Middle school mystery
Date Published: June 15, 2016
Three days of vacation. Two stepsisters. One mystery involving a ghost dressed in a leather hat, suit, and boots.
Dominique and Jessica had no idea what awaited them during a weekend vacation with their parents. They expected fun and excitement, but instead ran into a ghost and a mystery.
Long ago in Connecticut, a man in a patched leather suit and hat roamed the countryside, living in caves for more than thirty years. Carrying a sack, pipe, and prayer book, the man came to be known as the Old Leather Man. His death came with the blizzard of 1889, but who could have guess that he would return to haunt the stepsisters.
A stolen wallet, a threatening anonymous letter, and a ghostly visit force the stepsisters into late-night sleuthing, all to uncover the history of the Old Leather Man. Can these teen detectives find the truth before the Old Leather Man’s ghost returns for good?
Dominique shivered outside the bookstore, feeling alone, tired and battered by a negative wind chill that was normal for Connecticut in October. Her tingling, numb fingers agreed.
This sad bookstore situation was a waste of time and revealed to Dominique how little her stepsister, Jessica, understood the idea of family love and bonding. Dominique was not a reader. Didn’t Jess recognize that more than ten minutes inside a bookstore was much, much too long?
Twenty minutes earlier, Dominique had entered the store with Jess. The walls were colorful, lined with every type of reading material imaginable. She had followed Jessica to the teen section, standing idle.
“I’m leaving,” Dominique said after ten minutes of complaining.
“Five more minutes,” Jess had begged. “Look, they have the next book in the series I’m reading.”
“I’m so happy for you, but you’ve used your five minutes plus some.” Dominique’s brown eyes flashed with annoyance, the light in the store highlighting the green flecks in them. Spinning around, her long dark hair whipped against her shoulders as she executed a neat turn and walked quickly through the store. She made a happy whistling sound as she exited the front door.
Twenty minutes was a long time in the cold. Outside, becoming more frostbit every moment, Dominique’s frustration leaked into her not so nice thoughts. For anyone other than Jessica, her rapid exit would have been a huge hint to hurry up and follow, but Jessica remained inside reading.
Dominique wanted to open the front door again and scream, “Stop looking through the dumb books,” but yelling might not have gone over well with all the quiet, bookworm type people. Judging by the constant ticking of seconds echoing from Dominique’s bright orange Timex watch on her wrist, she was reminded how long she’d been left waiting in what felt like sub-zero temperatures. It didn’t matter much what Dominique did or said. Her stepsister, as usual, ignored her.
To occupy herself, she eyed the books on display in the front window of the bookstore, skimming the titles. She ignored most of them, until an ugly face on the cover of a book of Connecticut Legends looked back at her. She couldn’t help but stare. The man pictured was round and his bulky brown leather suit made him seem monstrous. Eyes peeked out from under a large, round leather cap, focused on something beyond the photographer. A hand rested at his mouth, as if he might be shy. Fascinated by his odd appearance, she wondered who he was.
Long overdue, Jessica came out the door, a smile playing on her lips, blue eyes shining with happiness. “That was so fun,” Jess told Dominique. “I got the next series I’m reading and found a great book on dating and love. You have to read it after I’m done.”
Boys flocked to Jess, who had already started dating at the age of thirteen.
“Yeah, sure,” Dominique preferred horses to boys and could not imagine that ever changing.
Even with Jessica’s company, Dominique could tell this was going to be a long, dull weekend filled with the boring events her parents called culture and entertainment.
Lisa Acerbo is a high school teacher and adjunct instructor at the college level, holding an EdD in Educational Leadership. This is her fourth novel. In addition to writing fiction, she has contributed to local newspapers, news and travel blogs including The Patch and Hollywood Scriptwriter. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two daughters, three cats, dog, and horse.