Mystery at Magnolia Mansion (Nancy Drew Mystery Stories 97)

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Con te n ts
1
Tic k et t o M yste ry
2
Sou th ern H osp it a lit y
3
M eetin g M s. B ea u fo rt
4
A D oor O pen s
5
W rit e r’s B lo ck
6
Surv ey in g t h e G ro u nds
7
Not-S o-S m ooth S ailin g
8
Susp ic io u s M in ds
9
Hot P ro p erty
1 0
Secre t A gen t M an
1 1
Fic tio n al C lu es
1 2
A L ig h t S ea rc h
1 3
Rex ’s C han ge o f H ea rt
1 4
The M yste ry D riv er
1 5
Clu es i n t h e K it c h en
1 6
Fam ily S ecre ts
1 7
Am elia ’s N ew B ook

1
Tic k et t o M yste ry
B ess M arv in slu m ped b ack in to th e lo u nge ch air w it h a d re a m y
e x pre ssio n . “ W hat a n e n din g.” S he sig h ed a s sh e c lo se d th e b ook
s h e’d b een r e a d in g.
Nan cy D re w s lid h er s u ngla sse s d ow n h er n ose a n d l o ok ed a t B ess
o ver t h e le n se s. T he t w o g ir ls w ere s u nbath in g n ea r t h e p ool a t t h e
R iv er H eig h ts C ou ntr y C lu b. “ H ow m an y tim es h ave y ou r e a d th at
b ook ?” N an cy a sk ed , s m ilin g a t h er f r ie n d.
“F ou r,” B ess r e p lie d s e rio u sly , “ an d i t g ets b ette r e a ch t im e. R hett
R ey n old s, t h e h ero , is ju st s o c o ol— an d t o ta lly g org eo u s. I c ry e v ery
t im e h e s a ves A ngel f r o m h er r o tte n c o u sin .”
“I’v e n otic ed ,” N an cy s a id , h er b lu e e y es t w in klin g. S he t o ok t h e
b ook fr o m B ess a n d lo ok ed a t th e tit le .
“S ou th ern F la m e.
S ou nds
r e a l
h is to ric a l.”
“It is !” s a id B ess, t o ssin g h er lo n g b lo n d h air o ver h er s h ou ld ers.
“ T he a u th or, A m elia B ea u fo rt, s p en ds m on th s r e se a rc h in g h er f a cts .
T his sto ry ta k es p la ce in S ou th C aro lin a d urin g th e C iv il W ar.
B esid es, A m elia B ea u fo rt’s b ook s a re a lo t m ore in te re stin g th an
t h at.”
B ess p oin te d t o t h e i s su e o f
Crim e T od ay,
w hic h l a y f a ced ow n
o n N an cy ’s l a p .
“I d on ’t k now a b ou t t h at,” N an cy s a id , s e ttlin g b ack in h er c h air .
“ T here ’s a n a rtic le o n p riv ate in vestig ato rs in h ere . A nd o n e o n
b re a k in g c o d es. I t h in k t h at’s p re tty i n te re stin g s tu ff.”
“Y ou w ou ld ,” B ess t e a se d . “ B ut I s u ppose r e a d in g t h at m agazin e
i s th e p ric e y ou h ave to p ay fo r b ein g R iv er H eig h ts ’ b est- k now n
a m ate u r d ete ctiv e.”
Nan cy s a t u p a n d s w ung h er l o n g, s le n der l e g s o ver t h e s id e o f t h e
l o u nge. S he flip ped ra p id ly th ro u gh th e p ages of th e m agazin e,
s to p pin g w hen sh e fo u nd w hat sh e w as lo ok in g fo r. “ T ell m e th is

is n ’t in te re stin g,” s h e c h alle n ged B ess. “ H ere ’s a n a rtic le o n f a m ou s
peo p le w ho h ave d is a p pea re d w it h ou t a t r a ce.”
“R ea lly ?” B ess s ip ped h er s o d a. “ D oes i t m en tio n A m elia B ea u fo rt
in t h ere ?”
A p uzzle d e x pre ssio n c a m e o ver N an cy ’s f a ce. “ A m elia B ea u fo rt i s
mis sin g?”
Bess p ic k ed u p t h e c o p y o f
Sou th ern F la m e
a n d t a p ped t h e p hoto
on t h e b ack c o ver. A s tr ik in g b ru nette s m ile d f r o m a p ose d p ublic it y
sh ot. “ I’v e b een w rit in g to A m elia B ea u fo rt fo r a b ou t a y ea r
an d a
half , e v er s in ce I to ok th at E nglis h c o u rse . Y ou r e m em ber, th e o n e
where w e h ad t o c o n ta ct a f a vorit e a u th or.”
“T hat’s r ig h t,” N an cy r e ca lle d . “ A nd y ou c h ose A m elia B ea u fo rt?”
Bess n od ded . “ I w ro te a n d t o ld h er h ow m uch I lo ved h er b ook s.
She w ro te b ack a re a lly n ic e le tte r, a n d w e’v e b een w rit in g ev er
sin ce. A t l e a st u ntil . . .”
“U ntil w hen ?” N an cy a sk ed .
“U ntil a b ou t th re e m on th s a go,” sa id B ess. “ I h aven ’t h ea rd a
word f r o m h er. S he u se d t o w rit e o n ce a m on th .”
Nan cy ro lle d h er ey es. “ B ess, th at d oesn ’t ex actly m ak e h er a
mis sin g p erso n .”
“I k now ,” sa id B ess, “ b ut so m eth in g els e se em s str a n ge to m e.
Am elia p ublis h es a n ew b ook e v ery s u m mer. I t’s J u ly a lr e a d y— an d
no b ook . T hat’s w hy I ’m r e re a d in g
Sou th ern F la m e.”
Nan cy p ulle d h er l o n g, r e d dis h b lo n d h air a w ay f r o m h er f o re h ea d
an d b eg an a p ply in g s u nblo ck to h er fa ce. “ M ayb e A m elia ’s b eh in d
sc h ed ule o n h er n ew b ook a n d s h e’s t o o b usy t o w rit e y ou .”
Bess lo ok ed d ou btfu l. “ I ju st h ave th is fe elin g th at s o m eth in g is
wro n g. A m elia w ro te to m e la st y ea r, e v en th ou gh h er b ook
Reb el
Love
w as a w eek o verd ue. I t’s n ot l ik e h er.”
“M ayb e s h e’s g ot w rit e r’s b lo ck ,” N an cy s u ggeste d .
“F org et it ,” s a id B ess, g ettin g to h er fe et. “ Y ou ’r e
not ta k in g m e
se rio u sly .” A m is c h ie v ou s lo ok c a m e in to h er lig h t b lu e e y es. “ I’m
so rry I e v er w ro te a n d t o ld A m elia y ou w ere t h e b est d ete ctiv e i n t h e
world . I e v en t o ld h er y ou ’d m ak e a g re a t s u bje ct f o r a b ook .”
“F la tte ry w ill g et y ou e v ery w here , B ess,” N an cy jo k ed . S he s to od
up a n d a d ju ste d h er b rig h t b lu e o n e-p ie ce s w im su it . “ L et’s ta k e a

sw im .” B efo re B ess c o u ld r e sp on d, N an cy g ra b bed h er f r ie n d b y t h e
wris t a n d j u m ped i n to t h e p ool, p ullin g B ess i n w it h h er.
Seco n ds l a te r, b oth g ir ls s u rfa ced .
“Y ou r a t!” s p utte re d B ess.
“C om e o n ,” N an cy r e p lie d . “ I’l l r a ce y ou t o t h e o th er s id e.”
“O kay,” B ess s a id w it h a g rin . “ It m ig h t h elp m e t o w ork o ff s o m e
ca lo rie s.”
• • •
A f e w h ou rs la te r, N an cy s te ere d h er b lu e s p orts c a r t o w ard B ess’s
hou se . T he w arm su m mer b re eze w hip ped th e g ir ls ’ h air a ro u nd
th eir f a ces.
“S to p a t o u r m ailb ox , o k ay?” B ess r e q ueste d a s t h ey r e a ch ed t h e
box a t th e en d o f th e M arv in s’ d riv ew ay. “ I w an t to se e if th is
mon th ’s i s su e o f
Fash io n F ocu s
c a m e t o d ay.”
Nan cy b ra k ed , a n d B ess le a n ed o u t th e c a r w in dow to o p en th e
mailb ox . “ N o m agazin e,” B ess s a id g lu m ly . “ M ig h t a s w ell b rin g in
th e r e st o f t h e m ail.”
Bess d re w h er h ea d b ack in th e c a r a n d b eg an
flip pin g th ro u gh
th e s ta ck o f l e tte rs s h e’d t a k en f r o m t h e b ox .
“T his is s tr a n ge,” s h e s a id , h old in g u p a lo n g w hit e e n velo p e. “ A
tr a vel a gen t s e n t m e a l e tte r.”
“D id y ou w rit e a w ay f o r i n fo rm atio n o r s o m eth in g?” a sk ed N an cy ,
pullin g t h e c a r u p t h e d riv e.
“N op e,” sa id B ess, fr o w nin g as sh e op en ed th e en velo p e. “It’s
pro b ab ly j u nk m ail.”
Nan cy l o ok ed i n to t h e e n velo p e. “ It’s n ot j u nk m ail,” s h e s a id . “ It
lo ok s a s i f t h ere a re t w o a ir lin e t ic k ets i n t h ere .”
Bess t o ok o u t t h e t ic k ets . “ T hey ’r e t o C harle sto n , S ou th C aro lin a.”
“T hat’s g re a t,” s a id N an cy . “ A re t h ey f r o m a r e la tiv e?”
Bess sh ook h er h ea d . “ T his is to ta lly str a n ge,” sh e m urm ure d .
“O ne o f t h ese t ic k ets h as
you r
n am e o n i t .”
“W hat! L et m e se e th at.” N an cy sn atc h ed th e tic k et fr o m B ess.
“Y ou ’r e r ig h t!” s h e e x cla im ed . “ A nd t h ey ’r e d ate d f o r t w o d ays f r o m
now .”
Nan cy a n d B ess e x ch an ged p uzzle d g la n ces.

“I d on ’t g et it ,” s a id B ess. “ M ayb e M om k now s s o m eth in g a b ou t
th is .”
The g ir ls h ea d ed u p th e w alk w ay to B ess’s h ou se . “ M om !” B ess
ca lle d a s t h ey e n te re d t h e c o ol f r o n t h all.
“I’m u psta ir s,” c a m e h er m oth er’s v oic e i n r e sp on se .
“I’l l g o a sk h er if s h e k now s w hat th is is a b ou t,”
sa id B ess. S he
was h alf w ay u p th e sta ir s w hen th e p hon e o n th e h allw ay ta b le
ra n g. “ W ou ld y ou g et t h at, N an cy ?”
“H i, t h is i s t h e M arv in h ou se h old ,” N an cy s a id c h eerfu lly i n to t h e
re ceiv er.
“B ess, B ess M arv in ?” a w om an ’s v oic e o n t h e o th er e n d w his p ere d
in a t h ic k s o u th ern d ra w l.
“N o, s h e’s — ” N an cy b eg an .
The w om an d id n’t s e em t o h ea r N an cy . “ T his is A m elia B ea u fo rt.
Bess, I n eed y ou r h elp . Y ou a n d y ou r fr ie n d, M is s D re w . Y ou m ust
co m e q uic k ly .”
“T his is N an cy D re w ,” N an cy c u t in . “ I’l l g et B ess. S he’l l b e s o
ex cit e d t o — ”
“M is s D re w , p le a se s a y y ou ’l l c o m e.” T he w om an c u t N an cy o ff
on ce a gain . “ T here ’s n o o n e e ls e I c a n t u rn t o . M y b elo ved M agn olia
Man sio n — it ’s tu rn in g again st m e.” N an cy h ea rd sta tic cra ck lin g
over th e lin e as th e w om an co n tin ued . “T here ’s d an ger lu rk in g
ev ery w here . T errib le d an ger.”
“W hat k in d o f d an ger?” a sk ed N an cy .
But n o o n e a n sw ere d .
The l in e h ad g on e d ea d .

2
Sou th ern H osp it a lit y
B ess c a m e b ack d ow n t h e s ta ir s. “ M y m om h as n o id ea w ho w ou ld
s e n d u s a ir lin e tic k ets to S ou th C aro lin a,” sh e sa id . “ It’s a re a l
m yste ry .” B ess p au se d w hen sh e sa w N an cy ’s fa ce. “W hat’s u p,
N an ?”
“I k now w ho s e n t th e tic k ets ,” N an cy r e p lie d s lo w ly . “ T hat w as
A m elia B ea u fo rt o n th e p hon e, a n d s h e w an ts u s to c o m e to S ou th
C aro lin a.” S he q uic k ly f ille d B ess in o n t h e c o n versa tio n s h e’d h ad
w it h A m elia .
“T hat’s s o s tr a n ge,” s a id B ess, l o ok in g c o n cern ed . “ I h ad a f e elin g
t h at A m elia w as i n s o m e k in d o f t r o u ble .”
Nan cy sa t d ow n o n th e b otto m ste p . “ S he
so u nded m ore th an
t e rrif ie d ,” s h e s a id . “ S he s o u nded . . . f r a n tic .”
“M agn olia M an sio n i s A m elia ’s h om e,” m use d B ess. “ H ow c o u ld a
h ou se t u rn a gain st y ou ?”
“B ea ts m e,” s a id N an cy . “ D o y ou k now a n yth in g a b ou t A m elia ?
W hat a re h er l e tte rs l ik e?”
Bess s h ru gged . “ S he t a lk s a b ou t h er b ook s m ostly . S he n ev er s a ys
m uch a b ou t h er p riv ate l if e a t a ll.”
A f a in t s m ile f o rm ed o n N an cy ’s l ip s. “ A nd I t h ou gh t i t w as g oin g
t o b e a d ull s u m mer.” S he g ot to h er fe et. “ I h ave to g o h om e a n d
m ak e s u re i t ’s o k ay w it h D ad t h at I ’m t a k in g t h is t r ip .”
“S o w e’r e g oin g t o M agn olia M an sio n ,” s a id B ess, g rin nin g a t h er
f r ie n d. “Y ou n ev er ca n re sis t a good m yste ry .” A w orrie d lo ok
p asse d o ver B ess’s f a ce. “ I’m n ot s o s u re I ’m a s e x cit e d a b ou t g oin g
d ow n th ere . ‘D an ger lu rk in g e v ery w here ’ s o u nds e erie . H ow a b ou t
g oin g w it h ou t m e?”
“O h, no,” sa id N an cy , la u gh in g. “Y ou got m e in to th is , B ess
M arv in , an d you ’r e co m in g w it h m e.” S he p la ced h er h an ds on

Bess’s s h ou ld ers a n d t u rn ed h er t o w ard t h e s ta ir s. “ S o g et u psta ir s
an d s ta rt p ack in g. M agn olia M an sio n , h ere w e c o m e.”
• • •
“W e h op e y ou e n jo yed y ou r flig h t,” th e flig h t a tte n dan t sa id o ver
th e a d dre ss s y ste m . “ H ave a p le a sa n t s ta y i n C harle sto n .”
Nan cy a n d B ess s to od i n t h e a is le o f t h e j e t,
wait in g t o d is e m bark .
“I h op e A m elia i s h ere t o p ic k u s u p,” B ess s a id n erv ou sly a s t h e l in e
of p asse n gers i n ch ed f o rw ard .
“M e, to o,” s a id N an cy . T hey h ad n’t b een a b le to te ll th e a u th or
th at t h ey w ere c o m in g. T hey h ad c a lle d C harle sto n in fo rm atio n f o r
her p hon e n um ber, o n ly to d is c o ver th at it w as u nlis te d . B esid es,
Nan cy h ad a h unch t h at t h e o th er d ay, w hen h er p hon e c o n versa tio n
wit h A m elia a b ru ptly e n ded , th e p hon e lin e a t M agn olia M an sio n
had b een c u t.
In sid e t h e a ir p ort t e rm in al, a s m all g ro u p o f p eo p le h overe d a t t h e
gate t o m eet t h e f lig h t. N an cy s c a n ned t h e f a ces, l o ok in g f o r A m elia
Bea u fo rt. N o o n e r e se m blin g t h e a u th or a p pea re d .
“W ell,” B ess s a id w it h a s ig h , “ lo ok s lik e w e’r e o n o u r o w n.” S he
pic k ed u p h er o verstu ffe d c a rry -o n b ag a n d s w ung h er b ulk y p urse
over h er s h ou ld er.
Nan cy la u gh ed a t h er w eig h ed -d ow n f r ie n d. “ W hat d id y ou p ack
in t h ere , a n yw ay?”
“F or y ou r in fo rm atio n , th is b ag c o n ta in s a ll tw en ty -tw o A m elia
Bea u fo rt n ovels ,” h uffe d B ess. “ R em em ber, y ou a sk ed m e to b rin g
all o f h er b ook s.”
“I w an te d t o r e a d t h em t o l e a rn m ore a b ou t A m elia ,” N an cy s a id .
“I d id n’t k now t h ere w ere t w en ty -tw o o f t h em !” S he g ra b bed o n e o f
th e han dle s on B ess’s bag an d help ed her ca rry it over to th e
baggage c la im a re a .
They se t th e b ag d ow n n ea r a co n vey or b elt w here th e la rg er
su it c a se s w ere a rriv in g f r o m t h e p la n e. N an cy a n d B ess w atc h ed f o r
th eir l u ggage a s t h e b ags c ir c le d s lo w ly o n t h e b elt .
“M y f a th er s a ys C harle sto n ’s a b ea u tif u l, h is to ric o ld c it y ,” N an cy
sa id to B ess. “ E ven if w e n ev er m eet th e m yste rio u s M s. B ea u fo rt,
we s h ou ld h ave a g re a t t im e.”

