope and swung it over to Abby. Leaning over the high creek edge, she caught the rope. Positioning the large knot between her legs, she lifted her feet and swung out over the water. She put her legs down as she returned to shore and jumped off.

Froggy grabbed the rope and swung away from shore without sitting on the knot. He plunged into the water as the rope swung across the creek. The rope made its way back to the creek bank. Mary leaned out, grabbed the rope, and swung out over the creek.

“Watch this,” Froggy yelled. He performed an acrobatic move on the rope swing. It worked perfectly until he jumped off onto the wet, muddy shore. His feet flew out from under him. He flipped in the air and landed facedown in the thick mud.

The girls giggled. “You look like a mud monster,” Abby said.

The afternoon wore on. The sun peeked from behind the trees. Froggy looked at Abby. “It’s odd Andy never showed up. Yesterday he told me he would meet us here.”

It was strange! Andy and Froggy were almost inseparable. Abby felt a chill run between her shoulder blades. “Well, it’s getting late; we better start heading for home,” Abby said.

As the group began to disperse, Abby spotted the blue Chevy in the lake parking lot. A middle-aged man stood with his hands in his pockets staring down at the lake. She watched as the man turned and got into his car.

“Who’s that?” Abby asked.

“Got me. I’ve never seen him before,” Froggy said.

Abby and Froggy walked through the baseball field and up the hill to Abby’s backyard. Mary and Linda headed toward Linda’s house across from the lake parking lot. Abby noticed that the car pulled away as the girls approached.

“I have a weird feeling that Andy’s in trouble,” Abby confided in Froggy.

“Is it one of your premonitions again?” Froggy asked. He reached down, grabbed a stick, and threw it in the air.

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