September 1, 2009

First Dibs

For your pleasure and perusal, the opening of The Mystery at Fort Sumter! CHRISTINA yawned. It seemed so very strange. She and her brother Grant usually traveled with their grandparents to Charleston in the spring or summer. Yet here they were barreling down a dark, wet, sleet-slick highway in the dead of winter. They had left Mimi’s and Papa’s Gullah blue-doored home in Savannah’s historic district just awhile ago. Papa’s big gray SUV had sailed over the Talmadge Bridge and across the South Carolina state line. There was no one on the dark and mysterious road. The sleet-laded trees hung low over the highway. It looked like they were driving through a dark lacy tunnel. The full moon only now and then peeked down through the leaves like a big white eyeball spying on them. Papa drove fast, but watched carefully for the big alligators that were known to cross the highway at night. The thought made Christina shiver. She snugged further down into the Clemson afghan Papa had tossed back to her when she complained she was freezing. Across the seat, Grant hunkered over his video game, the greenish light from the monitor creating a skeletal glow in the car. Mimi was asleep. They had stopped at Green Pond to go to the bathroom. In the old store, Christina marveled at the array of enormous cooking pots and ladles large enough to hold a head. She wondered what kind of creatures you could catch in these low country waters that would require such tools. Again, she shivered. As they sped on toward Charleston, Christina read the curious sign names by moonlight: Ashepoo…Combahee…Edisto…Pon Pon Plantation…. Gray beards of Spanish Moss swung from trees and even street signs. Ghostly shadows flickered on the road. It reminded Christina that Charleston was known as the Most Haunted City in America. Usually that would be good news. Usually, they would be headed to Charleston in spring during the garden season when the Spoleto arts festival was going on, or in summer to visit the beaches at Folly or Wild Dunes. Mimi would be working on a new kid’s mystery book and she and Grant would be helping her. But this night they were not headed for sun and fun—they were headed to a funeral. Mimi’s Aunt Lulu had died. To make things worse, it was the Christmas holidays. They’d been visiting with their grandparents when the call came, which is why they happened to be cooped up in this cold car all glum and sad. So what kind of fun could this be? What kind of mystery adventure? What kind of Christmas? Christina didn’t even want to think about it. Of course there was no way she could possibly know that it would turn out to be what she would later describe as “the worst one of all”…what Grant later called “the best one of all!” Papa made a swooping right turn and they faced a city glittering in the foggy cold. “Charleston,” he announced. Christina glanced at the car’s digital clock: MIDNIGHT. “Of course it is,” she groaned and hid beneath the afghan as the car bumped down an ancient cobblestone street into town. Go to to order this sure to tell them who you want it autographed to! It may not come out before Christmas, but will ship January 11 for sure. Did you catch the "haint blue" reference?

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