“E xcu se m e, l a d ie s,” c a m e a s ilk y, s o u th ern -a ccen te d v oic e. “ Y ou r
nam es w ou ld n’t b e B ess a n d N an cy , w ou ld t h ey ?”
Nan cy a n d B ess tu rn ed . S ta n din g b eh in d th em w as a h an dso m e
you ng m an in h is e a rly t w en tie s. H is h air w as d ark a n d w avy, a n d
his e y es w ere ic e b lu e. “ I’m R ex B ea u fo rt. M y a u nt A m elia s e n t m e
to c o m e g et y ou a ll.”
Nan cy h eld o u t h er h an d. “ I’m N an cy D re w ,” s h e s a id . “ A nd t h is
is B ess M arv in .”
Bess s m ile d . “ H ow d id y ou k now w ho w e w ere ?”
Rex s h ook th eir h an ds. “ M y a u nt to ld m e to lo ok fo r tw o y ou ng
la d ie s. I d id n’t s e e a n y o th ers,” h e e x pla in ed s im ply .
“T here g o o u r s u it c a se s,” c rie d B ess, p oin tin g.
Rex p ulle d th em o ff th e c o n vey or b elt . “ I’m p ark ed o u ts id e,” h e
sa id , c a rry in g t h e t w o c a se s t o w ard t h e d oor.
“H e’s a d ora b le ,” B ess w his p ere d a s th ey h urrie d a lo n g b eh in d
him .
“T hin k s o ?” a sk ed N an cy . “ T here ’s s o m eth in g a b ou t h im I d on ’t
lik e.”
“W hat’s n ot to lik e?” ask ed B ess, h er ey es tw in klin g. “H e’s a
hunk.”
Nan cy s m ile d a t h er fr ie n d b ut d id n’t s a y a n yth in g m ore a s th e
tw o g ir ls f o llo w ed R ex t o t h e p ark in g lo t. T he h ot, h um id n ig h t a ir
se em ed t o e n velo p t h em l ik e a d am p b la n ket. R ex l e d t h em t o a n o ld
pic k up t r u ck a n d t h re w t h eir s u it c a se s a n d t h e h ea vy c a rry -o n in to
th e b ack . “ I’m s o rry t h is o ld h ea p i s n ’t s u it a b le f o r t h e p re sid en t a n d
vic e p re sid en t o f t h e A m elia B ea u fo rt f a n c lu b,” h e s a id .
Nan cy a n d B ess e x ch an ged g la n ces. W hy h ad n’t A m elia t o ld R ex
who th ey r e a lly w ere ? N an cy w on dere d . A m elia m ust n ot tr u st h er
nep hew .
“B ein g o ffic ers o f s u ch a b ig c lu b m ust k eep y ou t w o v ery b usy ,”
he s a id , s m ir k in g a s h e h elp ed t h em u p i n to t h e c a b o f t h e t r u ck .
Nan cy fr o w ned . I d on ’t tr u st h im , e it h er, sh e th ou gh t. H is to n e
se em ed a lm ost m ock in g.
“W e d on ’t m in d t h e w ork ,” s a id B ess. “ W e a d ore y ou r a u nt.”
Rex m utte re d s o m eth in g u nder h is b re a th a s h e s ta rte d t h e e n gin e.
He s te ere d o u t o f t h e a ir p ort p ark in g l o t a n d o n to t h e h ig h w ay. T hey
tr a vele d i n s ile n ce f o r a b ou t f if te en m in ute s.

Nan cy s a t n ex t t o t h e w in dow , l e ttin g t h e h ot, s tic k y a ir b lo w h er
hair . T hey s o on t u rn ed o ff t h e h ig h w ay o n to a d ark , t r e e-lin ed r o ad .
Nan cy g la n ced o ver a t R ex . H is m ou th w as s e t i n a t ig h t l in e. S he
won dere d w hat w as g oin g t h ro u gh h is m in d. “ D o y ou l iv e w it h y ou r
au nt?” s h e a sk ed .
“Ju st f o r t h e s u m mer,” h e s a id . “ I g re w u p i n S ou th C aro lin a, b ut
now I g o to c o lle g e in B osto n . A unt A m elia a sk ed m e to s p en d th e
su m mer t o h elp w it h t h e o ld p la ce. I n eed ed a s u m mer jo b s o h ere I
am .”
“W e tr ie d to c a ll a n d s a y w e w ere c o m in g,” B ess s a id , “ b ut th e
num ber is u nlis te d . W e w ere h op in g M s. B ea u fo rt w ou ld ca ll u s
again , b ut s h e d id n’t . W e d id n’t k now if a n yon e w as g oin g t o c o m e
to m eet u s.”
“T hat’s m e, M agn olia M an sio n ’s offic ia l gre ete r,” R ex re p lie d
sa rc a stic a lly . “ A unt A m elia d id n’t c a ll y ou b ack b eca u se t h e p hon es
at t h e m an sio n h ave b een d ow n f o r t h e l a st t w o d ays.”
“W hat’s t h e p ro b le m ?” a sk ed N an cy .
“D on ’t k now ,” s a id R ex . “ T he p hon e c o m pan y w as a t th e h ou se
to d ay t o t a k e a l o ok .”
Ju st t h en t h e t r u ck m oto r c o u gh ed , s p utte re d , a n d d ie d .
Rex p ou nded th e ste erin g w heel. “ G re a t!” h e y elle d . “ I sh ou ld
have k now n t h is o ld w re ck w ou ld n’t m ak e i t . N oth in g w ork s a ro u nd
th is d um p!” W it h a q uic k g la n ce a t N an cy a n d B ess, h e r e co vere d
his s m ooth c o oln ess. “ W ell, l a d ie s, t h is i s a s f a r a s I g o. B ut y ou ’r e i n
lu ck . T he d riv ew ay i s j u st d ow n t h e r o ad .”
He o p en ed t h e d oor a n d j u m ped o u t. “ I’d e sc o rt y ou , b ut I ’m g oin g
to t r y t o g et t h is f a b ulo u s v eh ic le m ovin g a gain .”
Bess an d N an cy p eere d th ro u gh th e w in dsh ie ld
in to th e d ark
nig h t. A fe w p aces to th eir r ig h t, a s to n e c o lu m n, o verg ro w n w it h
vin es, w as t h e o n ly s ig n o f a n e n tr a n ce.
Bess c lu tc h ed h er p urse t o h er c h est. “ U h, m ayb e w e s h ou ld w ait
fo r y ou .”
“It’s a fte r t e n ,” s a id R ex , c h eck in g h is w atc h . “ T his m ig h t t a k e a
while . I’l l le a ve y ou r su it c a se s in th e h allw ay o u ts id e y ou r ro om
when I c o m e u p.”
“T hat s o u nds g re a t,” s a id N an cy a s s h e c lim bed o u t o f t h e t r u ck .
Rex im med ia te ly o p en ed th e h ood a n d b eg an tin kerin g w it h th e

en gin e.
“S ee y ou i n t h e m orn in g,” N an cy c a lle d . S he t o ok B ess b y t h e a rm
an d s te ere d h er f r ie n d u p t h e r o ad .
“T his is n ot m y id ea o f fu n,” B ess w his p ere d lo u dly . “ T his p la ce
giv es m e th e cre ep s.” T he ed ge o f th e d riv e w as o verg ro w n w it h
bru sh a n d v in es. N an cy c o u ld s e e a za le a s a n d b ox w ood s p eek in g o u t
fr o m b en ea th a s m oth erin g ju ngle o f w eed s. A bove th em , a c a n op y
of t r e es h id t h e s k y. C asc a d es o f l o n g, s ilv ery m oss f lo w ed f r o m t h eir
bra n ch es. It w as ob vio u s th at M agn olia M an sio n had n’t had a
gard en er’s c a re f o r m an y y ea rs.
“N ow I k now h ow H an se l a n d G re te l f e lt .” B ess s h iv ere d . “ W hat
is t h at h orrib le s tu ff a ll o ver t h e t r e es?”
“S pan is h m oss,” N an cy re p lie d . S udden ly sh e sto p ped w alk in g.
Silh ou ette d a gain st th e n ig h t sk y, M agn olia M an sio n ro se b efo re
th em lik e a f o rtr e ss. T he g lo w f r o m a n a lm ost- fu ll m oon b ath ed it s
ro of
an d sid es in silv ery lig h t. A w hit e , tw o-tie re d porc h w it h
gra cefu l co lu m ns ju tte d ou t fr o m th e fr o n t of th e re cta n gu la r
build in g. C ru m blin g s to n e s te p s r o se u p t o a n o rn ate ly c a rv ed d oor.
The h ou se h ad o n ce b een b ea u tif u l, b ut l ik e t h e g ro u nds, i t w as n ow
bad ly i n n eed o f s o m e r e p air .
“I fe el lik e I’v e ju st w alk ed o n to th e s e t o f a h orro r film ,” B ess
whis p ere d .
“I k now w hat y ou m ea n ,” N an cy a gre ed . S lo w ly t h ey a p pro ach ed
th e o ld ste p s a n d c lim bed u p to th e w id e d oor. “ H ere g oes,” sa id
Nan cy , g ra sp in g t h e h ea vy b ra ss k nock er.
Afte r t w o l o u d r a p s, t h ey w ait e d . N o o n e c a m e t o t h e d oor.
“N ob od y’s h om e. M ayb e w e s h ou ld l e a ve,” s a id B ess h op efu lly .
“W e c a n ’t c h ic k en o u t n ow ,” s a id N an cy . S he w as a b ou t t o k nock
again w hen t h e d oor o p en ed w it h a lo u d c re a k . S ta rin g o u t a t t h em
was a th in , so u r-fa ced w om an w it h d ark h air se t in tig h t cu rls
aro u nd her fa ce. H er sm all ey es darte d back an d fo rth as sh e
sc ru tin iz ed t h em .
“I’m B ess M arv in , a n d t h is i s N an cy — ” B ess b eg an .
“I k now ,” in te rru pte d th e w om an . “ C om e in .” S he o p en ed th e
door t o a d im ly lit h all. “ M is s A m elia a sk ed m e t o w ait u p f o r y ou .
She h as g on e t o b ed . S he n eed s h er r e st. Y ou r r o om is u psta ir s, t h e
fir st o n e o n t h e r ig h t,” s h e s a id c u rtly .

“T han ks,” s a id N an cy , s te p pin g in to th e lo n g h all. B ess fo llo w ed
clo se a t h er h eels . F or a m om en t, t h e t w o s ta re d i n a w e a t t h e c a rv ed
wood w ork a n d h ig h , a rc h ed c eilin g. A c ry sta l c h an delie r h ung a b ove
th em , i t s g la ss p en dan ts t w in klin g i n t h e d im l ig h t.
When t h ey l o ok ed b ack t o t h e w om an , s h e w as g on e.
“N an cy !” c rie d B ess. “ T hat w om an d is a p pea re d .”
“N o, s h e d id n’t ,” N an cy s a id c a lm ly . “ L ook .”
Bess fo llo w ed N an cy ’s gaze in to an u nlit d in in g ro om off th e
hallw ay. S he w as j u st i n t im e t o s e e t h e w om an w alk t h ro u gh a d oor
an d o u t o f t h e r o om . B ess l e t h er b re a th o u t i n a w hoosh . “ S he c o u ld
have s a id g ood n ig h t,” s a id B ess s h ak ily .
“C om e on ,” sa id N an cy . “L et’s se e w hat ex cit e m en t lu rk s
upsta ir s.”
Portr a it s o f g rim -fa ced m en a n d w om en s ta re d o u t a t t h em f r o m
th e w all alo n g th e sp ir a l sta ir c a se . W hen th e gir ls re a ch ed th e
se co n d flo or, N an cy n od ded to w ard th e fir st d oor on th e rig h t.
Slo w ly s h e t u rn ed t h e k nob a n d p ush ed t h e d oor o p en . W it h a s ig h
of r e lie f, t h e g ir ls h urrie d i n to t h e s p acio u s r o om .
Nan cy th re w h er p urse d ow n o n th e la rg e ca n op ie d b ed , th en
flo p ped i n to a w in g c h air i n f r o n t o f a f ir e p la ce.
“A c o ol fa n w ou ld fe el g re a t rig h t n ow ,” B ess
sa id . S he p ulle d
back t h e h ea vy v elv et c u rta in s. A d am p b re eze w afte d i n to t h e r o om
fr o m t h e o p en w in dow .
“I w is h w e h ad o u r b ags,” N an cy s a id . “ I w an t to s ta rt r e a d in g
Am elia ’s b ook s t o n ig h t.”
“Y ou ’r e u nbelie v ab le ,” B ess s a id . “ D on ’t y ou e v er g et t ir e d ?” S he
stif le d a y aw n. “ I’m g oin g t o w ash u p a n d t h en d ro p i n to b ed .”
Bess s ta rte d t o w ard t h e d oor, a n d N an cy l e a n ed h er h ea d b ack o n
th e c h air . A ctu ally it
had
b een a lo n g d ay a n d s h e d id fe el a lit tle
tir e d . S he c lo se d h er e y es. S udden ly , a m uffle d sc re a m m ad e h er
je rk t h em o p en a gain .
There , i n t h e o p en d oorw ay, s to od a g h ostly f ig u re i n a l o n g, w hit e
gow n. A nd o n e o f i t s h an ds w as c la p ped t ig h tly o ver B ess’s m ou th !

3
Meetin g M s. B ea u fo rt
“ B ess!” N an cy s p ra n g f r o m t h e c h air .
Bess tw is te d h er b od y a n d b ro k e lo ose fr o m th e g h ostly fig u re .
S he s tu m ble d b ack to w ard N an cy , a n d fo r a m om en t, th e tw o ju st
s ta re d a t t h e f ig u re i n t h e d oorw ay.
Fin ally N an cy r e la x ed . T he g h ost w as a ctu ally a n o ld er w om an ,
w hose l o n g s ilv ery h air a n d w hit e n ig h tg ow n h ad m ad e h er l o ok l ik e
a n a p parit io n f o r a s e co n d.
“W hat’s g oin g o n ?” N an cy d em an ded .
“S hh!” T he w om an p ut a c ro ok ed fin ger to h er lip s a n d lis te n ed
f o r a m om en t. T hen , s e em in g s a tis fie d th at n o o n e h ad h ea rd , s h e
s m ile d a t t h e t w o g ir ls .
“W elc o m e t o M agn olia M an sio n ,” t h e w om an
whis p ere d . T he g ir ls
n otic ed f o r t h e f ir st t im e t h at s h e w as l e a n in g o n a c a n e.
“M s. B ea u fo rt?” s a id B ess i n a s u rp ris e d v oic e.
The w om an n od ded an d h eld ou t h er h an d. H er fin gers w ere
g n arle d a n d b en t. “ P le a se e x cu se m y d ra m atic e n tr a n ce,” s h e s a id ,
s h ak in g B ess’s h an d. “ I w an te d to sp ea k to y ou w it h ou t a n yon e
h ea rin g. I d id n’t ex pect you to b e sta n din g at th e d oor. I on ly
w an te d t o s to p y ou f r o m c ry in g o u t.”
“I
was
p re tty s ta rtle d ,” r e p lie d B ess. “ I’m B ess a n d t h is i s N an cy .”
“I’m s o h ap py y ou ’r e h ere ,” s a id A m elia . “ Y ou c a n ’t im agin e h ow
g la d I a m .”
Nan cy w as s u rp ris e d a t A m elia B ea u fo rt’s a p pea ra n ce a n d c o u ld
t e ll B ess w as, t o o. T he p ic tu re o n t h e b ack o f t h e b ook h ad s h ow n a
w om an i n h er f o rtie s w it h l o n g b ro w n h air . Y et, n ow t h at s h e h ad a
c lo se r l o ok , N an cy c o u ld s e e t h e r e se m bla n ce. T he p hoto o n t h e b ook
m ust h ave b een t a k en a t l e a st t w en ty y ea rs a go.

Am elia se em ed to re a d N an cy ’s th ou gh ts . “ I su ppose y ou w ere
both ex pectin g th e you ng au th or pic tu re d on m y book s.” She
la u gh ed . “ M y a gen t in sis ts o n u sin g t h at o ld s h ot. N ot t h at I b la m e
him . T his o ld f a ce w ou ld n’t s e ll m an y b ook s.”
“T hat’s n ot t r u e,” B ess p ro te ste d , s e ttlin g o n t h e e d ge o f t h e b ed .
Nan cy d ro p ped d ow n b esid e B ess, a n d A m elia se ttle d in to th e
arm ch air .
“Y ou r p hon e c a ll so u nded p re tty u rg en t,” N an cy
sa id , e a ger to
have s o m e o f h er q uestio n s a b ou t t h is m yste ry a n sw ere d . “ W hat c a n
we h elp y ou w it h ?”
“I’m s o rry I n ev er c a lle d b ack . T he p hon es h ave b een o u t,” s a id
Am elia . “ T od ay, w hen w e fin ally g ot so m eo n e in fo r re p air s, th e
phon e m an t o ld m e t h e l in e h ad b een c u t.”
Nan cy r a is e d h er e y eb ro w s. “ I’v e b een w on derin g i f t h at’s w hy w e
were c u t o ff.”
Am elia n od ded . “ T hat’s w hy I n eed y ou , N an cy . F or th e la st fe w
mon th s, s tr a n ge t h in gs lik e t h at h ave b een h ap pen in g. I d on ’t k now
who— or w hat— is c a u sin g t h em .”
“W hat e ls e h as h ap pen ed ?” a sk ed N an cy .
“L ast w eek I h ad a c a r a ccid en t,” A m elia c o n tin ued in a h ush ed
to n e. “ I s te p ped o n t h e b ra k e, b ut t h e c a r d id n’t s to p . I h it t h e p illa r
at t h e e n tr a n ce. T he f r o n t e n d o f m y c a r w as t o ta lly r u in ed .”
“A re y ou o k ay?” a sk ed B ess.
Am elia n od ded t o w ard h er c a n e. “ I’m u sin g t h is b eca u se I p ulle d a
te n don . Oth er th an th at, an d fr a yed nerv es, I’m fin e, th an k
hea ven s.” A m elia s to od a n d w alk ed o ver t o a n o ld d re sse r. H er s te p s
were s lo w a n d c a re fu l, a s if e a ch o n e w as p ain fu l. B en din g d ow n,
sh e p ulle d o p en a d ra w er a n d to ok o u t a c o p y o f
Sou th ern F la m e,
th e b ook B ess h ad j u st f in is h ed r e re a d in g.
“B efo re th at, I fo u nd th is ,” sa id A m elia , o p en in g th e b ook . T he
mid dle p ages h ad b een sla sh ed . W rit te n a cro ss th em in a c h ild is h
sc ra w l w as t h e w ord
Tra it o r.
“   ‘T ra it o r,’
  ” s a id B ess. “ W hy w ou ld s o m eo n e r u in y ou r b ook a n d
ca ll y ou a t r a it o r?”
“I d on ’t k now .” A m elia sh ook h er h ea d sa d ly . “ I d id n’t k now
where t o t u rn . T hen I r e m em bere d y ou r t e llin g m e w hat a w on derfu l
dete ctiv e N an cy i s .”

