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The Secret of Willow Lane





       The mystery began with a beam of light flashing from Mr. Johnson’s attic window. That was the same day the detective kit arrived. Jessie Hanson was reading under a shade tree in her front yard, trying to stay cool,when the rumble of a truck engine brought her to her feet. That’s when saw the flashes. Regular glints of light shot out from the Johnson house across Willow Lane. It’s like a code, she thought. Wait a minute - nobody should be in that house. Old Mr. C.G. Johnson fell down the steps and died there last spring. Daddy’ll know. He’s the lawyer taking care of Mr. Johnson’s estate. A UPS truck turned into her driveway. 

     “Finally!” She threw down her book. “My detective Kit!” 

The brown-uniformed driver hopped to the pavement and rushed up the porch steps. He set a big box by the front door, rang the doorbell, hurried back to the truck and drove off. Jessie started to run. Her long braid flew out behind her. She felt the sun--warm on her back. She glanced up. Soft clouds - like giant sailboats - cruised smoothly through the blue Nebraska skies. In the distance, cattle grazed idly in the August heat. In seconds, Jessie was over the lawn and onto the sidewalk. She grabbed the post of the handrail and leaped up two steps at a time, barely missing one of the red geraniums planted in shiny black pots that bordered the stairs. I hope, I hope it’s my lucky day. She stooped to read the label on the box. Yea!  It’s addressed to me and it’s from the Chase Novelty Company in New York. It’s here!  I’ll call Tina. Jessie wrapped both arms around the box, hooked a finger through the screen door handle and pulled. She propped open the door with one foot and eased the package into the front hall.  

      “Jessie?” her mother called from the kitchen. “Who rang the doorbell?”   

      “I got it,” Jessie hollered. She picked up the phone, dialed then tapped her foot and waited for someone to answer.            

      “Hello?” said Tina in her grown-up telephone voice.    

      “Tina!  It came!  How soon can you get here?” Jessie wrapped the phone cord around her hand.    

      “It came?  Oh, the detective stuff?  “Great!” said Tina.    

      “Yes! Yes!” Finally,” cried Jessie. “All that babysitting to get the money. I was starting to feel like Phillip’s mother!”            

       “We’re going to eat dinner,” said Tina. I’ll come over as soon as we’re finished.”    

       “Well, hurry!”  Jessie hung up with a groan. I’d faint if Tina ever moved fast.    

       “Mom!”  She struggled to get a grip on the box.  

        “Jessie, what’re you shouting about?”  Her mother came into the hall from the kitchen. “What’s that?  Oh - is it your kit?”   She plopped down into a chair next to the phone table and fanned her face with a dishtowel. The tiny breeze ruffled her dark hair that curled naturally on humid days.  

        “Yes! Yes! said Jessie. “Boy - Phillip better keep his little paws off this!”        

        “Why don’t you do us all a favor and keep the box out of his reach?”  Her mother wiped perspiration from her forehead with the back of her hand.    

        “Don’t you think it’s time Phillip learned some self-discipline, Mom?  That would really be doing us all a favor!”    

The Willow Lane Mysteries take place in the 1980's

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