When Peter Turner and his friends discover a strange light is appearing in the local cemetery late at night, they dare each other to investigate the source. The Graveyard Mystery is part ghost story and part mystery, a little bit scary and a lot of fun.
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An Excerpt From The Graveyard Mystery
The story so far . . . Peter Turner and his friends have discovered a strange light is appearing in the local cemetery. They have dared each other to investigate the source.And now to the graveyard for some adventure . . .
The wind was blowing through the trees with a low, moaning sound. It reminded me altogether too much of ghostly whispers. And the small clouds scuttling across the yellow moon made shadows bob and weave in spooky patterns between the rows of gleaming gravestones.
I began to go stealthily up the hill. Without a word, the others followed me. All around us slabs of rock reared upward out of the earth. We kept low, dodging from one to another, and peeking out from behind them as we advanced.
Up ahead light shone off of something white and draped. I froze, terror throbbing in my throat. Then I saw it wasn't a ghostly robe. Instead, I could dimly make out a carved urn with cloth of white stone draped over it in folds of cold marble.
I moved again. Suddenly, the wind picked up, its cold edge knifing through my jacket, and a faint wisp of laughter tinkled in my ears as though some watching ghost were mocking me. I stopped and leaned forward, listening with my whole body, and now I could hear a male voice whining above the whisper of the leaves.
"This place gives me the creeps."
I was at the top of the hill at last. I crouched behind a family marker, gripped the icy stone for support, and peered carefully down the other side towards where the road snaked its way through the cemetery.
"You say that every time we come."
I could barely make out three shadowy figures standing in front of a car pulled just off the road.
"Get used to it. This is the best place for us."
"Please, guys." The third voice was a woman's, pleading. "Let's split up the stuff and get out of here."
"Who do you suppose that is?" Mike murmured right into my ear.
I suppressed a shiver of relief. "Whoever they are, they're flesh and blood and that's all I care about. But what would anybody be doing in a cemetery at midnight?"
Mike choked back a laugh. We turned and grinned at each other through the darkness. "Maybe they're total dorks like us," he said.
"Shhh," Rod warned. "Maybe not. This isn't your friendly neighborhood club hangout, after all. Good little girls and boys are in bed by now."
"Don't mention bed." Jenny hunched up her shoulders against the chill night wind. "How do I get into these things? The next time I see a ghost I'm going to keep my mouth shut."
Rod was right, whoever was in the cemetery at this hour was probably up to something. But what could it be? I couldn't imagine anything secret going on, not in quiet little Taylorville. There were a few kids at the high school who were sometimes on the wild side, like Mean Dean. My heart sank as I remembered that Dad now considered Art one of them. But I knew better than that nonsense, and Dad would come around soon. Meanwhile, I couldn't imagine what any of the high school kids would be doing here. For that matter, what was I doing here?
"Can anyone tell what's going on down there?" Todd asked. I pressed closer to the clammy marble stone and began inching my head to peek over the top again when a woman's scream tore at the air.
"Look!" she yelled. "Look!"
Startled, I jerked up. Something white and glowing was moving through the night. My knees buckled under me and I sat down hard on the ground, knocking the breath out of my lungs. For a moment I gasped for air, my head swimming, my sight blurred. But whatever that thing was coming toward us, I had no desire to see it clearly.
Wham! I felt the ground under me shake. Something heavy crashed to earth somewhere on the hill. Bam! There was a sharp crack as stone broke against stone.
"What's that?" a frightened voice called.
"A gravestone fell over," someone else shouted.
The girl's voice came again, almost sobbing with fear. "Let's get out of here! Let's get out of here, please!"
There was another crashing sound and then a male voice shouted. "That's going to wake up Stanford. Let's go!"
There was the quick thud of running feet and the slam of car doors. An engine caught and roared loud in the night, the sound echoing off the hill. Headlights flashed in our eyes as the car went hurling past where we were hiding.
Mike straightened up. "Whoever they were, they're gone now. Let's go see if we can find out what they were up to."
Todd let out a little bark of laughter. "Are you crazy? This place is getting too weird for me."
I agreed. It was definitely time to leave. Something was going on. And what if all this noise woke Stanford up? But Mike suddenly looked stubborn. "How are we ever going to know where the light Jenny saw came from if we don't investigate?"