“S he’s t h e b est,” s a id B ess l o yally .
Nan cy s m ile d a t B ess. “ I’l l c erta in ly t r y m y b est t o h elp y ou f ig u re
ou t w ho’s b eh in d t h is , M s. B ea u fo rt,” s h e s a id .
“P le a se , b oth o f y ou , c a ll m e A m elia ,” s a id t h e w om an . “ L et’s g o
dow nsta ir s a n d h ave a s n ack . B ut i f a n yon e c o m es a lo n g, p re te n d t o
be t h e p re sid en t a n d v ic e p re sid en t o f m y f a n c lu b.”
“W e’v e alr e a d y d on e th at w it h you r n ep hew ,” N an cy re p lie d .
“W hy i s t h at n ecessa ry ?”
Am elia l a u gh ed n erv ou sly . “ It’s n ot t h at I d on ’t t r u st R ex . I s im ply
don ’t w an t t o w orry h im .”
“A re y ou s u re ?” N an cy a sk ed s k ep tic a lly .
“O h, y es, p erfe ctly su re ,” in sis te d A m elia . “ Y ou m ay th in k I’m
cra zy fo r w hat I’m a b ou t to sa y— but I w on der if th e c u lp rit is a
sp ir it f r o m t h e p ast.”
Bess g u lp ed . “ Y ou m ea n a g h ost?”
“T his h ou se is ric h in h is to ry ,” A m elia ex pla in ed . “P erh ap s a
sp ir it is r e stle ss. M ayb e m y w rit in gs h ave d is p le a se d o n e o f t h em .”
Am elia c o vere d h er f a ce w it h h er h an ds.
Bess j u m ped t o h er f e et a n d p ut h er a rm s a ro u nd t h e w om an . I n a
min ute , A m elia s e em ed t o r e co ver h er c o m posu re .
“M ayb e w e s h ou ld e x plo re s o m e o th er p ossib ilit ie s fir st,” N an cy
sa id t a ctfu lly .
“Y ou ’r e p ro b ab ly rig h t,” sa id A m elia . “ T hese p ast fe w m on th s
have r a ttle d m y n erv es. I ’m n ot m yse lf a t a ll. C om e, le t’s h ave t h at
sn ack I p ro m is e d .”
Nan cy a n d B ess fo llo w ed A m elia o u t o f th e r o om a n d d ow n th e
sta ir s. A bou t h alf w ay d ow n, A m elia p oin te d t o t h e p ortr a it o f a m an
in a g ra y C on fe d era te u nif o rm . “ M y g re a t- g ra n dfa th er,” s h e s a id in
a w his p er, a s th ou gh th e p ortr a it c o u ld h ea r. “ H ere in C harle sto n ,
he’s a C iv il W ar h ero .” N an cy n otic ed a slig h t ca tc h in A m elia ’s
voic e.
“O n t h e p la n e, I r e a d t h at m ost o f t h is a re a w as b urn ed d urin g t h e
war,” N an cy s a id .
“It w as,” s a id A m elia . S he p oin te d t o a p ain tin g o f a w om an w it h
th ic k d ark h air c a u gh t in a b un a t t h e b ack o f h er n eck . “ M agn olia
Man sio n w as s p are d o n ly b eca u se m y g re a t- g ra n dm oth er tu rn ed it

in to a h osp it a l fo r c h ild re n w it h sm allp ox . T he Y an kees d id n’t g o
nea r i t f o r f e a r o f c a tc h in g t h e d is e a se .”
“S o, b oth y ou r g re a t- g ra n dpare n ts w ere h ero es,” N an cy p oin te d
ou t.
“I s u ppose t h ey w ere ,” a gre ed A m elia . “ I n ev er r e a lly t h ou gh t o f i t
th at w ay.”
On th e g ro u nd flo or, th ey p asse d th ro u gh th e d ark d in in g ro om
in to th e k it c h en . W hen A m elia sw it c h ed o n th e lig h t, N an cy sa w
th at t h e f lo or a n d c o u nte rs w ere s p otle ss.
“T his is L ou is e B re w to n ’s d om ain ,” A m elia t o ld t h em . “ S he’s m y
hou se k eep er. I t r u st s h e w as h ere t o l e t y ou i n .”
“S he d id n’t s e em p le a se d t o s e e u s,” s a id B ess.
“L ou is e d oesn ’t lik e to s ta y u p p ast n in e-th ir ty ,” s a id A m elia . “ I
hate d t o a sk h er t o w ait , b ut I ju st c o u ld n’t k eep m y e y es o p en . I f I
had n’t h ea rd y ou c o m e u p t h e s ta ir s, I m ig h t b e a sle ep s till.”
Ju st t h en , t h e k it c h en d oor s w ung o p en w it h a b an g. R ex s to od i n
th e d oorw ay. “ A unt A m elia , w hat a re y ou d oin g u p?” h e a sk ed i n a n
accu sin g v oic e.
“G re etin g m y g u ests , o f c o u rse ,” A m elia r e p lie d s tif fly .
“R em em ber w hat w e t a lk ed a b ou t,” h e s a id , a w arn in g n ote i n h is
voic e.
“Y ou n eed n’t w orry , R ex ,” A m elia r e p lie d .
Rex ’s e y es n arro w ed a s h e t o ok i n B ess a n d N an cy . “ Y ou r b ags a re
upsta ir s in t h e h all,” h e t o ld t h em . T hen , w it h o n e la st f r o w n a t h is
au nt, h e d is a p pea re d t h e w ay h e c a m e i n .
“W hat w as t h at a b ou t?” N an cy a sk ed a fte r a m om en t.
“O h, y ou ’l l h ave t o e x cu se R ex ,” s a id A m elia . “ H e d oesn ’t t a k e t o
th e m em bers o f m y fa n c lu b. H e c a lls th em silly tw it s . H e th in ks
th ey j u st e a t m y f o od , t ir e m e, a n d d is tr a ct m e f r o m m y w rit in g.”
“T hat’s w hy h e’s s o r u de?” a sk ed B ess.
“I b elie v e s o . H e’s j u st b ein g p ro te ctiv e o f m e,” A m elia a n sw ere d .
I w on der, t h ou gh t N an cy d ou btfu lly . I s t h at w hat’s r e a lly b eh in d
his b eh avio r? O r is th ere an oth er re a so n w hy h e’s an noyed th at
we’r e h ere ?
Am elia p ou re d t h em e a ch a g la ss o f l e m on ad e. S he t o ok a p la te o f
hom em ad e peca n co ok ie s fr o m th e sid eb oard . “L ou is e is a
marv elo u s c o ok ,” s h e s a id a s s h e b it i n to a c o ok ie . “ T ry o n e.”

Nan cy to ok a c o ok ie , s till lo st in h er th ou gh ts a b ou t R ex . T here
was a q uestio n s h e h ad t o a sk A m elia . S he h esit a te d , n ot s u re h ow t o
word i t . “ A m elia , w ho i n herit s M agn olia M an sio n f r o m y ou ?”
“R ex , o f c o u rse ,” A m elia a n sw ere d .
Why d oesn ’t t h at s u rp ris e m e? t h ou gh t N an cy , l e a n in g b ack i n h er
ch air . R ig h t n ow , R ex w as h er n um ber-o n e s u sp ect. “ W ho e ls e liv es
here ?” s h e a sk ed .
“It’s ju st m e, R ex , L ou is e , a n d h er h usb an d, M ile s,” s a id A m elia .
“A ctu ally L ou is e a n d M ile s l iv e a b ove t h e g ara ge o n t h e g ro u nds.”
“A nyon e e ls e ?” N an cy p re sse d .
“O h, a n d R osly n S illa y. S he’s m y se cre ta ry ,” A m elia a d ded . “ I
hir e d h er a b ou t th re e m on th s a go w hen m y h an ds g ot to o so re to
writ e . A rth rit is , y ou k now . M y a gen t r e co m men ded h er.”
Nan cy a n d B ess e x ch an ged g la n ces. T hre e m on th s a go w as w hen
Am elia h ad s to p ped w rit in g t o B ess.
“A m elia ,” Bess sa id gen tly , “I’v e been w on derin g w hy you
sto p ped w rit in g t o m e.”
The a u th or’s b ro w c re a se d i n to a p uzzle d e x pre ssio n . “ I w ro te y ou
ju st l a st w eek . I t o ld y ou I w as s e n din g t h e t ic k ets .”
“I h aven ’t r e ceiv ed a le tte r fr o m y ou in th re e m on th s,” B ess to ld
her.
“T hat’s im possib le !” crie d A m elia . “ I w rit e y ou o n th e fif th o f
ev ery m on th . I g iv e R osly n t h e l e tte rs t o a d dre ss a n d m ail.”
Nan cy r a is e d h er e y eb ro w s.
“D on ’t g o a ccu sin g t h at d ea r g ir l,” A m elia s a id , n otic in g N an cy ’s
ex pre ssio n . “ T he fa u lt m ay lie w it h th e p ost o ffic e. I’l l g et to th e
botto m o f t h is i n t h e m orn in g.”
Bess fin is h ed h er le m on ad e. “ I’m g la d y ou d id n’t sto p w rit in g,”
sh e s a id h ap pily . “ I t h ou gh t y ou ’d f o rg otte n a b ou t m e.”
“A bso lu te ly n ot,” sa id A m elia , p attin g B ess’s h an d. “ Y ou w rit e
lo vely , e x pre ssiv e l e tte rs.”
A r a d ia n t s m ile c ro sse d B ess’s f a ce. “ T han k y ou ,” s h e s a id .
Am elia sm ile d b ack . “ N ow I m ust b e g ettin g b ack to b ed ,” sh e
sa id , p ullin g h erse lf u p f r o m h er c h air . “ I a m s u dden ly s o f a tig u ed .”
“B ess, I ’l l d o t h e d is h es, a n d y ou c a n h elp A m elia u p t h e s ta ir s,”
Nan cy s u ggeste d .
“O kay,” B ess a gre ed , t a k in g t h e w om an ’s a rm .

The th re e sa id good nig h t as B ess esc o rte d A m elia fr o m th e
kit c h en . N an cy w ash ed a n d d rie d th e g la sse s. T he h ou se se em ed
om in ou sly q uie t— as
if it w ere sile n tly w atc h in g h er ev ery m ove.
Goose b um ps t in gle d u p N an cy ’s a rm s.
Boy, y ou a re r e a lly im agin in g t h in gs, N an cy t o ld h erse lf . S he la id
th e d is h clo th o n t h e c o u nte r, s n ap ped o ff t h e lig h t, a n d h ea d ed o u t
of t h e k it c h en .
Upsta ir s, th e h allw ay w as co m ple te ly d ark . T he m oon m ust b e
beh in d a c lo u d, N an cy t h ou gh t a s s h e f e lt a lo n g t h e h allw ay f o r t h e
en tr a n ce t o h er r o om . S he c o u ld n’t e v en s e e t h e d oor.
Sudden ly s o m eth in g c a u gh t N an cy ’s e y e. A s m all y ello w l ig h t w as
flic k erin g at th e en d of th e lo n g hall. N an cy peere d in to th e
dark ness. W as t h e l ig h t c o m in g t o w ard h er?
Nan cy q uie tly in ch ed d ow n th e h all to w ard th e lig h t. It w as
defin it e ly c o m in g c lo se r t o h er. I t l o ok ed l ik e t h e f lic k er o f a c a n dle .
“H ello ?” s h e c a lle d o u t s o ftly .
There w as no an sw er. B ut th e lig h t sto p ped m ovin g. “W ho’s
th ere ?” N an cy a sk ed .
The “ fla m e” q uiv ere d , t h en w en t o u t.

4
A D oor O pen s
N an cy d re w h er b od y u p a gain st t h e w all, h er h ea rt p ou ndin g. S he
l is te n ed fo r fo ots te p s. T here w ere n on e. “ W ho’s th ere ?” sh e sa id
a gain , t r y in g t o s o u nd b ra ver t h an s h e f e lt .
A s ix th s e n se t o ld N an cy t h at w hoev er h ad b een t h ere w as g on e.
B ut h ow c o u ld t h at b e? S he h ad n’t e v en h ea rd f o ots te p s. I t w as a s i f
t h e p erso n h old in g th e lig h t h ad b een sw allo w ed u p b y th e sile n t
h ou se .
Then N an cy r e a liz ed s o m eth in g. T here w as a s m ell in th e a ir . It
w as t h e b urn in g w ax f r o m t h e c a n dle . K eep in g c lo se t o t h e w all, s h e
m oved t o w ard t h e s c en t.
The sm ell b eca m e str o n ger a b ou t th re e ste p s fr o m w here sh e’d
b een s ta n din g. A s N an cy c o n tin ued
dow n t h e h all, t h e s m ell b eg an
t o f a d e. S he m oved b ack t o w here t h e s m ell h ad b een s tr o n gest.
This i s a b ou t w here t h e l ig h t w en t o u t, s h e d ecid ed . T here ’s g ot t o
b e s o m e k in d o f d oorw ay o r p assa gew ay h ere .
Nan cy m oved h er h an ds a lo n g th e w all, fe elin g fo r a cra ck o r
h in ge o f s o m e k in d. A fte r a fe w m om en ts , s h e s ig h ed . It w as c ra zy
t r y in g to fin d a n yth in g in th is p it c h -b la ck ness. It w ou ld h ave to
w ait f o r t h e m orn in g.
Nan cy re a ch ed in to th e p ock et of h er p an ts an d p ulle d ou t a
q uarte r. S he q uie tly p la ced it o n th e flo or w here s h e w as s ta n din g
a n d h op ed n o o n e w ou ld p ic k it u p b efo re sh e re tu rn ed . In th e
m orn in g, th e quarte r wou ld sh ow her where th e lig h t had
d is a p pea re d .
Follo w in g t h e w all, N an cy f o u nd h er w ay b ack t o h er r o om . B ess
w as a lr e a d y a sle ep . S he’d p ulle d th eir b ags in to th e r o om a n d le ft
t h em s ta n din g n ea r t h e d oor.

Nan cy k new sh e sh ou ld b e ex hau ste d , to o, b ut h er m in d w as
ra cin g.
Was R ex tr y in g to g et h is a u nt o u t o f th e w ay s o h e c o u ld ta k e
over t h e m an sio n ? T hat w as a s tr o n g m otiv e, y et h e d id n’t s e em a ll
th at fo n d o f th e p la ce. A nd w hy h ad n’t R osly n S illa y se n t B ess’s
le tte rs? O ne le tte r m ig h t g et lo st, b ut n ot t h re e. T hen t h ere w as t h e
matte r o f t h e m yste rio u s l ig h t i n t h e h all.
Nan cy u nzip ped B ess’s b ulk y c a rry -o n b ag. “ L et’s s e e w hat t h ese
ca n t e ll m e,” s h e w his p ere d
to h erse lf a s s h e r u m maged t h ro u gh t h e
book s in th e b ag. A ll th e b ook s w ere p ap erb ack s, e x cep t fo r o n e.
Love i n A tla n ta ,
N an cy r e a d , l if tin g t h e b ook f r o m t h e b ag. A q uic k
ch eck to ld h er th at it h ad b een p ublis h ed b y a d if fe re n t p ublis h er
th an th e o th er b ook s. It h ad b een c o p yrig h te d a lm ost th ir ty y ea rs
ago. I b et t h is i s h er f ir st b ook , N an cy t h ou gh t. I m ig h t a s w ell b eg in
at t h e b eg in nin g.
Curlin g u p i n t h e w in g c h air n ea r t h e f ir e p la ce, N an cy o p en ed t h e
book . Its p ages w ere yello w w it h age. “C ap ta in L an ce M ulg re w
tip ped h is so ld ie r’s c a p to th e b re a th ta k in gly b ea u tif u l M is s A m y
Fair -c h ild . H is h an dso m e b lu e e y es t w in kle d w it h r a k is h c h arm .”
Nan cy c h uck le d t o h erse lf . O h, b ro th er, h ow c o rn y! S he s h ook h er
hea d a s s h e th ou gh t a b ou t B ess r e a d in g th ese b ook s o ver a n d o ver
again . B ut t o h er s u rp ris e s h e q uic k ly f o u nd h erse lf e n gro sse d i n t h e
his to ric a l r o m an ce.
• • •
“N an cy , N an cy ! W ak e u p!”
Slo w ly N an cy ’s ey es o p en ed . S he w as still sit tin g in th e w in g
ch air . B ess w as s h ak in g h er s h ou ld er.
Love in A tla n ta
la y h alf o p en
on h er l a p . R ubbin g h er e y es, N an cy s a w t h at i t w as m orn in g.
“C ou ld n’t p ut it d ow n, co u ld y ou ?” sa id B ess b rig h tly . “ T hat’s
what h ap pen s w it h A m elia B ea u fo rt b ook s.”
“It’s n ot th e k in d o f th in g I u su ally lik e, b ut
re a d in g it in th is
ro om m ad e i t s e em v ery r e a l,” N an cy s a id .
“G o o n , a d m it it , y ou ’v e g ot t h e b ug,” B ess t e a se d . S he p ic k ed u p
th e b ook . “ Y ou f o u nd m y p riz e b ook , t o o. T his b ook i s o u t o f p rin t. I
got it a t a ta g sa le in so m eo n e’s g ara ge. It’s th e v ery fir st b ook
Am elia B ea u fo rt p ublis h ed . D id i t r e v ea l a n y c lu es?”

Nan cy c ro sse d t h e r o om a n d u nzip ped h er s u it c a se . “ S ort o f,” s h e
sa id , p ullin g o u t a d en im s k ir t a n d a c o tto n T -sh ir t. “ T he h ou se in
th is b ook is o b vio u sly m od ele d o n M agn olia M an sio n . A nd in th e
book , t h e h ou se h as s e v era l s e cre t p assa gew ays.”
Bess lo ok ed puzzle d . “D o you th in k th e passa gew ays have
an yth in g t o d o w it h w hat’s b een h ap pen in g a t t h e m an sio n ?”
“C ou ld b e,” re p lie d N an cy . S he q uic k ly fille d h er fr ie n d in o n
what h ad h ap pen ed t h e n ig h t b efo re . “ I’m s u re o f o n e t h in g,” N an cy
co n tin ued . “ W hoev er w as lu rk in g in t h e h all la st n ig h t d is a p pea re d
th ro u gh a s e cre t d oor.”
Bess d ro p ped d ow n o n to th e b ed . “ I d on ’t k now , N an cy , m ayb e
Am elia ’s r ig h t. M ayb e th ere a re r e stle ss s p ir it s lu rk in g a ro u nd th is
pla ce.”
Nan cy la u gh ed a n d q uic k ly p ulle d o n h er c lo th es. “ D on ’t w orry ,
Bess, i t w asn ’t a g h ost, a n d w hoev er i t w as i s l o n g g on e. L et’s c h eck
ou t th e h allw ay, th ou gh , a n d se e if w e ca n fin d a n y clu es.”
She
op en ed h er s u it c a se a n d p ulle d o u t a s m all fla sh lig h t. “ W e’l l n eed
th is i f w e f in d a s e cre t p assa gew ay.”
Bess s till l o ok ed n erv ou s, b ut s h e g ot u p a n d p ut o n a p in k c o tto n
su ndre ss. S he f o llo w ed N an cy o u t t h e d oor.
In th e h all, th in gs w ere q uie t. N an cy c h eck ed h er w atc h . It w as
se v en -th ir ty . “ H op efu lly , th ey ’r e n ot e a rly r is e rs a ro u nd h ere ,” s h e
whis p ere d t o B ess.
It t o ok o n ly m in ute s f o r N an cy t o f in d t h e q uarte r s h e’d d ro p ped
th e n ig h t b efo re . S he stu die d th e w all a b ove it . D ark m ah ogan y
pan els c o vere d t h e b otto m h alf o f t h e w all. E ach p an el w as a b ou t a
fo ot w id e, a n d s e p ara te d f r o m t h e o th ers b y b ev ele d g ro oves. I t w as
th e p erfe ct p la ce t o h id e a d oorw ay.
Nan cy d ro p ped to h er k nees a n d fe lt a lo n g th e o rn ate m old in g
nea r th e flo or. S udden ly h er fin gers fe lt a h air lin e c ra ck ru nnin g
alo n g t h e m old in g. “ H ere ’s t h e d oor,” s h e w his p ere d e x cit e d ly .
“Y ou ’r e k id din g!” g asp ed B ess.
Nan cy t r a ced t h e c ra ck . S ure e n ou gh , it r o se u p a lo n g o n e o f t h e
gro oves. “ B ut h ow d oes t h is t h in g o p en ?” s h e w on dere d a lo u d.
“W hat i f s o m eo n e c o m es a lo n g?” a sk ed B ess, s o u ndin g p an ic k ed .
“Y ou k eep w atc h ,” N an cy in str u cte d . “ W e’l l s a y I lo st a c o n ta ct
le n s o r s o m eth in g i f s o m eo n e c o m es.”

