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Strangers In The Lane




      The last thing twelve-year-old Jessie Hanson wanted to do that day was baby sit Phillip. All her friends were going sledding after school. But her mom insisted because she had an appointment and Mrs. Winter was sick. Mrs. Winter was a neighbor who babysat Jessie’s little brother and thought Phillip was a perfect child. As it turned out, Jessie’s babysitting probably saved two lives.

       It was the end of March and cold—even for Nebraska. Slate gray clouds hung low in the sky and threatened snow. After school, Tina Adams, Jessie’s best friend since first grade, decided against sledding. Instead, she walked home with Jessie.

      “I’ll help out with Phillip.” Tina pulled her stocking cap down over her dark hair. “I need all the babysitting duty I can get.” Tina’s mom was expecting a baby within a month.

      Jessie was grateful for the company. By the time they got to her house on Willow Lane, the girls were hungry and half frozen. Phillip was still asleep.

      They said goodbye to Jessie’s mom and fixed popcorn to eat while they did their homework. In the living room, Jessie plugged in the baby monitor and settled next to Tina on the floor. The baby monitor transmitted any sound from Phillip’s bedroom. Jessie heard him sigh and turn over in his sleep.

     Tina sat up and scooped a handful of popcorn from the bowl. “My science project is going nowhere.” She nibbled on a puffy kernel.

     “I’d like to know why Mrs. Carlson never lets us choose our own subject.” Jessie tossed her blond braid over her shoulder. “I’d do something on lightning. Maybe if I understood it better, I wouldn’t be scared of it.”

      Tina laughed. “I cannot believe you’re actually afraid of something.”

Jessie smiled and pulled a pencil from her backpack.“You have a weird sense of humor. Get to work.”

      Tina reset a silver clip to corral a loose strand of hair.  “I hate to admit it, but I have zero interest in the tides.”

     “Don’t talk so loud,” whispered a gruff male voice. “You’ll wake up the kid!”

      “Ya, ya. You too can be quiet,” said a woman with an accent.

Jessie and Tina jumped to their feet. Tina’s brown eyes were huge. “Who was that?”

Jessie shook her head slowly. She tiptoed to the hallway and peeked around the corner. No one was there.

      The gruff man spoke again. “A week from today.  Thursday is the only day she works alone. I’ll be in and out in ten minutes.”

      Tina pointed to the baby monitor as the Accent Woman said, “The stuff? You can fence quick?”

      “No problem,” said the man. “It’s a good stash for this little burg. I’ll take it to Lincoln and sell it.” 

Jessie raced up the stairway and opened Phillip’s bedroom door. He was still asleep. She looked under his crib. No one. She jerked open his closet door and shoved the clothes on the rod to one side. No one. She hurried back to Tina.

The Willow Lane Mysteries take place in the 1980's

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