I groaned. The true scientific spirit. Why couldn't he want to be a jet pilot like everybody else?
"Besides, if we don't we'll feel like cowards. And don't worry about Stanford. He's not a guard. He's only a caretaker. He's probably sleeping like a baby."
Rod and Todd exchanged worried frowns. For once they were ready to call it quits before we got into worse trouble. But Mike was already moving up the hill. We certainly couldn't dash off and leave him alone in a graveyard, facing the unknown. Reluctantly, we followed.
As we emerged from our hiding place, we discovered what had caused all the noise. The moonlight shone on a row of toppled and broken gravestones. At the end of that jagged row stood a small mausoleum of stone. Red granite slabs covered the front, looking like dried blood in the moonlight. The iron bars of a metal gate set into the rock right in front of the stone door glinted.
"Gosh," I said. "A crypt! Just like a movie! I didn't even know this cemetery had one."
"A crypt is an underground tomb." Mike corrected me in his most proper know-it-all scientist voice. I was beginning to feel the slightest bit fed up with Mike.
"And what's the correct term for the blood?sucking individual who may live in there?" I snapped.
Jenny shook her finger at both of us. "We don't have time for silly arguments. Whoever destroyed these tombstones is guilty of vandalism. It's our civic duty to help catch them. Did anyone recognize their voices?"
"It's an unwarranted assumption on our part to think they are necessarily the guilty ones," Mike murmured. "Sure they ran away, but they sounded scared to me. They couldn't have been the ones making that strange light we saw. Maybe whoever was making that is the one who did this."
"The ghost, you mean?" Rod tried to sound as if he were joking. No one laughed.
"Or someone else who's still around." My voice automatically dropped to a whisper. The five of us stood still, thinking that one over. A cloud blew across the moon, plunging the hillside into sudden darkness. The broken tombstones made the scene look desolate.
"Golly!" Jenny said. "Haven't we seen enough? Let's get home before Stanford does show up and we get blamed for this whole mess."
That possibility was beginning to worry me, too. The last thing I needed was to get caught in a graveyard at midnight with a bunch of vandalized gravestones at my feet. Who ever said the truth is the best defense? They obviously never had to deal with my father.
"I think we've already stayed too long," Todd said. "In fact, we may be in trouble. Don't touch anything or you'll leave fingerprints."
"What about footprints," Rod demanded, looking back down the darkened hill. "I bet we left a lot of those already, all leading right up here to these gravestones."
"Yes," Jenny added, "and the car didn't leave any trace because it was on the road. How are we going to get anyone to believe there was someone else up here?"
A knot of fear tightened itself around my stomach and squeezed hard, but I tried to sound cheerful. "Officer Fisher couldn't tell the difference between a set of tracks made by an elephant and one made by a mouse, even on one of his brighter days. How's he going to be able to tell if a bunch of footprints are ours? All we have to do is get back home without getting caught."
Even as I said it, it suddenly didn't sound so simple. It was a long way home, back down that shadowed hill, and then through the silent streets. And who knew whether some citizen up late with a stomachache might not spot us. Then when the vandalism was discovered, we'd be the suspects.
"Remind me never to do this again," Todd muttered to himself. The rest of us glanced around, our nerves stretched taut. It was then that we saw the light again. There was a dim, glowing, greenish light coming from the doorway of the crypt.
"Whoa! Look out!" Mike shouted as loud as he could, completely forgetting his cool, scientific image. I winced at the noise. The shout echoed down the hillside and halfway into town. The light vanished. The echoes of Mike's yell died away. All was still, fearfully still. My teeth rattled in my head and my hands shook as I reached for a tombstone to support myself. I couldn't have moved my legs even if a ghost did come sailing out of that dark door towards us. Was the cemetery really haunted?
"Look!" Jenny's elbow dug deeply into my ribs. She pointed to the left. Way off on the edge of the cemetery a light had come on in the caretaker's cottage. Mike's yell may not have been enough to wake the dead, or maybe they were already awake, I thought with a shudder, but it apparently had gotten Stanford out of bed.
"Oh, oh," Rod said. "Trouble."