“S ure , a n d y ou ju st h ap pen to b e lo ok in g fo r it n ea r a se cre t
passa gew ay,” B ess r e sp on ded .
“K eep y ou r fin gers c ro sse d th at n o o n e c o m es,” s a id N an cy , n ot
lo ok in g u p f r o m t h e p an elin g.
Nan cy fr o w ned a s sh e co n cen tr a te d o n fin din g a w ay in to th e
passa gew ay. “ T here ’s n o le v er o r a n yth in g h ere ,” s h e m utte re d . S he
se a rc h ed t h e t o p m old in g, w hic h w as le v el w it h h er s h ou ld ers. T he
cra ck c o n tin ued a lo n g ju st b elo w th e m old in g. T here h ad to b e a
han dle o r s o m e k in d o f h in ge.
Then i t c a m e t o h er.
“O f c o u rse ,” s h e s a id , g ettin g b ack d ow n o n h er k nees. “ T he d oor
doesn ’t o p en , it lif ts .” S he p ut h er h an ds o n th e u pper p art o f a
sm ooth p an el a n d p ush ed .
“It’s m ovin g!” c rie d B ess.
“S hh!” sa id N an cy . T he d oor m oved u p sile n tly a n d slid e a sily
in to a s p ace i n t h e w all a b ove i t . “ T his i s t h e o n ly t h in g i n t h is h ou se
th at doesn ’t cre a k ,” N an cy w his p ere d . “S om eo n e has oile d th is
re cen tly .”
Nan cy s to op ed a n d s te p ped i n to t h e d ark s p ace. I n sid e, t h e c eilin g
was h ig h en ou gh fo r h er to sta n d. A d ark , n arro w p assa gew ay
str e tc h ed i n f r o n t o f h er.
“B ess,” w his p ere d N an cy , “ I’m g oin g to c lo se th e d oor. I’l l ra p
tw ic e w hen I ’m r e a d y t o c o m e o u t. Y ou r a p b ack o n ce i f t h e c o ast i s
cle a r. R ap t w ic e i f i t ’s n ot. O kay?”
“B e c a re fu l, N an cy ,” B ess s a id i n a w orrie d t o n e.
“I w on ’t b e lo n g,” N an cy assu re d h er, slid in g th e
door d ow n.
Usin g h er p en lig h t, N an cy c o u ld s e e s e v era l f e et i n f r o n t o f h er. S he
walk ed s lo w ly a lo n g t h e n arro w c o rrid or.
“O ooof!” S udden ly N an cy s tu m ble d f o rw ard . S he’d b een s o b usy
lo ok in g ah ea d , sh e had n’t notic ed th e op en in g belo w her fe et.
Narro w , ric k ety ste p s le d d ow nw ard . P ro b ab ly to th e fir st flo or,
Nan cy g u esse d a s s h e w en t d ow n t h e s te ep s ta ir s.
At t h e b otto m o f t h e s ta ir s, t h e p assa gew ay v eere d o ff t o t h e r ig h t.
The air gre w co ld er an d co ld er. I’m goin g u nderg ro u nd, N an cy
re a liz ed .
Afte r an oth er fiv e m in ute s, a glim merin g of daylig h t bro k e
th ro u gh t h e d ark ness. N an cy l o ok ed u p a n d s a w a h atc h w ay. H ea vy

board s h ad b een n aile d a cro ss i t . T here w as n o w ay N an cy c o u ld p ry
th em l o ose b y h erse lf .
Now s h e w as m ore c o n fu se d t h an e v er. W here h ad t h e p erso n w ho
duck ed in h ere la st n ig h t g on e? T here h as t o b e a n oth er w ay o u t o f
here , s h e t o ld h erse lf .
She t u rn ed b ack , s w eep in g h er f la sh lig h t a lo n g t h e w alls i n s e a rc h
of a n oth er h id den d oor.
Where a re y ou ? N an cy th ou gh t, fr u str a te d . J u st th en h er fo ot h it
so m eth in g h ard ly in g o n t h e f lo or. A im in g h er f la sh lig h t d ow n, s h e
sp otte d a n o val p ie ce o f m eta l. “ C on fe d era te A rm y,” s h e r e a d a s s h e
pic k ed u p t h e o b je ct. I t’s a b elt b uck le , s h e r e a liz ed . T he b uck le f e lt
hea vy i n h er h an ds. I b et t h is i s a u th en tic , t o o, s h e t h ou gh t.
She slip ped th e b uck le in to h er sk ir t p ock et a n d
mad e h er w ay
back u p t h e n arro w s ta ir s t o t h e s e co n d f lo or. S he f o u nd t h e s e cre t
door a n d lis te n ed . It w as q uie t o n th e o th er s id e. S he r a p ped o n ce
an d w ait e d .
There w as n o a n sw erin g r a p f r o m B ess.
Nan cy t r ie d a gain . S till n o r e p ly .
“B ess!” s h e w his p ere d l o u dly . N oth in g.
A c o ld p an ic r a n u p N an cy ’s s p in e. W hat w as g oin g o n o u t t h ere ?
Was B ess a ll r ig h t?
Nan cy p ush ed o n t h e p an el. I t d id n’t m ove. S he p ut h er s h ou ld er
in to i t , p ush in g w it h a ll h er s tr e n gth . S till, t h e p an el d id n’t b udge.
At o n ce, a h orrib le t h ou gh t h it h er.
She w as stu ck in sid e th e se cre t p assa ge, a n d th ere w as n o w ay
ou t.

5
Writ e r’s B lo ck
“ N o, I d id n’t h ea r a n yth in g.” N an cy su dden ly h ea rd B ess’s v oic e
t h ro u gh t h e p an el.
“I d is tin ctly h ea rd a k nock ,” c a m e a m ale v oic e. N an cy r e co gn iz ed
i t i m med ia te ly a s R ex ’s .
“O h,” B ess s a id w it h a flu tte ry la u gh , “ th at m ust h ave b een m e
h it tin g t h e w all. I s a w a m osq uit o a n d w en t t o s q uis h i t .”
“W ell, g o e a sy o n t h e w ood w ork . T his is a n o ld h ou se ,” s a id R ex ,
w it h t h e s a m e s n id e t o n e t h at N an cy h ad n ote d l a st n ig h t. “ A re y ou
c o m in g d ow n t o b re a k fa st?”
“U m . . . i n a m in ute ,” N an cy h ea rd B ess s ta llin g. “ I . . . u h . . . l o st
m y c o n ta ct l e n s h ere . I h ave t o f in d i t .”
Nan cy h op ed R ex w ou ld s ta y tr u e to h is r u de
ch ara cte r a n d n ot
o ffe r to h elp B ess. “ D on ’t ta k e to o lo n g,” h e s a id . “ L ou is e d oesn ’t
w ait b re a k fa st f o re v er.”
“O kay,” B ess r e p lie d . N an cy le t o u t a b re a th a s s h e h ea rd R ex ’s
f o ots te p s r e ced e d ow n t h e h allw ay.
A m om en t l a te r, t h e d oor o f t h e p assa gew ay s lid u p.
“I t h ou gh t I w as g oin g t o b e t r a p ped i n t h ere f o re v er,” s a id N an cy ,
s te p pin g o u t i n to t h e h all.
“I d id n’t k now w hat to d o,” sa id B ess. “ Ju st a s y ou k nock ed , I
s p otte d R ex c o m in g d ow n th e h all fr o m h is ro om . I w as a fr a id to
k nock b ack a n d I w as w orrie d y ou ’d j u st c o m e b urstin g o u t. I l e a n ed
d ow n a s h ard a s I c o u ld a gain st t h e p an el. I h op e I d id n’t s c a re y ou .”
“Ju st u ntil I h ea rd y ou r v oic e,” N an cy a d m it te d , s lid in g t h e d oor
b ack d ow n b eh in d h er.
“T hat w as t o o c lo se , N an cy . D id y ou f in d a n yth in g?”
“T he p assa gew ay l e a d s o u ts id e, b ut t h e o p en in g a t t h e o th er e n d i s
b oard ed u p,” N an cy t o ld B ess. “ T here ’s g ot t o b e a n oth er w ay o u t. I

co u ld n’t f in d i t , t h ou gh .” N an cy t o ok t h e b uck le f r o m h er p ock et. “ I
did f in d t h is .”
“H ow e x cit in g!” s a id B ess. “ W ait t ill A m elia s e es i t .”
“L et’s n ot t e ll A m elia e v ery th in g j u st y et,” N an cy s a id . “ I w an t t o
se e m ore o f o u r h oste ss b efo re I d ecid e t o t r u st h er c o m ple te ly .”
“Y ou d on ’t t r u st A m elia ?” s a id B ess. “ W hy n ot?”
“H ow d o w e k now s h e’s t e llin g u s t h e t r u th ?” a sk ed N an cy . “ Y ou
have t o a d m it t h at— sw eet a s s h e s e em s— sh e i s a b it o d d.”
“I s u ppose ,” B ess c o n ced ed . “ B ut I’m s u re s h e’s ju st a n in nocen t
vic tim .”
A n ois e b eh in d t h em m ad e t h e t w o g ir ls t u rn .
“A nd is n ’t th is O rie n ta l ru g in th e h allw ay gorg eo u s?” N an cy
quic k ly s a id t o B ess a s a y ou ng w om an in h er t w en tie s s te p ped o u t
fr o m o n e o f th e b ed ro om s. H er s tr a ig h t h air w as c u t b lu ntly a lo n g
her c h in lin e, s e ttin g o ff h er s h arp f e a tu re s. A n o versiz e d re ss h ung
lo ose ly o n h er t h in f r a m e.
“Y ou m ust b e t h e g ir ls f r o m t h e f a n c lu b,” t h e y ou ng w om an s a id .
“H i.” B ess e x te n ded h er h an d. “ T his i s N an cy a n d I ’m — ”
“N ic e t o m eet y ou ,” s a id t h e w om an a s s h e p asse d t h em a n d w en t
on d ow n t h e h all.
“I g u ess th at w as R osly n ,” N an cy sa id . “ S he su re d id n’t se em
in te re ste d in m eetin g u s.” N an cy t u rn ed b ack t o t h e d oor h id den in
th e m ah ogan y p an elin g. “ I k now t h ere ’s a n oth er w ay o u t o f t h ere .”
“C an it w ait u ntil a fte r b re a k fa st?” a sk ed B ess. “ I’m s ta rv ed , a n d
so m eth in g s m ells d elic io u s.”
“L et’s g o,” s a id N an cy .
In th e d in in g ro om R osly n w as sta n din g b y th e ta b le ta lk in g in
lo w t o n es t o t h e h ou se k eep er, L ou is e B re w to n . A p la tte r o f e g gs a n d
to ast w as o n
th e t a b le , n ex t t o a la rg e b ow l f ille d w it h f r e sh m elo n
an d s tr a w berrie s.
“B re a k fa st l o ok s w on derfu l,” r e m ark ed N an cy .
The tw o w om en lo ok ed sta rtle d to se e th e gir ls . R osly n gave
Nan cy a n d B ess a f o rc ed s m ile . “ H elp y ou rse lv es. L ou is e , w ou ld y ou
get t w o m ore p la te s f o r o u r g u ests ?”
Wit h ou t a g la n ce a t N an cy a n d B ess, L ou is e le ft th e ro om a n d
quic k ly re tu rn ed w it h th e p la te s. In th e d aylig h t N an cy c o u ld se e

th at t h e h ou se k eep er w as i n h er f if tie s, t h ou gh h er s e v ere e x pre ssio n
mad e h er s e em o ld er.
“Is it u s?” B ess w his p ere d t o N an cy . “ O r is e v ery on e a ro u nd h ere
on t h e g ro u ch y s id e?”
Nan cy sm ile d an d pou re d so m e ora n ge ju ic e fr o m th e silv er
pit c h er i n f r o n t o f h er.
“Is n ’t A m elia u p y et?” B ess a sk ed . I t w as a fte r n in e o ’c lo ck .
Rosly n s h ook h er h ea d . “ W hic h is u nusu al, s in ce . . .” S he p au se d
an d r e a ch ed f o r a b ask et o f m uffin s.
“S in ce . . .” N an cy p ro m pte d g en tly .
“S in ce s h e’s u su ally u p b rig h t a n d e a rly ,” R osly n f in is h ed .
“M ayb e w e s h ou ld c h eck o n h er,” s a id B ess, r is in g f r o m h er c h air .
“O h no!” R osly n re p lie d hastily . T hen sh e flu sh ed . “I m ea n ,
Am elia d oesn ’t l ik e t o b e d is tu rb ed w hen s h e’s i n h er r o om .”
Bess s a t b ack d ow n, s n ea k in g a l o ok a t N an cy .
Nan cy to ok a m uffin a n d slo w ly b utte re d it . W hy h ad R osly n
re a cte d s o s tr o n gly t o B ess?
“U m m.” B ess sig h ed a s sh e fin is h ed th e eg gs o n h er p la te a n d
sp oon ed o u t a b ow l o f m elo n a n d s tr a w berrie s. “ I c o u ld e a t l ik e t h is
ev ery d ay.”
Nan cy tu rn ed to Rosly n . “Y ou ’r e help in g Am elia w it h her
writ in g?”
“Y es, I d o m ost o f h er t y p in g a n d s o m e e d it in g.” F or t h e f ir st t im e,
Rosly n ’s fa ce b rig h te n ed . “ S he’s s o ta le n te d . I’m le a rn in g s o m uch .
I’m a w rit e r, t o o. I h op e t o b e o n e s o m ed ay, t h at i s .”
“I’v e r e a d e v ery o n e o f A m elia ’s b ook s— at le a st t w ic e!” B ess s a id
en th usia stic a lly .
“T oo b ad i t ’s t a k en s o l o n g f o r A m elia ’s n ew b ook t o b e p ublis h ed .
We’r e d yin g to re a d it ,” N an cy sa id ca su ally . R osly n S illa y d id
in deed se em gen uin ely co n cern ed ab ou t h er em plo yer. B ut still,
Nan cy w an te d t o f in d o u t w hat t h e y ou ng w om an k new .
“S he’s still w ork in g o n it ,” R osly n re p lie d h astily . “ S he h asn ’t
been fe elin g w ell a n d . . .” R osly n ’s w ord s tr a ile d o ff, a n d th en
ab ru ptly , s h e s to od u p. “ M ayb e I’d b ette r k nock o n h er d oor a fte r
all.” S he t o sse d h er n ap kin o n t h e t a b le a n d p ush ed o u t h er c h air .
Nan cy s to od u p a t th e s a m e tim e. “ R ea d y to g o, B ess? I’d lik e to
fin is h u npack in g.”

“S ure ,” sa id B ess, ta k in g a la st b it e of m uffin . S he fo llo w ed
Nan cy o u t o f t h e d in in g r o om .
Nan cy c lim bed t h e s ta ir s r ig h t b eh in d R osly n . S he w an te d t o s e e
fo r h erse lf th at A m elia w as o k ay, b ut d id n’t w an t th e s e cre ta ry to
th in k s h e w as b ein g t o o n osy . A t t h e t o p o f t h e s ta ir s, N an cy t u rn ed ,
pre te n din g t o e n te r h er o w n r o om .
“A m elia ?” R osly n k nock ed s o ftly o n t h e d oor. W hen t h ere w as n o
an sw er, s h e r a p ped l o u der. A f a in t g ro an c a m e f r o m i n sid e.
Nan cy c o u ld n’t p re te n d t o b e u nin te re ste d a n y l o n ger. S he r u sh ed
past R osly n a n d p ush ed o p en t h e d oor t o A m elia ’s r o om . T he a u th or
was still in b ed . H er e y es w ere sh ut tig h t, a n d h er fa ce w as p ale .
Nan cy h urrie d t o h er s id e.
“A m elia ? A re y ou a ll r ig h t?” N an cy r e a ch ed f o r t h e w om an ’s w ris t
an d f e lt h er p uls e . I t s e em ed f a in t b ut r e g u la r.
“S o tir e d ,” A m elia m um ble d . “A nd th ir sty . C an ’t get m y ey es
op en .” S he t r ie d t o l a u gh b ut c o u gh ed i n ste a d .
Rosly n d ash ed in to th e a d jo in in g b ath ro om a n d c a m e o u t w it h a
gla ss o f w ate r. W it h B ess’s h elp , N an cy t ilt e d A m elia ’s h ea d u p a n d
gave h er a d rin k.
“H ow a b ou t a co ol w ash clo th to p ut o n h er fo re h ea d ,” N an cy
su ggeste d .
Wit h a n od , R osly n w en t t o g et o n e.
“A re y ou f e elin g a ll r ig h t?” N an cy a sk ed a gain .
“S hou ld w e c a ll a d octo r?” B ess a sk ed a n xio u sly fr o m th e o th er
sid e o f t h e b ed .
Am elia sh ook her hea d em phatic a lly . “R ea lly ,
I’m ok ay. Ju st
co u ld n’t g et u p. M ayb e it w as t h ose la te h ou rs w e k ep t la st n ig h t.”
She w in ked , a n d N an cy c o u ld s e e s o m e o f h er v it a lit y r e tu rn in g.
Rosly n l e a n ed o ver a n d l a id a d am p c lo th o n A m elia ’s f o re h ea d .
“T hat’s n ic e. T han k y ou , a ll o f y ou .” A m elia s a n k d ow n in to th e
pillo w a n d c lo se d h er e y es. N an cy lo ok ed u p a t R osly n . T he y ou ng
wom an ’s f a ce w as a sh en .
“M ayb e y ou ’d l ik e s o m e t e a a n d a m uffin ,” R osly n s a id .
“B re a k fa st i n b ed ,” A m elia s a id w it h a s m ile . “ I’d l ik e t h at.”
“A nyth in g t o m ak e y ou f e el b ette r.” R osly n p atte d h er e m plo yer’s
han d, t h en l e ft t h e r o om .

“A m elia , a re y ou t a k in g a n y s le ep in g m ed ic a tio n s?” N an cy a sk ed
when s h e w as s u re R osly n h ad g on e.
“N o. I h ate p ills . T he o n ly t h in g I t a k e i s a sp ir in , f o r m y a rth rit is .
It w as b ad la st n ig h t s o I to ok a c o u ple .” S he le a n ed fo rw ard a n d
poin te d t o a n ig h ts ta n d.
Nan cy s lid o p en t h e t o p d ra w er. S he p ulle d o u t a b ottle o f a sp ir in ,
cle a rly l a b ele d . “ M ay I o p en i t ?”
“O f c o u rse .”
Nan cy c a re fu lly u nsc re w ed th e to p a n d sh ook o u t a h an dfu l o f
pills . T hey w ere a ll r o u nd a n d w hit e , b ut a s e co n d g la n ce to ld h er
ab ou t h alf w ere a tin y b it s m alle r. S he r e a d th e in sc rip tio n o n th e
sm alle r
pills , t h en h eld t h em o u t f o r A m elia a n d B ess t o s e e. “ T hese
are s le ep in g p ills .”
Am elia ’s e y es g re w w id e. “ W hat?” S he s tr u ggle d to s it u p. “ B ut
how d id t h ey g et i n t h ere ?”
Nan cy fr o w ned . Som eo n e had ob vio u sly re p la ced so m e of
Am elia ’s a sp ir in w it h s le ep in g p ills . N an cy r e m em bere d t h e lig h t in
th e h allw ay. H ad t h e p erso n j u st c o m e f r o m A m elia ’s r o om ?
“W ho h as a ccess t o y ou r r o om ?” N an cy a sk ed A m elia .
“W hy, e v ery on e, I s u ppose . I d on ’t k eep it lo ck ed . B ut I ju st d on ’t
understa n d. W hy w ou ld s o m eo n e w an t t o m ak e m e d ro w sy ?”
Ju st t h en , N an cy h ea rd f o ots te p s in t h e h all. Q uic k ly s h e d ro p ped
th e p ills b ack i n to t h e b ottle a n d p ut i t i n t h e d ra w er.
Rosly n c a m e in to th e r o om , c a rry in g a tr a y o f s te a m in g te a , h ot
butte re d m uffin s, an d a b ow l of fr e sh fr u it . “L ou is e ’s b lu eb erry
muffin s,” s h e a n nou nced b rig h tly . A m elia s a t u p, a n d B ess p lu m ped
a p illo w b eh in d h er.
Rosly n s e t t h e t r a y o n h er l a p . “ I’m s o g la d e v ery th in g’s a ll r ig h t,”
sh e s a id , th en lo ok ed a t N an cy a n d B ess. “ E very th in g
is
a ll r ig h t,
is n ’t i t ?” s h e a sk ed , n otic in g t h eir s e rio u s e x pre ssio n s.
“O h y es.” A m elia n od ded v ig oro u sly a s s h e t o ok a s ip o f t e a . “ I g ot
up la st n ig h t to gre et th e gir ls an d m ust h ave w orn m yse lf ou t
sta yin g u p l a te .”
Nan cy tr ie d to re a d R osly n ’s fa ce. D id sh e know
ab ou t th e
sle ep in g p ills ? E it h er sh e d id n’t k now o r sh e w as a g re a t a ctr e ss,
beca u se th e o n ly em otio n N an cy co u ld se e o n R osly n ’s fa ce w as
co n cern .

“R osly n , b e a g ood g ir l a n d sta rt ty p in g a ro u gh d ra ft o f th e
ch ap te r w e w ork ed o n y este rd ay,” A m elia re q ueste d . “ I’m fe elin g
much b ette r, a n d a s s o on a s I d re ss a n d s h ow t h e g ir ls a ro u nd, I ’l l b e
re a d y t o w ork .”
“A re y ou s u re y ou ’r e u p t o i t ?” a sk ed R osly n .
“P osit iv e. N ow , s h oo, a ll o f y ou , a n d l e t t h is o ld w om an h ave s o m e
priv acy .”
“M ay w e g o w it h R osly n ? I’d lo ve to s e e w here y ou w ork ,” B ess
ask ed e a gerly a s t h ey s to od u p.
Good t h in kin g, B ess, N an cy t h ou gh t. I t w ou ld g iv e t h em a r e a so n
to t a g a lo n g a fte r t h e s e cre ta ry a n d d o a l it tle s n oop in g.
“I d on ’t k now ,” R osly n s p utte re d .
“Ju st f o r a m in ute , u ntil A m elia i s r e a d y,” B ess s a id q uic k ly .
“C om e o n , R osly n . T hese a re m y d ev ote d fa n s, a n d th ey w an t to
get a g lim pse o f m y g en iu s,” A m elia s a id w it h a t w in kle i n h er e y e.
“A ll rig h t,” th e se cre ta ry re lu cta n tly a gre ed , a n d th e th re e g ir ls
le ft A m elia a lo n e a n d h ea d ed d ow nsta ir s. In th e m ain h all th ey
tu rn ed r ig h t a n d w en t d ow n a l o n g h allw ay t o a d oor. I t o p en ed t o a
sp acio u s, s u nlit o ffic e. O n o n e w all, a m od ern c o m pute r w as s e t u p.
File c a b in ets f la n ked b oth s id es. P ap ers w ere p ile d a n d s c a tte re d o n
ev ery f la t s u rfa ce. B ook s w ere s ta ck ed o n t h e f lo or.
“P ard on th e m ess,” R osly n sa id as sh e ste p ped over a b ox of
co m pute r p ap er. “ A m elia h as h er o w n s y ste m . B elie v e it o r n ot, s h e
know s w here e v ery th in g i s .”
The s e cre ta ry p ic k ed u p s o m e p ap ers th at w ere c lip ped to geth er
an d s a t d ow n a t t h e c o m pute r.
“W hat’s A m elia w ork in g o n ?” B ess a sk ed . “ O r i s i t a s e cre t?”
Rosly n tu rn ed th e c o m pute r o n a n d le t it w arm u p. “ N o se cre t.
Her la te st h is to ric a l th rille r. T he w ork in g tit le is ‘C olo n ia l H ero ,’
but w e u su ally j u st c a ll i t b ook n um ber t w en ty -th re e.”
Nan cy g la n ced a t t h e p ap ers. C hap te r T w o w as w rit te n o n t h e t o p
sh eet. O bvio u sly “ b ook t w en ty -th re e” h ad n’t g otte n t o o f a r.
Rosly n p ut a d is k in to th e c o m pute r, a n d s o on C hap te r T w o w as
on t h e s c re en .
“M y j o b i s r e a lly v ery s im ple ,” s h e e x pla in ed . “ A m elia d ic ta te s t h e
sto ry t o m e, a n d I t y p e i t i n to t h e c o m pute r. W e p rin t i t o u t a n d l a te r
go o ver i t — so m etim es t o geth er— an d d o t h e f ir st e d it in g.”

Bess s ig h ed . S he’d b een w an derin g a ro u nd t h e o ffic e g azin g a t a ll
th e b ook s a n d p ap ers. “ S o m uch f o r m y v is io n o f t h e w rit e r w it h h er
pad an d p en cil. Y ou k now , sip pin g te a on th e w is te ria -c o vere d
porc h w hile l a b orin g o ver e a ch s e n te n ce.”
“O h, i t c a n b e a l o t o f l a b or a ll r ig h t,” R osly n m utte re d . “ It s e em s
lik e A m elia h as r e w rit te n t h e s e co n d c h ap te r a t l e a st t w en ty t im es.”
“R ea lly ?” N an cy r e a d a p ara gra p h o ver R osly n ’s
sh ou ld er. “
  ‘W hile
Am y w atc h ed in h orro r, t h e m en t o u ch ed t h e f la m in g t o rc h es t o t h e
barn . A s i f i t w ere a p ile o f d ry k in dlin g, t h e o ld b uild in g b urst i n to
fla m es. “ W here i s L an ce M ulg re w ?” c rie d A m y.’
  ”
What? N an cy a sk ed s ile n tly . S he r e co gn iz ed t h ese l in es. T hey w ere
fr o m
Love in A tla n ta .
S he’d r e a d a lm ost th ose e x act lin es ju st la st
nig h t.
Nan cy l o ok ed o ver t o B ess. S he w as e n th usia stic a lly c h attin g w it h
Rosly n S illa y— who s a t a b se n tly r a p pin g h er p en cil o n t h e d esk .
“U h, th an ks fo r th e to u r,” N an cy sa id . “ B ess a n d I h ave to g o
now .” S he g ra b bed B ess’s a rm a n d h urrie d h er o u t o f t h e r o om .
Nan cy d id n’t sto p w alk in g u ntil th ey w ere a t th e b otto m o f th e
sta ir w ell. “ W hat’s t h e r u sh ?” a sk ed B ess.
“I have to ask you so m eth in g,” sa id N an cy . “D oes A m elia
Bea u fo rt u se t h e s a m e c h ara cte rs i n m ore t h an o n e b ook ?”
“N o, n ev er,” r e p lie d B ess.
“I d id n’t t h in k s o . I w as j u st d ou ble -c h eck in g,” N an cy t o ld B ess.
“W hat’s g oin g o n ?” a sk ed B ess.
“R osly n ’s n ot t y p in g a c h ap te r f r o m a n ew b ook ,” N an cy t o ld h er.
“S he’s r e ty p in g
Love in A tla n ta ,
w hic h m ea n s A m elia ’s s e cre ta ry is
up t o s o m eth in g f is h y.”

6
Surv eyin g t h e G ro u nds
“ W hat a re y ou t w o w his p erin g a b ou t?” b oom ed a v oic e a t t h e t o p o f
t h e sta ir s. S ta rtle d , N an cy a n d B ess lo ok ed u p. R ex B ea u fo rt w as
c o m in g d ow n t h e s te p s. H e w as d re sse d i n a s p orts s h ir t a n d s la ck s.
“W e w ere w on derin g w hat to d o to d ay,” N an cy sa id w it h ou t
h esit a tio n . “ It’s g oin g t o b e b ea u tif u l— hot a n d s u nny.”
Rex sn orte d . “ Y ou m ea n m uggy a n d m is e ra b le .” H e w ip ed h is
a lr e a d y s w ea tin g b ro w .
“M ayb e y ou c o u ld s u ggest s o m eth in g,” B ess s a id e a gerly . “ A m elia
i s sh ow in g u s a ro u nd th is m orn in g, b ut th en sh e a n d R osly n a re
g oin g t o w ork .”
“M y su ggestio n is you sit on th e porc h w it h a co ol gla ss of
l e m on ad e a n d a b ig f a n ,” R ex a n sw ere d w it h a s a rc a stic g rin .
“D o p eo p le s w im i n t h e A sh le y R iv er?” B ess a sk ed .
He s h ru gged . “ It’s a l it tle m uddy. D o y ou g ir ls k now h ow t o s a il? ”
Nan cy n od ded . “ I t o ok l e sso n s l a st s u m mer.”
“T here y ou g o, t h en . I ’v e g ot a b oat t ie d u p a t t h e d ock . H er s a ils
a re o n . S he’s a ll y ou rs, i f y ou ’r e c a re fu l.”
“H ey ! T hat s o u nds l ik e f u n!” B ess e x cla im ed .
“Ju st d on ’t t ip i t o ver,” h e w arn ed . T hen , w it h a n od , h e w en t o u t
t h e f r o n t d oor.
Nan cy lo w ere d h er v oic e. “ A s a ilb oat in th e m id dle o f th e r iv er
w ill b e a g re a t p la ce t o f in is h o u r d is c u ssio n . I ’m b eg in nin g t o t h in k
e v en t h e w alls h ave e a rs.”
Bess’s e y es w id en ed a s s h e s lo w ly g la n ced a ro u nd t h e h all. N an cy
g rin ned a t h er f r ie n d’s n erv ou s e x pre ssio n .
“C om e o n , l e t’s g o f in d A m elia ,” s a id B ess.
Ju st t h en , t h ey h ea rd h er v oic e c o m in g f r o m t h e d in in g r o om .

“O h, t h ere y ou a re ,” A m elia s a id c h eerfu lly a s s h e w alk ed i n to t h e
hall. S he h ad t w is te d h er g ra y h air in to a k not, a n d t h ere w as n ow
so m e c o lo r i n h er c h eek s. N an cy c o u ld s e e t h at s h e f e lt b ette r.
“H ow a b ou t a to u r o f th e g ard en b efo re it g ets to o h ot,” A m elia
su ggeste d a s s h e o p en ed t h e m assiv e f r o n t d oor.
“G ood id ea ,” B ess re p lie d . “It’l l be nic e to se e
th e pla ce in
daylig h t. T he w alk u p t h e d riv e l a st n ig h t w as k in d o f s p ook y.”
Am elia la u gh ed a s th ey s te p ped o n to th e p orc h . N an cy a n d B ess
ea ch t o ok o n e o f h er e lb ow s a n d h elp ed h er d ow n t h e s te p s.
“A h, y es,” th e w om an s a id w is tfu lly . “ T he m oon s h in in g b eh in d
th e m oss-c o vere d tr e es— it ’s o n e o f m y fa vorit e n ig h ttim e s c en es. I
lo ve t o s it o n t h e p orc h a n d h ea r t h e f r o gs c ro ak in g. S o p ea cefu l.”
Bess s h iv ere d . “ I t h in k I l ik e t h e g ro u nds b ette r i n t h e d aytim e.”
The t h re e p au se d o n t h e c ra ck ed w alk a n d g azed a cro ss t h e f r o n t
la w n. In th e s u nlig h t N an cy c o u ld s e e th at la st n ig h t’s im pre ssio n
was r ig h t— th e g ro u nds h ad n’t b een c a re d f o r i n a l o n g t im e.
“A s y ou c a n s e e, t h e l a st b ig h urric a n e d id q uit e a b it o f d am age.”
Am elia p oin te d t o s e v era l la rg e t r e es t h at h ad f a lle n . O ne h ad b een
lim bed an d ch op ped in to fir e w ood . “M ile s Bre w to n , Lou is e ’s
husb an d, h as m ad e a d en t, b ut t h ere ’s s till s o m uch t o d o.”
“W asn ’t t h e h urric a n e l a st f a ll? ” B ess a sk ed .
“Y es. A nd you sh ou ld have se en th is pla ce. F ortu nate ly , th e
build in gs w ea th ere d t h e s to rm w ell.”
“W hat’s t h at b uild in g o ver t h ere ?” N an cy p oin te d t o w ard a t w o-
sto ry , i v y-c o vere d h ou se .
“T hat’s th e g ara ge w it h th e o ld se rv an ts ’ q uarte rs o n to p . M y
pare n ts m od ern iz ed i t , a n d n ow t h e B re w to n s l iv e t h ere .”
“It’s r e a lly n ea t l o ok in g,” B ess s a id . “ E very th in g l o ok s r ig h t o u t o f
a h is to ry b ook .”
Am elia sig h ed . “T he esta te w as on ce so m agn if ic en t. In th e
su m mertim e w e’d c u t g la d io li a n d fo x glo ve a n d a rra n ge b ou quets ,
an d w e a lw ays h ad f r e sh v eg eta b le s. N ow t h e y ard is a n o verg ro w n
ta n gle o f w eed s. I t r ie d t o k eep t h e g ard en g oin g a s lo n g a s I c o u ld ,
but t h en . . .” S he s ta re d s a d ly d ow n a t h er g n arle d f in gers. “ It ju st
got t o o p ain fu l. A nd s in ce t h e l a st h urric a n e, I g u ess I ’v e g iv en u p.”
“C ou ld n’t y ou h ir e s o m eo n e t o h elp ?” N an cy a sk ed .

“I’v e h ir e d R ex to h elp M ile s th is su m mer, b ut it ’s a b ig jo b .”
Am elia c h uck le d r u efu lly . “ I c a n s e e y ou g ir ls h ave a n e x aggera te d
id ea o f w hat w rit e rs e a rn . I t c o sts a f o rtu ne t o m ain ta in a p la ce l ik e
th is . B esid es, I’v e b een p ayin g R osly n to h elp m e w it h m y w rit in g,
to o, a n d t h at’s a b ou t a ll I c a n a ffo rd .”
“S pea k in g o f R osly n ,” s a id B ess, “ d id y ou e v er g et a c h an ce t o a sk
her a b ou t m ailin g t h e l e tte rs t o m e?”
“Y es,” re p lie d A m elia . “ S he sa id sh e m aile d th em . It’s re a lly a
myste ry .”
Bess an d N an cy ex ch an ged lo ok s as th ey cro sse d so m e m oss-
co vere d f la gsto n es t o t h e s id e o f t h e h ou se . W hen t h ey r o u nded t h e
co rn er, b oth g ir ls s to p ped a n d g asp ed .
A g ard en o f r o se b ush es s tr e tc h ed b rig h t a n d f r a gra n t b efo re t h em .
They ’d b een p la n te d in a z ig za g so th at th e w hit e , p in k, a n d re d
co lo rs
alt e rn ate d . B ey on d t h e f lo w ers, t h e A sh le y R iv er s p ark le d .
“W hat a v ie w !” B ess e x cla im ed .
“W e’v e tr ie d to k eep th e r o se s h ea lt h y.” A m elia h ob ble d u p to a
bush a n d l o vin gly t o u ch ed a b rig h t b ud. “ T hese b ush es o n ce f o rm ed
a g ia n t M fo r M agn olia M an sio n . T he g ard en h as b een h ere sin ce
befo re t h e C iv il W ar. C an y ou i m agin e? M y g re a t- g ra n dpare n ts o n ce
walk ed t h is p ath .”
“T hat r e m in ds m e,” N an cy i n te rru pte d . “ D urin g t h e w ar, d id y ou r
fa m ily h ave h id den s ta ir s b uilt ?”
Am elia n od ded . “ Y es. I t w as a n e sc a p e r o u te in c a se t h e Y an kees
atta ck ed .”
Nan cy to ld h er a b ou t th e lig h t sh e’d se en th e n ig h t b efo re . “ I
fo u nd a d oor i n t h e p an elin g, a n d I w on dere d w here i t l e d ,” s h e s a id ,
decid in g not to te ll A m elia th at sh e’d actu ally been in sid e th e
passa gew ay.
“It l e a d s t o s ta ir s t h at g o d ow n u nder t h e f ir st f lo or,” A m elia t o ld
her. “ T hey le a d to a tr a p door to th e o u ts id e. H ere , I’l l s h ow y ou .”
She to ok th e tw o g ir ls to th e b ack o f th e m an sio n a n d p oin te d to
se v era l th ic k b ush es g ro w in g a gain st th e h ou se . N an cy d ro p ped to
her k nees a n d p eere d u nder t h e l o w er b ra n ch es.
A w ood en d oor p ok ed u p fr o m th e g ro u nd. N an cy a lr e a d y k new
th at it w as b oard ed u p o n t h e o th er s id e. P artin g t h e b ra n ch es w it h
her h an d, N an cy in sp ecte d t h e a re a . C ob w eb s la ced o ver t h e r u ste d

hin ge, a n d t h e d ir t a n d l e a ves s u rro u ndin g
th e d oor l o ok ed a s i f t h ey
had n’t b een d is tu rb ed i n y ea rs.
She b ack ed o u t o f th e b u sh es. “ W ell, w hoev er u se d th e se cre t
passa gew ay l a st n ig h t d id n’t c o m e o u t t h is w ay.”
“M ayb e t h e p erso n c a m e b ack i n to t h e h allw ay a fte r w e’d g on e t o
bed ,” B ess s a id .
“M ayb e.” N an cy lo ok ed d ou btfu l. S he s te p ped b ack a n d s tu die d
th e s id e o f t h e h ou se . “ W hat r o om i s a t t h is e n d o f t h e h ou se ?”
“T he k it c h en ,” A m elia an sw ere d p ro m ptly . “T he sta ir s in th e
passa gew ay w ere b uilt i n a n o ld p an tr y .”
“H m mm,” N an cy r e p lie d . “ T hat m ea n s w hoev er u se d t h ose s ta ir s
la st n ig h t c o u ld ’v e h ea rd e v ery w ord w e s a id w hile w e w ere s it tin g
in t h e k it c h en . I t c o u ld a ls o b e h ow s o m eo n e g ot a w ay a fte r p uttin g
th e s le ep in g p ills i n y ou r a sp ir in b ottle .”
Rosly n Silla y su dden ly ap pea re d aro u nd th e co rn er. N an cy
won dere d if sh e’d b een h overin g o n th e o th er sid e o f th e h ou se
ea vesd ro p pin g.
“A m elia w as ju st sh ow in g u s th e g ro u nds,” B ess sa id . “ W hat a
perfe ct s e ttin g f o r a w rit e r o f g oth ic n ovels .”
“S pea k in g o f w hic h ”— Rosly n lin ked h er a rm th ro u gh A m elia ’s
—“I’v e f in is h ed t y p in g C hap te r T w o. A re y ou r e a d y t o g et t o w ork ?”
“Y es. I n eed t o r e a d i t o ver a n d— ”
“N o, y ou d on ’t ,” R osly n b ro k e in . “ C hap te r T w o
is p erfe ct. W e
need t o s ta rt C hap te r T hre e. R em em ber, M r. S to n e’s g oin g t o b e h ere
to m orro w a n d w e n eed t o h ave s o m eth in g t o s h ow h im .”
“O h, t h at’s r ig h t.” A m elia c h uck le d . “ M y a gen t’s c o m in g t o c h eck
perso n ally o n m y p ro gre ss. Is n ’t h e
sw eet,”
sh e a d ded in a jo k in g
to n e. “ Y ou g ir ls h ave a g ood t im e. I ’l l s e e y ou a t l u nch . L ou is e s e rv es
at o n e s h arp .”
“T han ks fo r th e to u r,” N an cy a n d B ess c h oru se d . A s s o on a s th e
oth er t w o l e ft, B ess t u rn ed t o N an cy .
“B oy, is h er agen t goin g to b e m ad w hen h e fin ds ou t b ook
num ber t w en ty -th re e i s t h e s a m e a s
Love i n A tla n ta .