"Split up," Todd added. "Less chance of getting caught." We stared at each other, not wanting to face the darkness alone. Impulsively, I stuck out my hand and gave them the high five. Then I turned and dodged into the shadows before I lost my nerve. I ran up a hillside and paused to orientate myself. From the top I could see Stanford's cottage. Even as I watched, his door opened and he stood silhouetted in the light. He must have touched a switch then because the house went black again. He was outside and headed this way. Time to move!
The broken tombstones couldn't provide any cover, but I had to go in a different direction than the others had. He couldn't follow all of us at once. I moved to the left, in the direction of the crypt. I hoped Todd and Rod and Mike and Jenny had had enough of a head start. The tomb loomed above me, blotting out the stars. I started to circle around it, remembering all too well the eerie light in its doorway. It wouldn't do to get too close. Not that I believed in ghosts, but something had been there.
High up over my head a black object fluttered in the branches of a tree. Chills ran like rivers of icy water down my back. A vivid picture of a ghost jumping down on me from above leapt into my mind. Instinctively, I cringed.
"Cut it out, Turner!" I told myself sharply. At this rate, I might frighten myself to death. In my mind's eye I could see the headline stamped in big black letters across the top of the local paper: DEAD BODY FOUND IN GRAVEYARD. No, they couldn't write it that way, I thought, because there's nothing unusual about finding a dead body in a graveyard. My mouth twitched and I fought down a hysterical giggle. Then I shook my head. Fear was making me silly.
I could hear muffled footsteps coming up the hillside and could vaguely make out a dark figure. I didn't want to run into Stanford, but on the other hand, I certainly hoped it was him and not some unknown menace that was coming towards me. I dodged quickly from one slab of rock to the next, trying to stay well away from the crypt and work my way towards the back edge of the cemetery. Far off in the night I heard the town clock strike one. I thought of the snug warmth of my bed with a pang as I slowly edged my way nearer to the cornfield that lay beyond the cemetery. Once I reached it, I could easily hide myself among the rows of corn and then make my way safely home.
Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed something even blacker than the night. I turned for a closer look and saw someone crouching behind a spire-shaped monument. Whoever it was saw me at the same moment, and apparently didn't want to be seen.
My heart was pounding again. Somehow I knew I was facing real danger for the first time in my life. I started to run, splinting towards the cornfield and safety, when the dark figure leaped across the space between us and grabbed me. Strong hands gripped my arms like steel, twisting them painfully behind me. I fought wildly and beat at a muscled chest with my fists, too busy struggling to yell, then suddenly it was too late! One hand closed hard around my throat, choking me.
I tried to cry out for help, but no sound came. I kicked out with my feet, hitting his legs, but the painful pressure on my throat remained steady. The moon came out from behind the cloud and suddenly everything seemed to dance and swim in yellow light. I could see the crypt in a pool of shadow to one side, and red spots began to appear in front of my eyes. My lungs were bursting, desperate for air. I fought to make some sound, to beg the man to stop. Through the roar of blood in my ears, I could hear the wind moaning through the trees.
"Eeee! Eeee!" A cry as eerie as a ghost's scream split the silence. A black form hurled out of the night to leap right at the hand around my throat. Something hairy clutched at my body and my mind reeled in panic. A clawed hand raked across the hand around my throat, and the man holding me cried out.
Farther down the hillside, Stanford heard the cry. "Who's there?" he shouted. The pressure around my throat vanished. I fell weakly to my knees as my attacker ran away, pursued by a small black figure.
I stayed on my knees for a moment, my heart racing wildly, my breath hurting in my throat. But I had no time to try to recover. Stanford had abandoned stealth and switched on his flashlight. He was coming straight up the hillside towards me, shouting. "Stop, you! Stay right there!"
Without thinking, I jumped back up and ran past the remaining tombstones. For a horrible moment I struggled to wiggle under the barbed wire fence, the sharp barbs catching at my clothes and pricking my back. Then I was on the other side. I lunged to my feet again as cornstalks loomed up around me, rattling in the wind.
I ducked behind the first row, the long, dry leaves slapping weakly against my face like ghostly fingers. As I vanished among the stalks, I could hear Stanford's angry shout: "Wait! I know who you are!"
Copyright 2001 by Jeanine Berry. All rights reserved.
The Graveyard Mystery is available from Books Unbound, www.booksunbound.com