“N ot if h e h asn ’t r e a d it . Y ou s a id it w as h er fir st b ook . W as it
very p op ula r?”
Bess t h ou gh t a s e co n d. “ N ow t h at y ou m en tio n i t , n o.

The t w o g ir ls b eg an t o s tr o ll d ow n t h e s lo p e t o t h e r iv er. “ W hic h
mea n s t h at i f M r. S to n e h asn ’t r e a d
Love i n A tla n ta ,
h e c o u ld e a sily
be f o ole d ,” N an cy s a id .
Bess th re w h er h an ds in th e a ir . “ I d on ’t g et it . D o y ou th in k
Rosly n j u st h ad t h at o ld c h ap te r i n t h e c o m pute r t o f o ol u s?”
Nan cy s h ook h er h ea d . “ N o, I d on ’t t h in k s o . I t h in k R osly n r e a lly
belie v es s h e’s t y p in g b ook n um ber t w en ty -th re e.”
Bess s to p ped in h er t r a ck s. “ W hic h m ea n s A m elia . . .” H er v oic e
tr a ile d o ff.
“. . . is tr y in g to p ull th e w ool o ver so m eb od y’s e y es,” fin is h ed
Nan cy . “ B ut w hy? I d on ’t t h in k s h e’s t e llin g u s e v ery th in g.”
Bess p ut h er h an ds o n h er h ip s. “ D o y ou a ctu ally t h in k t h at s w eet
old l a d y i s l y in g? O r w orse y et, s ta gin g h er o w n a ccid en ts ?”
Nan cy s h ru gged . “ W ho k now s? I d o t h in k t h at t h is w hole s it u atio n
is a lo t m ore co m plic a te d th an w e th ou gh t. A nd ev en w orse , if
so m eo n e w as o n t h e s e cre t s ta ir s, lis te n in g t o o u r c o n versa tio n la st
nig h t, w e m ay h ave b lo w n o u r c o ver.”
Bess g ro an ed . “ O h, g re a t. M y h ea d ’s a lr e a d y sp in nin g, tr y in g to
keep a ll t h e f a cts s tr a ig h t.”
Nan cy la u gh ed . “ C om e o n . L et’s f in is h o u r t a lk in t h e p riv acy o f
th e s a ilb oat.” S he p oin te d t o w ard a d ock j u ttin g i n to t h e r iv er.
“G ood id ea . M ayb e t h ere ’s a c o ol b re eze o u t t h ere , t o o. I t s u re is
hot,” B ess a d ded a s th ey h ea d ed a w ay fr o m th e sh ad e tr e es a n d
dow n t o t h e d ock .
“W atc h you r ste p ,” N an cy w arn ed . “S om e of th e pla n ks are
ro tte n .”
When th ey re a ch ed th e en d of th e dock , N an cy to ok off her
sa n dals a n d j u m ped i n to t h e s m all s a ilb oat.
“Y ou m ad e th at lo ok so e a sy .” B ess g ra b bed N an cy ’s h an d a n d
ju m ped i n , a lm ost l o sin g h er b ala n ce.
Nan cy beg an pok in g aro u nd, tr y in g to lo ca te ev ery th in g th ey
need ed . “ H ere . S lip o n t h is
lif e ja ck et,” s h e t o ld B ess. T hen s h e p ut
on e o n , t o o.
Soon th e g ir ls w ere sa ilin g o u t in to th e riv er. T he w in d w as so
gen tle t h at N an cy l e t B ess t r y h er h an d a t c o n tr o llin g t h e s a ils .
Once B ess f e lt f a ir ly c o n fid en t, N an cy w en t b ack t o t a lk in g a b ou t
th e c a se . “ R ig h t n ow , R ex is s till o u r n um ber-o n e s u sp ect. H e’s t h e

on ly o n e w it h a m otiv e th at w e k now o f. B ut R osly n is su sp ect
beca u se s h e d id n’t m ail y ou r le tte rs. A nd A m elia is w rit in g a p hon y
novel. I t’s j u st n ot c o m in g t o geth er.”
As N an cy s p ok e, t h ere w as a s tr o n g g u st o f w in d f r o m t h e s h ore .
The m ain sa il b illo w ed , tilt in g th e b oat sid ew ays. “ L et th e lin e g o
sla ck !” N an cy h olle re d .
But B ess f r o ze. S he h eld o n t o t h e l in e t ig h tly , h er k nuck le s w hit e
wit h t h e e ffo rt.
At th at m om en t, a lo u d g rin din g n ois e m ad e N an cy lo ok a t th e
boom — th e h ea vy p ie ce o f w ood a cro ss th e b otto m o f th e m ain sa il.
Her e y es g re w w id e w it h h orro r. T here w as a lo u d c ra ck , a n d t h en
th e b oom s e p ara te d f r o m t h e u prig h t m ast.
Help le ssly , N an cy w atc h ed t h e l a rg e s a il f a ll.
“W e’r e g oin g o ver!” s h e s h ou te d a t B ess. In th e n ex t s e co n d s h e
sa w th e b oom sw in g to w ard h er. A se a rin g p ain e x plo d ed in h er
hea d a s th e b oom s m ash ed in to h er. T he n ex t th in g s h e k new , s h e
was p lu m metin g i n to t h e w ate r.

7
Not-S o-S m ooth S ailin g
“ N an cy ! N an cy !” T he s o u nd o f B ess’s v oic e b ro k e t h ro u gh N an cy ’s
t h ro b bin g h ea d ach e. C ool w aves l a p ped o ver h er c h eek s a n d i n to h er
m ou th . S he s p utte re d , t h en j e rk ed h er h ea d o u t o f t h e w ate r.
“N an cy !” B ess w as b esid e h er, sh ak in g h er a rm . “ A re y ou a ll
r ig h t?”
Rubbin g h er h ea d , N an cy n od ded . “ I’m g la d w e p ut o n t h ese lif e
p re se rv ers,” sh e sa id ru efu lly . T he tw o g ir ls w ere flo atin g in th e
w ate r a b ou t o n e h undre d f e et o ffs h ore . T he s a ilb oat la y o n it s s id e
n ex t t o t h em l ik e a w ou nded s e a g u ll.
“W hat hap pen ed ?” Bess ask ed . “Y ou yelle d so m eth in g, th en
w ham ,
o ver w e w en t.”
“I’m n ot s u re ,” N an cy s a id . S he s lo w ly m ad e h er
way a ro u nd t h e
b oat t o w here t h e b oom la y f lo atin g in t h e w ate r. O ne q uic k g la n ce
t o ld h er so m eth in g w as te rrib ly w ro n g, b ut sh e’d h ave to g et th e
b oat t o s h ore t o f in d o u t e x actly w hat.
“Y ou ’d b ette r ta k e it e a sy , N an cy ,” c a lle d B ess. “ Y ou w ere o u t
c o ld f o r a s e co n d. I w as s c a re d t o d ea th !”
A p ow erb oat r o are d p ast th em . B ess w aved h er h an ds in th e a ir ,
t r y in g t o g et t h e d riv er’s a tte n tio n , b ut h e w as c o n cen tr a tin g o n t h e
s k ie r h e w as t o w in g.
“S o m uch f o r s a vin g d am se ls i n d is tr e ss,” s h e m utte re d .
Nan cy ru bbed her fo re h ea d . A lr e a d y sh e co u ld fe el a knot
f o rm in g. “ I r e a lly c ra ck ed m y h ea d o n t h e b oom .”
Bess lo ok ed ca re fu lly a t th e b ru is e . “ W e h ave to g et y ou to a
d octo r a s s o on a s w e g et a sh ore .”
“It h urts p re tty b ad ly ,” N an cy a d m it te d , “ b ut I t h in k I ’l l b e o k ay.
H ey , th ere ’s s o m eo n e o n s h ore .” A m an d re sse d in c o vera lls w it h a

hat p ulle d lo w o ver h is fa ce s to od a t th e e n d o f th e d ock . “ H elp !”
sh e c a lle d , w avin g o n e h an d i n t h e a ir .
The m an sta re d a t th em a se co n d. T hen h e tu rn ed a n d w alk ed
back t o l a n d, d is a p pea rin g b eh in d t h e t r e es.
“G re a t. D efin it e ly n o k nig h ts i n s h in in g a rm or a ro u nd h ere ,” B ess
gru m ble d . “ I c a n s e e w e’r e o n o u r o w n.”
Sudden ly th ey hea rd th e ro ar of a m oto r. A sm all ou tb oard
zo om ed o u t f r o m t h e b oath ou se . T he d riv er w as t h e m an t h ey ’d ju st
se en o n t h e d ock . H e e x pertly g u id ed t h e m oto rb oat t o t h e s a ilb oat.
Nan cy s w am t o t h e d am aged b oat’s b ow . W it h ou t a w ord , h e t h re w
her a ro p e. S he w ou nd it a ro u nd a cle a t o n th e fo re d eck o f th e
sa ilb oat.
“G et o n h is b oat,” s a id B ess f ir m ly .
Nan cy ’s h ea d a ch ed s o b ad ly t h at s h e o b ey ed .
The m an in str u cte d B ess o n h ow to r ig h t th e b oat b y le a n in g o n
th e c en te rb oard , w hic h j u tte d o u t f r o m t h e b oat’s b otto m .
When th e boat w as rig h t sid e up, B ess clim bed ab oard th e
moto rb oat. T he m an t o w ed t h e s a ilb oat t o w ard s h ore .
“T han ks,” sa id N an cy , ru bbin g her hea d . “A re you L ou is e ’s
husb an d, M ile s?” T he m an n od ded . “ I’m N an cy a n d t h is i s B ess. A nd
we a re v ery g la d t o s e e y ou .”
“S hou ld n’t g o s a ilin g u nle ss y ou k now w hat y ou ’r e d oin g,” h e s a id
te rse ly , g azin g a t t h em f r o m u nder h is h at b rim . H is t a n ned f a ce w as
le a th ery an d lin ed w it h w rin kle s. H is han ds w ere ca llu se d an d
str o n g.
“N an cy k now s h ow t o s a il,” B ess d efe n ded h er f r ie n d. “ T here w as
so m eth in g w ro n g w it h y ou r b oat.”
“R ex ’s b oat,” M ile s gru nte d . R ev vin g th e m oto r, h e d ro ve th e
ou tb oard i n to t h e b oath ou se .
“C om e on , le t’s fin d ou t w hat w en t w ro n g,”
Nan cy sa id afte r
Mile s h ad l e ft t h em a lo n e. “ T hat b oom d id n’t f a ll o ff b y a ccid en t.”
“W hy d on ’t y ou l ie d ow n u p a t t h e h ou se ?” B ess s u ggeste d .
Nan cy ’s h ea d a ch ed , b ut s h e n eed ed t o k now w hat h ad h ap pen ed .
Ig n orin g B ess’s p le a , sh e ste p ped in to th e b oat a n d im med ia te ly
ch eck ed th e b oom , th en th e g oose n eck fit tin g o n th e m ast. “ Ju st
what I t h ou gh t,” s h e s a id .

“W hat? T ell m e. I d on ’t h ave a c lu e.” B ess c a m e u p b esid e h er
fr ie n d.
“T he p in t h at c o n nects t h e m ast t o t h e b oom i s m is sin g.”
“O h, g re a t. T hat m ea n s i t ’s o n t h e b otto m o f t h e r iv er.”
Nan cy sh ook h er h ea d . “ T hat m ea n s so m eo n e to ok th e p in o u t
befo re
w e s e t s a il.”
“R un t h at b y m e a gain ,” s a id B ess.
“S om eb od y s a b ota ged th e b oat. F ortu nate ly fo r u s, th e w in d h it
th e b oat w hen w e w ere n ’t t o o f a r f r o m s h ore . O th erw is e , w e’d h ave
ca p siz ed i n t h e m id dle o f w ho k now s w here .”
“B ut w hy?” B ess s a id . “ E very b od y t h in ks w e’r e t h e p re sid en t a n d
vic e p re sid en t o f A m elia ’s f a n c lu b. T hat’s h ard ly a r e a so n t o t r y t o
hurt u s.”
“R ig h t.” N an cy fr o w ned . “ W hic h p ro ves th at s o m eo n e
defin it e ly
know s w hat w e’r e d oin g h ere .”
“R ex ?” a sk ed B ess.
“H e w as th e o n ly o n e w ho k new w e w ere g oin g s a ilin g,” N an cy
poin te d o u t.
“A nyb od y c o u ld ’v e h ea rd u s i n t h e h all.”
“T ru e.” N an cy s ig h ed . “ It s u re w ou ld b e n ic e if w e c o u ld n arro w
dow n t h e s u sp ects .”
“D on ’t fo rg et w e h aven ’t fig u re d o u t th e
motiv e.”
B ess p ut h er
han ds o n h er h ip s.
Nan cy c h uck le d . “ Y ou r e a lly a re g ettin g t o b e a g re a t d ete ctiv e.”
“N o. I f I w ere g re a t, I ’d h ave f ig u re d o u t w hat’s g oin g o n b y n ow .”
“W ell, th at’s w hat w e need to do,” N an cy sa id , desp it e her
th ro b bin g h ea d . “ D ig u p s o m e h ard e v id en ce. S o l e t’s g et b ack t o t h e
man sio n a n d s o lv e t h is m yste ry .”
It w as co ol a n d q uie t b ack a t th e h ou se . A t B ess’s in sis te n ce,
Nan cy t o ok t w o a sp ir in a n d l a y d ow n o n t h eir s o ft b ed . T he m yste ry
co u ld w ait a t l e a st a l it tle w hile . I n m in ute s, s h e w as a sle ep .
• • •
When N an cy aw ok e, sh e co u ld te ll b y th e su nlig h t th at it w as
alr e a d y a fte rn oon . A tr a y o f b is c u it s , w arm fr ie d ch ic k en , a n d a
sa la d la y on th e ta b le b esid e h er. S lo w ly sh e ra is e d u p on h er

elb ow s. T he k not o n h er f o re h ea d h urt w hen s h e t o u ch ed it , b ut t h e
worst o f t h e p ain h ad p asse d .
“H ow a re y ou f e elin g?” a sk ed B ess, s tic k in g h er h ea d i n t h e d oor.
“A l o t b ette r,” N an cy t o ld h er.
“E at th is lu nch ,” B ess o rd ere d . S he s a t d ow n o n th e e d ge o f th e
bed . “ T hat L ou is e i s a s o u rp uss, b ut s h e’s a g re a t c o ok .”
“T han ks,” sa id N an cy , a s B ess p ut th e tr a y o n h er la p . “ W ho’s
aro u nd?” s h e a sk ed , t a k in g a b it e o f t h e c h ic k en .
“N ob od y,” B ess s a id . “ A m elia is n ap pin g, R osly n is t y p in g, a n d I
sa w R ex ta k e th e tr u ck o u t. I d on ’t k now w here L ou is e a n d M ile s
are , b ut I d on ’t s e e t h em a n yw here .”
“G re a t,” N an cy sa id . “ It’s a p erfe ct tim e to d o so m e sn oop in g.
Let’s s ta rt w it h R ex ’s r o om .”
“A re y ou s u re y ou f e el w ell e n ou gh ?”
“I’m o k ay,” N an cy a ssu re d h er. A s s o on a s s h e h ad f in is h ed l u nch ,
sh e k ic k ed o ff t h e c o vers a n d w as o u t o f b ed .
“W hat b ed ro om d id R ex c o m e f r o m t h is m orn in g?” s h e a sk ed B ess
ou t i n t h e h allw ay.
“T hat o n e.” B ess p oin te d t o t h e l a st d oor a cro ss t h e h allw ay.
Outs id e R ex ’s r o om , N an cy s to p ped . “ W ait h ere ,” s h e in str u cte d
Bess. “ If s o m eo n e c o m es, a ct a s if y ou ’v e b een a d m ir in g th e h ou se .
Say, ‘T his i s s u re a g re a t h ou se .’
  ”
“W e w on ’t t r y r a p pin g t h is t im e, h uh?” B ess j o k ed .
Nan cy sm ile d . “ N op e. I th in k it h as a fe w p ro b le m s. T his w ill
work b ette r.” S he tu rn ed th e d oork nob a n d q uie tly sn ea k ed in to
Rex ’s r o om .
Nan cy tip to ed o ver to th e d re sse r. S he sc a n ned th e a fte r-sh ave,
ch an ge, a n d h air b ru sh t h at w ere s it tin g o n t o p . S he w asn ’t e x actly
su re w hat sh e w as lo ok in g fo r. B ut a n yth in g th at w ou ld te ll h er
more
ab ou t Rex — or tie him to th e m yste rio u s hap pen in gs at
Magn olia M an sio n — wou ld b e a b ig h elp .
One b y o n e s h e o p en ed t h e d ra w ers a n d g en tly s e a rc h ed t h ro u gh
th e n ea tly f o ld ed s h ir ts a n d p an ts . N oth in g.
It w asn ’t u ntil sh e se a rc h ed th e la st d ra w er th at N an cy fo u nd
so m eth in g t h at l o ok ed l ik e a c lu e. I t w as a b usin ess c a rd .
RIC H ARD L EG ERE
SO U TH C A RO LIN A R EA LTY

SO U TH C A RO LIN A R EA LTY
Call u s f o r t h e b est r e a l e sta te d ea ls i n C harle sto n
“B in go,” N an cy w his p ere d to h erse lf . S he slip ped th e c a rd in to
her p ock et.
“Is n ’t t h is a g re a t h ou se !” s h e h ea rd B ess c a ll f r o m t h e h allw ay.
Nan cy l o ok ed f r a n tic a lly a ro u nd t h e r o om . O h, g re a t, s h e t h ou gh t.
There ’s n ot ev en a clo se t. M ayb e B ess’s sig n al m ea n t it w as ju st
Rosly n o r L ou is e c o m in g u p t h e s ta ir s.
“G ee, Rex .” Bess’s voic e so u nded unnatu ra lly lo u d. “I have
so m eth in g t o t e ll y ou a b ou t y ou r b oat. D on ’t b e t o o a n gry . I t r e a lly
wasn ’t o u r f a u lt . . .”
Rex !
N an cy d ove f o r t h e f lo or, h op in g t o h id e u nder t h e b ed . B ut i t
was to o h ig h , a n d th e b ed sp re a d d id n’t r e a ch th e flo or. R ex w ou ld
se e h er i n a n i n sta n t.
Ju st th en , s h e s p otte d a n o ld w ard ro b e. S he
quic k ly o p en ed th e
door a n d clim bed in sid e, d uck in g b etw een h an gers o f sh ir ts a n d
sla ck s. A fte r s h uttin g t h e d oor a s b est s h e c o u ld , s h e h uddle d d ow n
in t h e d ark est c o rn er a n d h eld h er b re a th .
She c o u ld s till h ea r B ess a n d R ex ta lk in g, b ut th eir v oic es w ere
muffle d . T he n ex t th in g sh e h ea rd w as th e so u nd o f th e b ed ro om
door o p en in g a n d c lo sin g.
She h ea rd R ex ’s fo ots te p s m ove a cro ss th e flo or. N an cy c o vere d
her m ou th , b are ly d arin g t o b re a th e. T hen t h e f o ots te p s s to p ped . A
sh ad ow f e ll a lo n g t h e b otto m o f t h e w ard ro b e d oor w here lig h t h ad
been sh ow in g befo re . R ex w as sta n din g rig h t in fr o n t of th e
ward ro b e. In a se co n d, h e w ou ld o p en th e d oor a n d fin d N an cy
hid in g i n sid e.

8
Susp ic io u s M in ds
“ R ex !” N an cy h ea rd B ess’s v oic e c a llin g f r o m o u ts id e t h e d oor.
“Y ea h ?”
“P hon e c a ll. It’s th e g ara ge c a llin g a b ou t y ou r a u nt’s c a r,” B ess
s a id .
“B e r ig h t t h ere .”
Nan cy sig h ed wit h re lie f. Good move, Bess! sh e th ou gh t
t h an kfu lly .
As s o on a s s h e h ea rd R ex le a ve t h e r o om , s h e s c ra m ble d f r o m t h e
w ard ro b e a n d r a n o u t i n to t h e h allw ay.
Bess w as w ait in g o u ts id e. “ W hat a c lo se c a ll! ” s h e c rie d .
“F ast th in kin g,” N an cy co m men ded her fr ie n d. “H e w as ju st
a b ou t to dis c o ver m e. I w on der w hat
he’l l th in k w hen he gets
d ow nsta ir s a n d d is c o vers t h ere ’s n o c a ll.”
Bess g ig gle d . “ It’s th ose p hon es a gain . T hey ’r e a lw ays b re a k in g
d ow n.”
Nan cy gra b bed her fr ie n d’s arm an d hurrie d her in to th eir
b ed ro om . “L ook w hat I dis c o vere d ,” sh e sa id , pro d ucin g th e
b usin ess c a rd .
“I d on ’t g et i t ,” s a id B ess, r e a d in g t h e c a rd .
“W hy w ou ld R ex h ave a r e a lt o r’s b usin ess c a rd ?” N an cy s a id . “ I
t h in k in nocen t n ep hew R ex is tr y in g to s c a re p oor A unt A m elia to
d ea th . O r a t l e a st i n to a s ta te w here s h e’s s o r a ttle d t h at h e c a n h ave
h er d ecla re d i n sa n e. T hen M agn olia M an sio n w ou ld b e h is .”
Bess w as s ile n t f o r a f e w m om en ts a s s h e t o ok in N an cy ’s t h eo ry .
“ It certa in ly fit s w it h w hat’s b een h ap pen in g. D o you th in k h e
k now s w ho w e a re ?”
Nan cy n od ded . “ H e m ig h t. H e c o u ld h ave e a vesd ro p ped o n a n y
o n e o f o u r c o n versa tio n s w it h A m elia . It’s e v en p ossib le th at h e’s

been i n te rc ep tin g y ou r l e tte rs f r o m h er.”
“Y ou ’r e rig h t,” B ess sa id slo w ly . “ A m elia sa id th at in th e la st
le tte r sh e to ld m e sh e w as se n din g th e tic k ets . M ayb e R ex h as
know n a b ou t u s a ll a lo n g.”
“It w ou ld ex pla in w hy th e phon e lin e w as cu t durin g m y
co n versa tio n w it h A m elia ,” N an cy ad ded . “A nd w hy R ex w ou ld
wan t t o s c a re u s a w ay b y r ig gin g t h e b oat.”
“S ca re u s o r p ut u s i n t h e h osp it a l, y ou m ea n ,” s a id B ess.
“W hat d o w e d o n ow ?”
“I h ave a p la n ,” N an cy r e p lie d .
• • •
That n ig h t w hile e v ery on e w as s it tin g d ow n t o d in ner, N an cy w en t
to t h e h all p hon e. S he d ia le d t h e n um ber o n t h e b usin ess c a rd s h e’d
fo u nd i n R ex ’s r o om .
“W hy, M r. L eg ere ,” s h e s a id in a s o u th ern d ra w l w hen th e m an
pic k ed u p, “ I a m s o g la d y ou a re s till in . I d esp era te ly n eed to s e e
you t o m orro w . O ur n ew sp ap er h as a c o lu m n c a lle d ‘B usin essp erso n
of t h e M on th .’ W e’v e s e le cte d y ou , b ut I a m s o la te o n m y d ea d lin e
th at i f I d on ’t s e e y ou t o m orro w , t h e f e a tu re w on ’t r u n.”
“T hat’s v ery fla tte rin g,” sa id th e m an . “ B ut to m orro w is a v ery
fu ll— ”
“O h, M r. L eg ere ,” N an cy p le a d ed , “ I w ill b e in s u ch tr o u ble if I
don ’t g et th is in te rv ie w . S ay y ou ’l l h elp a la d y in d is tr e ss. I d o s o
lo ok f o rw ard t o m eetin g y ou .”
The r e a lt o r c h uck le d . “ W ell, a ll r ig h t, c o m e d ow n. I c a n p ro b ab ly
sq ueeze y ou i n a ro u nd e le v en .”
“T han k y ou so m uch , sir . Y ou a re a tr u e g en tle m an . S ee y ou a t
ele v en ,” N an cy s a id . A s s h e h ung u p t h e p hon e, s h e f e lt p le a se d w it h
her su ccess. W atc h in g
Gon e w it h th e W in d
te n tim es h ad fin ally
paid o ff.
“S orry I ’m l a te f o r d in ner,” N an cy c a lle d c h eerfu lly a s s h e w alk ed
in to t h e d in in g r o om . A t t h e t a b le , e v ery on e l o ok ed s o m ber.
“W hat’s w ro n g?” s h e a sk ed .
Am elia w ru ng her han ds. “A fte r hea rin g ab ou t you r boatin g
accid en t, th is s e em s r a th er tr iv ia l, b ut I w as ju st a sk in g if a n yon e
had se en m y g re a t- g ra n dfa th er’s C on fe d era te u nif o rm . It’s u su ally

lo ck ed a w ay in a tr u nk in m y r o om . I w en t to lo ok a t it to d ay— I
wan te d t o c h eck a d eta il f o r m y b ook — an d d is c o vere d it w as g on e.
It h as g re a t s e n tim en ta l v alu e t o m e, a n d i t ’s a v alu ab le a n tiq ue. T he
unif o rm w as c o m ple te ly i n ta ct: h at, b elt , s w ord , e v ery th in g.”
Nan cy ’s m in d f la sh ed o n t h e b elt b uck le s h e’d f o u nd t h is m orn in g.
How d id t h is p ie ce f it i n to t h e p uzzle ? s h e w on dere d . S he d ecid ed t o
stic k to h er d ecis io n n ot to te ll A m elia a b ou t th e b uck le u ntil s h e
knew m ore a b ou t w hat w as g oin g o n a t t h e h ou se .
“T hat’s w hat h ap pen s w hen y ou le t str a n gers in to y ou r h om e,”
Lou is e B re w to n sa id to A m elia . T he w om an ’s d ark ey es b urn ed
bit te rly a s s h e s ta re d a t N an cy .
“L ou is e , th at w as unca lle d fo r,” A m elia sc o ld ed . “I w asn ’t
accu sin g a n yon e. I n t h e s ta te I ’v e b een in la te ly , I c o u ld h ave d on e
an yth in g w it h it . I m ig h t h ave to ld R osly n to se n d it to th e d ry
cle a n er, fo r all I know .” A m elia ’s fa ce se em ed to clo u d w it h
co n fu sio n . “ I d id n’t d o t h at, d id I ?” s h e a sk ed R osly n .
Rosly n s m ile d a t A m elia w ea k ly . “ N o, y ou d id n’t .”
“I d id n’t t h in k s o ,” s a id A m elia , s ig h in g d eep ly .
The re st o f th e m ea l w as ea te n in sile n ce. A m elia w as p la in ly
hea rtb ro k en o ver th e lo ss o f th e u nif o rm . L ou is e g la re d a t N an cy
an d B ess a t ev ery o p portu nit y . R ex a n d R osly n a te w it h ou t ev en
lo ok in g u p.
Afte r d in ner, N an cy a n d B ess t o ok a w alk o n t h e g ro u nds. N an cy
to ld h er fr ie n d a b ou t h er c o n versa tio n w it h M r. L eg ere . “ D o y ou
th in k w e c a n f o ol h im ?” a sk ed B ess.
“W hy, s u re , h on ey ,” N an cy s a id i n h er p hon y s o u th ern a ccen t.
“I g u ess it ta k es m ore th an a b um p o n th e h ea d to slo w y ou
dow n,” c o m men te d B ess.
Nan cy to u ch ed her fo re h ea d gin gerly . “D on ’t re m in d m e. I’m
tr y in g n ot t o t h in k a b ou t i t .”
As t h e b oath ou se c a m e in to v ie w , N an cy c h eck ed t o s e e if a n yon e
was n ea rb y. E very th in g s e em ed q uie t a n d s till. “ I w an t to lo ok in
th e b oath ou se a s e c,” s h e t o ld B ess.
“W hat f o r?” B ess a sk ed .
“Ju st a h unch ,” s h e s a id .
In sid e th e b oath ou se N an cy n otic ed th at th e s a il o n th e s a ilb oat
had b een fu rle d , a n d th e re st o f th e b ro k en b oat h ad b een le ft in

nea t c o n dit io n . M ile s m ust h ave c o m e b ack t o d o t h is , s h e m use d .
“L et’s lo ok a ro u nd,” N an cy s a id t o B ess. “ If s o m eo n e d id r e m ove
th e p in b efo re w e w en t s a ilin g, w e m ig h t f in d a c lu e s o m ew here h ere
in t h e b oat- h ou se .”
The tw o g ir ls c o vere d e v ery in ch o f th e flo or, c a re fu lly s c a n nin g
th e w id e flo orb oard s. T hey lo ok ed b eh in d p ad dle s, o ld sa ils , a n d
ru ste d ou tb oard m oto rs. It se em ed hop ele ss, until N an cy beg an
se a rc h in g u nder a p ile o f lif e p re se rv ers. “ H ey , B ess, lo ok a t th is ,”
Nan cy c a lle d .
“D id you fin d a clu e?” ask ed B ess, cro ssin g th e b oath ou se to
Nan cy .
“M ayb e.” N an cy p ush ed b ack t h e p ile o f p re se rv ers. U ndern ea th ,
in t h e f lo or, w as a r u ste d m eta l d oor. I t t o ok a ll N an cy ’s s tr e n gth t o
pull i t u p.
Bess a n d N an cy s ta re d a t t h e d ark o p en in g b ey on d t h e d oor. “ It’s
ju st a h ole ,” s a id B ess.
“N o, it ’s a p assa gew ay,” N an cy s a id , lif tin g a t h ic k r o p e t h at w as
tie d t o a m eta l l o op a t t h e s id e o f t h e o p en in g. S he d ro p ped t h e r o p e
dow n in to th e d ark h ole . “ I w as a lw ays g ood a t ro p e c lim bin g in
gym ,” s h e s a id , g ra sp in g t h e t o p o f t h e r o p e.
“N an cy !” B ess c rie d . “ Y ou a re n ot g oin g d ow n t h ere . I t’s t o o . . .
dark .”
But N an cy w as a lr e a d y lo w erin g h erse lf in to th e h ole , h old in g
tig h tly to th e ro p e. T he d ro p to th e flo or w as a b ou t six fe et. T he
botto m w as d im ly i llu m in ate d b y t h e f a d in g l ig h t f r o m a b ove.
Stic k in g c lo se to th e w all, N an cy m ad e h er w ay a lo n g th e d ark
passa gew ay. A fte r sh e’d gon e ab ou t
te n yard s, sh e ca m e to an
ab ru pt s to p . A d oor b lo ck ed h er w ay.
Nan cy jig gle d th e d oor h an dle , b ut it w as n o u se . T he d oor w as
lo ck ed tig h t. I’l l b et th is d oor le a d s b ack in to th e p assa gew ay I
ex plo re d t h is m orn in g. T his is h ow t h e p erso n I m et in t h e h all la st
nig h t e sc a p ed , s h e r e a liz ed .
She h ea d ed b ack to w ard th e lig h t. W hen s h e w as ju st u nder th e
op en d oor, s h e s p otte d s o m eth in g s h e’d o verlo ok ed . T here , ly in g o n
th e f lo or, w as t h e b oat p in .
Nan cy b en t d ow n to p ic k u p th e p in . S om eo n e th re w th is p in
dow n h ere to g et rid o f it . T hat m ea n t— as sh e’d su sp ecte d — th e

boat’s o vertu rn in g t h at a fte rn oon h ad n’t b een a n a ccid en t.

9
Hot P ro p erty
T hat n ig h t N an cy s ta yed u p la te a gain , r e a d in g th e r e st o f
Love in
A tla n ta .
W hen sh e’d fin is h ed , sh e beg an A m elia ’s se co n d book ,
D ix ie W om an .
In th e m orn in g, sh e a n d B ess a sk ed A m elia if th ey
c o u ld b orro w t h e t r u ck , c la im in g t o w an t t o d o s o m e s ig h ts e ein g.
“S o you re a lly th in k you ca n driv e th is th in g?” B ess ask ed ,
f r o w nin g a t t h e p ic k up t r u ck .
“S ure !” N an cy op en ed th e d oor an d clim bed b ris k ly in to th e
d riv er’s se a t. S he w as d re sse d in a lig h t b lu e su it , sto ck in gs, a n d
l o w -h eele d s h oes. T o h er r e lie f, th e k not o n h er fo re h ea d h ad g on e
d ow n a l o t o vern ig h t, a n d n ow t h e b ru is e w as b are ly n otic ea b le .
Bess d id n’t m ove.
“C om e o n , B ess. W e’v e g ot n o ch oic e. R ex h as A m elia ’s sp orts
c a r,” s a id N an cy .
Still B ess h esit a te d . “ W hat if it b re a k s d ow n in th e m id dle o f
n ow here ?”
“B efo re b re a k fa st, A m elia a ssu re d m e th at M ile s h ad fix ed it .
N ow c o m e o n . I f w e’r e g oin g t o s e e M r. L eg ere w e’v e g ot t o h urry .”
Bess c lim bed in , a n d s o on t h e t r u ck w as r a ttlin g d ow n t h e d riv e.
B ess u nfo ld ed a m ap o f C harle sto n a n d su rro u ndin g a re a s. N an cy
h ad c ir c le d t h e l o ca tio n o f t h e r e a l e sta te c o m pan y. “ T ak e a r ig h t a t
t h e en d of th e d riv ew ay,” B ess to ld N an cy . “T he offic e is in a
s h op pin g c en te r a b ou t f iv e m ile s d ow n t h e r o ad .”
Wit h b oth h an ds o n t h e w heel, N an cy s te ere d t h e c la n kin g t r u ck
o n to t h e r o ad .
“S o w hat d o w e h op e t o f in d o u t?” B ess a sk ed a s s h e f o ld ed u p t h e
m ap .
“W e w an t to k now if R ex h as b een ta lk in g to R ic h ard L eg ere
a b ou t se llin g M agn olia M an sio n . A cco rd in g to A m elia , h er esta te

co u ld be w orth m illio n s.” N an cy co ck ed an ey eb ro w . “M on ey ’s
alw ays a s tr o n g m otiv e f o r w an tin g s o m eo n e o u t o f t h e p ic tu re .”
A fe w m in ute s la te r, B ess poin te d to th e le ft. “C oop ersto n e
Shop pin g C en te r. T hat’s i t .”
Nan cy tu rn ed in . T hey lo ca te d th e offic e, th en p ark ed at th e
op posit e e n d. S oon t h ey w ere s e a te d in sid e S ou th C aro lin a R ea lt y ’s
air -c o n dit io n ed b uild in g.
Nan cy g la n ced a ro u nd. T he p an ele d w alls w ere d eco ra te d w it h
fr a m ed p hoto s o f c o n dom in iu m c o m ple x es a n d lu xurio u s w ate rsid e
hom es. J u st w hat A m elia
did n’t
w an t t o s e e h ap pen t o h er f a m ily ’s
esta te .
“M r. L eg ere w ill s e e y ou n ow .” T he s e cre ta ry s h ow ed t h em in to a
sp acio u s o ffic e. A h ea vyse t m an w it h d ro op y jo w ls a n d th ic k h air
sto od u p f r o m b eh in d a w id e m ah ogan y d esk .
For a m om en t h e l o ok ed p uzzle d , t h en h e s m ile d g en ia lly a n d h eld
ou t h is h an d.
“R ic h ard L eg ere a t y ou r se rv ic e,” h e sa id in a so u th ern d ra w l.
“A nd I a ssu m e y ou a re t h e l a d y I s p ok e t o l a st e v en in g. . . .”
Nan cy g ave h is h an d a f ir m s h ak e. “ I’m N an cy D re w , a n d t h is is
Bess M arv in . It w as so kin d of you to se e us. Sin ce you ’r e
Busin essp erso n o f t h e M on th , w e a re m ost i n te re ste d i n h ea rin g y ou r
vie w s o n t h e b oom in g r e a l e sta te m ark et.”
“R ea lly .” H e g estu re d t o t w o c h air s. “ U h, w hat p ap er d id y ou s a y
you w ere w it h ? Y ou g ir ls d on ’t lo ok o ld e n ou gh to b e r e p orte rs fo r
th e C harle sto n p ap er.” H e f ix ed a s u sp ic io u s e y e o n N an cy .
“W e’r e d oin g a n a p pre n tic esh ip w it h th e
Charle sto n J o u rn al.
It’s
fo r a co lle g e co u rse . O ur m ajo r is busin ess w it h a m in or in
jo u rn alis m ,” s a id N an cy . “ T his a rtic le is m y v ery f ir st. I f I d on ’t g et
th e s to ry , I ’l l b e t h ro w n o u t o f t h e p ro gra m .”
“W e th in k it ’s im porta n t to c o ver a ll k in ds o f lo ca l b usin esse s,”
Bess ad ded , im it a tin g N an cy ’s d ra w l.
“W e h aven ’t fe a tu re d an y
re a lt o rs, s o y ou r a gen cy s e em ed p erfe ct f o r t h e c o lu m n.”
“A h.” M r. L eg ere fo ld ed h is h an ds a n d r e la x ed b ack in h is s e a t.
Nan cy h op ed t h at m ea n t h e’d a ccep te d t h eir e x pla n atio n .
Bess a n d sh e a sk ed h im a fe w g en era l q uestio n s a b ou t th e re a l
esta te busin ess. T hen N an cy tr ie d to ch an ge th e to p ic to m ore

sp ecif ic p ro p ertie s, h op in g t h e n am e M agn olia M an sio n w ou ld c o m e
up.
“S o w hat b ig d ea ls a re y ou a n d y ou r c o m pan y c o ok in g u p th is
yea r?” s h e a sk ed o ffh an ded ly .
“W ell, a s y ou g ir ls k now fr o m y ou r b usin ess c o u rse s, th e r is k ie r
th e v en tu re , th e g re a te r th e p ote n tia l fo r fin an cia l g ain .” P ro p pin g
his elb ow s on th e d esk , M r. L eg ere grin ned lik e a sa tis fie d ca t.
Sev era l h uge rin gs tw in kle d fr o m h is p udgy fin gers. “ D ev elo p in g
pro p ertie s b rin gs in th e b ig m on ey .” H e s p un a ro u nd in h is s w iv el
ch air a n d t a p ped o n a w all m ap . “ T he b an ks o f t h e A sh le y R iv er, t h e
most v alu ab le p ro p erty a ro u nd.”
Nan cy c o u ld a lm ost s e e h im l ic k h is l ip s.
“A nd I ’m a b ou t t o b uy a b ou t a h undre d a cre s o f p rim e l a n d.”
Bess g asp ed . N an cy f r o w ned a n d p ok ed h er f r ie n d i n t h e r ib s.
“E xcu se m e.” B ess f a k ed a c o u gh .
“T hat’s a b ea u tif u l a re a . S o m an y h is to ric h om es, t h ou gh ,” N an cy
sa id . “ It w ou ld b e a s h am e t o t e a r t h em d ow n.”
“Y ou d on ’t h ave t o t e a r t h em d ow n.” M r. L eg ere s h ru gged . “ Y ou
build a ro u nd th em — co n dos, g olf c o u rse s, a c o n fe re n ce c en te r. A n
old m an sio n m ak es a g re a t c lu bhou se .”
“I s im ply c a n ’t i m agin e M agn olia M an sio n w it h a b ar, d an ce f lo or,
an d r e sta u ra n t b uilt i n to i t ,” s a id B ess.
Mr. L eg ere ’s e x pre ssio n s u dden ly g re w c o ld . “ E nou gh q uestio n s,”
he s a id a b ru ptly . H e s to od , in dic a tin g th at th e in te rv ie w w as o ver.
“I d on ’t k now w ho y ou g ir ls r e a lly a re , b ut y ou ’v e t a k en t o o m uch o f
my t im e a lr e a d y.”
Nan cy a n d B ess sto od u p. “ I d on ’t k now w hat y ou m ea n ,” sa id
Nan cy r a p id ly . “ B ut t h an k y ou f o r y ou r t im e. W e’l l s e n d y ou a c o p y
of t h e a rtic le .”
Min ute s la te r, B ess a n d N an cy w ere b ack o u ts id e. “ B oy, h e s u re
got r id o f u s q uic k ,” B ess s a id . “ W hat t ip ped h im o ff t h at w e w ere n ’t
fo r r e a l? ”
“Y ou m en tio n ed M agn olia M an sio n ,” N an cy sa id . “ W e w ere n ’t
su ppose d t o k now w here h e i n te n ded t o b uy.”
“O op s.” B ess c o vere d h er m ou th . “ A t le a st n ow w e k now h e’s g ot
his e y e o n M agn olia M an sio n .”

“W hic h m ea n s h e’s
got
t o b e d ea lin g w it h R ex . A m elia ’s n ep hew i s
th e o n ly o n e w ho c o u ld g et l e g al c o n tr o l o f t h e p ro p erty .”
Bess lo ok ed w orrie d . “ I ju st h op e w e’r e in t im e t o s to p R ex f r o m
doin g s o m eth in g d ra stic .”
Nan cy p atte d h er fr ie n d’s sh ou ld er. “ I th in k so .
Am elia is a lo t
to u gh er th an sh e lo ok s.” S he sig h ed . “T he h ard p art is gettin g
so m eth in g c o n cre te o n R ex . H e’s s m art a n d h e’s g ot a l o t a t s ta k e.”
“Y ea h . L ik e a m illio n d olla rs’ w orth ,” a d ded B ess.
Fif te en m in ute s la te r, N an cy p ark ed th e tr u ck in th e m an sio n ’s
driv ew ay. F or a s e co n d, b oth g ir ls s a t in s ile n ce. B etw een th e h ea t
an d t h e s tr a in o f t h e m eetin g w it h M r. L eg ere , t h ey f e lt e x hau ste d .
Fin ally , N an cy ch eck ed h er w atc h . “ W e’v e g ot a n h ou r b efo re
lu nch . W hat d o y ou f e el l ik e d oin g?”
“N oth in g,” s a id B ess, “ ex cep t g ettin g o u t o f t h ese c lo th es a n d i n to
sh orts .”
“F or o n ce I d on ’t fe el lik e d oin g m uch , eit h er,” N an cy a gre ed .
“M ayb e a l it tle s u nbath in g o n t h e d ock w ill h elp u s t h in k.”
“G re a t id ea . L et’s p ut o n o u r s w im su it s a n d g et s o m e o f L ou is e ’s
fr e sh -sq ueezed l e m on ad e a n d c h ill o u t.”
“Y ou m ea n , b urn u p.” N an cy la u gh ed . S he p ut h er a rm th ro u gh
Bess’s , a n d t h e g ir ls h ea d ed f o r t h e h ou se .
“M eet y ou u psta ir s,” B ess sa id w hen th ey re a ch ed th e k it c h en .
“I’l l g et t h e l e m on ad e r ig h t n ow .”
Nan cy n od ded , a n d t h en s lip ped o ff h er s h oes a n d s lo w ly c lim bed
th e sta ir s. S he h ad a lo t to th in k a b ou t. A fte r a ll, B ess a n d sh e
co u ld n’t sta y at M agn olia M an sio n fo re v er an d w atc h ou t fo r
Am elia . T hey h ad t o c o m e u p w it h s o m e a n sw ers f o r t h eir h oste ss—
an d f a st.
Outs id e th e d oor o f th eir r o om , N an cy p au se d . S he h ea rd a s o ft
th um p i n sid e. H old in g h er b re a th , s h e i n ch ed c lo se r, t h en s w ung t h e
door o p en . R ex s to od b y th e b ed , o n e h an d in B ess’s m ak eu p c a se .
His m ou th d ro p ped o p en w hen h e s a w N an cy .
“L ose s o m eth in g?” s h e a sk ed .
He flu sh ed b rig h t re d . “ U h. N o. I . . .” h e sta m mere d . T hen h e
clo se d B ess’s m ak eu p c a se w it h a s h arp s n ap . “ N o, a s a m atte r o f
fa ct, I w as se a rc h in g th ro u gh y ou r th in gs.” H e str a ig h te n ed a n d
gla re d a t h er.

Nan cy h eld h is g aze. “ T hat’s in te re stin g. Is th at a n o ld fa m ily
cu sto m , o r a re y ou lo ok in g f o r s o m eth in g in p artic u la r? F an le tte rs?
Clu b n ew s?”
“It d oes s e em o d d th at y ou tw o d on ’t h ave a n y c lu b m ate ria ls in
you r ro om ,” h e sa id sh arp ly . “ Y ou a n d y ou r p al B ess a re n ’t fr o m
Aunt A m elia ’s f a n c lu b. W ho a re y ou ?”
“W hat m ak es you th in k w e’r e not fa n s?” N an cy dem an ded .
Desp it e th e th re a te n in g g la re o n R ex ’s fa ce, N an cy r e fu se d to s te p
back .
“L et’s j u st s a y t h at I h ave m y s o u rc es,” R ex g ro w le d a n grily .
“T hen w hy d o y ou t h in k w e’r e h ere ?” a sk ed N an cy .
For a s e co n d, h e h esit a te d . G ood , N an cy t h ou gh t.
He d oesn ’t k now
what w e’r e d oin g a t M agn olia M an sio n .
“I’m n ot s u re ,” h e s a id q uie tly . H e t o ok a f e w s te p s t o w ard N an cy ,
a h ard lo ok in h is e y es. N an cy ’s h ea rt th um ped . “ B ut b elie v e m e,”
Rex c o n tin ued , g ra sp in g h er w ris t w it h a s tr o n g h an d, “ I’m g oin g t o
fin d o u t.”

10
Sec ret A gen t M an
“ W hat’s g oin g o n ?” B ess d em an ded f r o m b eh in d N an cy .
Nan cy d id n’t m ove. S he s te a d ily r e tu rn ed R ex ’s s ta re .
Rex g la n ced a t B ess, th en d ro p ped N an cy ’s w ris t. “ N oth in g,” h e
s a id .
Nan cy ru bbed th e sk in w here h e’d tw is te d h er a rm . “ R ex w as
g oin g t h ro u gh y ou r m ak eu p c a se .”
“W hat!” B ess p ush ed p ast N an cy a n d s e t t w o g la sse s o f l e m on ad e
o n t h e d re sse r. S he w en t o ver t o h er s m all s u it c a se a n d l if te d t h e l id .
“ T han ks a l o t f o r m essin g u p m y t h in gs. I t’s b ad e n ou gh y ou t r ie d t o
d ro w n
u s y este rd ay.”
Rex r e a ch ed o u t h is f o ot a n d k ic k ed s h ut t h e
bed ro om d oor. “ Y ou
t w o w re ck ed m y b oat— now y ou ’r e a ccu sin g m e o f tr y in g to d ro w n
y ou ! T hat t a k es i t a ll! ”
“S om eo n e r ig ged t h at b oat t o c o m e a p art a t t h e f ir st g ood w in d,”
s a id N an cy c o olly .
“W ell, i t w asn ’t m e,” s a id R ex . “ N ow I w an t t o k now w hat y ou ’r e
d oin g s n oop in g a ro u nd M agn olia M an sio n .”
“S noop in g!” B ess c rie d . “ In c a se y ou f o rg ot, y ou a re in
ou r
r o om
a n d w ere d ig gin g t h ro u gh
my
m ak eu p c a se .”
Rex g ave h er a c o ld g rin . “ B ut y ou ’r e th e o n es p re te n din g to b e
r e p orte rs.”
Nan cy tr ie d to hid e her su rp ris e . So M r. L eg ere w as R ex ’s
“ so u rc e.” T hat certa in ly did lin k th e tw o of th em . “W ell, you r
p artn er l o st n o t im e i n c a llin g y ou ,” s h e s a id .
“P artn er!” R ex sp at o u t. “ R ic h ard L eg ere c a lle d , fu rio u s th at I
h ad s e n t t w o o f m y f r ie n ds i n t o s p y o n h im . H e t h ou gh t I ’d s e n t y ou
t o tr y to fin d o u t h ow m uch h e’d b e w illin g to p ay fo r th e p la ce.”
R ex s tu die d t h e t w o g ir ls a m om en t. “ N ow , w ho a re y ou t w o?”

Nan cy w alk ed t o t h e c lo se t a n d h ung u p h er s u it ja ck et. S he w as
sta llin g fo r tim e. H ow co u ld sh e get an sw ers fr o m R ex w it h ou t
te llin g h im t h e t r u th ?”
“W e w an te d t o f in d o u t w hic h r e a l e sta te a gen ts w ere p re ssu rin g
you r a u nt t o s e ll,” N an cy b lu ffe d . “ W e’r e j u st w orrie d a b ou t h er.”
“T hat’s a lie ,” R ex s ta te d fla tly . “ I th in k y ou tw o
are
re a l e sta te
agen ts . I t h in k s o m e o u t- o f- sta te d ev elo p er i s p ayin g y ou t o f in d o u t
how m uch m on ey ’s b een o ffe re d fo r th e p la ce— in o rd er to m ak e a
win nin g o ffe r.”
“A fr a id so m eo n e is g oin g to c u t y ou o u t o f a b ig d ea l? ” N an cy
ask ed .
“L it tle la d y— whoev er you are — I su ggest you get you r fa cts
str a ig h t b efo re y ou g o a ro u nd a ccu sin g m e,” s n arle d R ex . H e p ulle d
his w alle t f r o m h is b ack p ock et. “ A nd b efo re y ou f in d y ou rse lv es in
ev en m ore t r o u ble , I r e co m men d y ou c a ll t h e n um ber o n t h is c a rd b y
to n ig h t.”
Rex t h ru st a b usin ess c a rd a t N an cy a n d s to rm ed o u t o f t h e r o om .
Nan cy s m ile d w ry ly a s s h e r e a d th e c a rd . S he h an ded it to B ess.
“It’s th e n um ber o f a n a ir p ort lim ou sin e se rv ic e. It’s R ex ’s su btle
way o f t e llin g u s t o g et l o st.”
At th at m om en t, A m elia k nock ed o n th eir d oor o n ce a n d th en
stu ck her hea d in sid e th e ro om . “G ir ls , I’d lik e you to co m e
dow nsta ir s to m eet m y agen t, Jere m ia h Sto n e.” She ch uck le d
mis c h ie v ou sly . “ Y ou m ust d o m e a fa vor. C on vin ce h im th at y ou
re a lly a re fr o m m y fa n c lu b. T hat w ay h e w on ’t b e s o fu rio u s w it h
me a b ou t m y u nfin is h ed b ook .”
Nan cy a n d B ess fo llo w ed A m elia in to th e d ra w in g r o om . N an cy
had n’t b een in t h e r o om b efo re . F or a m om en t, s h e g la n ced a ro u nd.
It lo ok ed a s if t im e h ad s to od s till a n d s h e’d s te p ped b ack in to t h e
1800s. S helv es fille d w it h b ook s a n d fa m ily m em en to s
str e tc h ed to
th e c eilin g o n b oth sid es o f a b ea u tif u l fir e p la ce. A p ortr a it o f a
dash in g C on fe d era te s o ld ie r h ung o ver t h e m an te l. A p air o f s c o n ces,
th eir c a n dle s b urn in g, l ig h te d t h e p ic tu re .
“B ess a n d N an cy — meet J ere m ia h S to n e,” A m elia s a id , g estu rin g
to w ard t h e s m all m an s it tin g o n a n o rn ate a n tiq ue c o u ch .
Jere m ia h S to n e j u m ped t o h is f e et a n d h eld o u t h is h an d. “ G la d t o
meet you ,” h e sa id . H e sp ok e so fa st it so u nded lik e on e w ord .

“A m elia has to ld m e a lo t ab ou t you r clu b’s su pport an d
en co u ra gem en t.”
“O h y es. W e
lo ve
h er b ook s,” B ess g u sh ed . “ A nd n ow t h at I ’v e h ad
a c h an ce t o m eet h er, I ’m e v en m ore i m pre sse d .”
“G ood . G ood .” J ere m ia h S to n e b ob bed h is h ea d a n d r a n a f in ger
alo n g h is t h in m usta ch e. “ A nd I ’m s u re y ou c a n ’t w ait u ntil t h e n ew
book c o m es o u t.” H e s h ot a m ea n in gfu l g la n ce a t A m elia .
“Jere m ia h , y ou k now I’v e b een w ork in g a s q uic k ly a s I c a n o n
‘C olo n ia l H ero ,’
  ” A m elia sa id . “ N ow , h ow a b ou t so m e le m on ad e?
Lunch w ill b e re a d y an y m in ute . L ou is e is fix in g you r fa vorit e
dis h es.” A m elia g ave J ere m ia h a c h arm in g s m ile .
He s m ack ed h is l ip s. “ W on derfu l. I t’s b een a ges s in ce I h ad a g ood
hom e-c o ok ed m ea l. L ou is e s h ou ld c o m e t o N ew Y ork C it y a n d o p en
up a r e sta u ra n t.”
Nan cy a n d B ess s a t o n a w ood en b en ch o p posit e t h e c o u ch w hile
Jere m ia h l a u nch ed i n to a n a n im ate d s to ry a b ou t a ll t h e t e rrib le f o od
he’d e a te n in
th e la st m on th . N an cy w as a m azed a t h ow s m ooth ly
Am elia h ad g otte n a ro u nd t h e s u bje ct o f h er b ook . W hat w ou ld t h e
agen t d o w hen h e d is c o vere d sh e w as o n ly o n C hap te r T w o— of a
book t h at h ad a lr e a d y b een p ublis h ed ?
“I w on der w hat’s k eep in g L ou is e ,” A m elia s a id , a fte r c h eck in g h er
watc h a b ou t te n m in ute s la te r. “ S he’s u su ally s o p unctu al. R osly n ,
dea r, w ill y ou g o s e e?”
Nan cy tu rn ed to w here R osly n w as sit tin g in a str a ig h t- b ack ed
ch air . S he’d b een so q uie t, N an cy h ad n’t re a liz ed sh e w as in th e
ro om .
“O f c o u rse .” R osly n s to od u p, a n d w it h h er e y es g lu ed t o t h e f lo or,
sh e w alk ed o u t t h e d oor.
That’s o d d, N an cy t h ou gh t. W hy i s n ’t R osly n a ctin g m ore c o rd ia l?
Nan cy p eere d o ver a t J ere m ia h . H is g aze w as f o llo w in g R osly n o u t
th e d oor— an d i t w asn ’t f r ie n dly .
“S o, A m elia , w hen w ill I g et to r e a d ‘C olo n ia l H ero ’? ” J ere m ia h
ru bbed his han ds to geth er. “Y ou w ere re a lly ex cit e d ab ou t th e
pro je ct. A nd i t s o u nds l ik e a w in ner.”
“O h, not until la te r. Y ou know so u th ern ers— ple a su re befo re
busin ess.” A m elia l a u gh ed g ir lis h ly , t h en s to od u p a n d l im ped t o t h e
fir e p la ce. “ H ave I i n tr o d uced y ou a ll t o C olo n el A sh le y B ea u fo rt?”

“E xcu se m e, la d ie s.” T he a gen t sto od u p. “ I th in k I’l l w ash u p
befo re l u nch .” H e g ave a h alf - b ow , t h en s tr o d e f r o m t h e r o om .
Am elia sig h ed w it h re lie f. “ T hre a te n in g to te ll th e sto ry o f m y
fa m ily a lw ays c h ase s h im a w ay.”
“Y ou r g re a t- g ra n dfa th er lo ok s lik e a c h ara cte r fr o m o n e o f y ou r
book s,” s a id B ess. “ I k now h e w as a C iv il W ar h ero , b ut I ’d lo ve t o
hea r m ore a b ou t w hat h e d id .”
“M e, t o o,” N an cy c h im ed i n .
“A sh le y B ea u fo rt f e a rle ssly l e d h is t r o op s i n t h e l a st b attle — when
Charle sto n fe ll to th e N orth ,” A m elia e x pla in ed . S he p ic k ed u p a
fr a m ed le tte r th at w as o n th e m an te l. “ H ere ’s a le tte r sig n ed b y
Jeffe rso n D avis , co m men din g him fo r his bra very . M y gre a t-
gra n dfa th er w as als o th e key perso n beh in d a huge sm ugglin g
op era tio n .”
“S m ugglin g!” B ess e x cla im ed . “ T hat s o u nds d ash in g, b ut w asn ’t
it i lle g al? ”
Am elia la u gh ed . “N o, dea r. Sm ugglin g je w elr y an d gold to
Engla n d w as t h e o n ly w ay t h e C on fe d era te a rm y c o u ld r a is e m on ey
to p urc h ase g u ns a n d s u pplie s. M y g re a t- g ra n dfa th er m ad e s u re t h e
valu ab le s r e a ch ed t h e s h ip s i n t h e h arb or. T here t h ey w ere e n tr u ste d
to a b lo ck ad e r u nner w ho t r ie d t o s a il p ast t h e U nio n s h ip s.”
“T hat’s re a lly ex cit in g,” B ess sa id . “Y ou sh ou ld w rit e a b ook
ab ou t h im .”
Sudden ly A m elia ’s f a ce t u rn ed r e d , a n d s h e b eg an t o c o u gh .
Bess s p ra n g t o h er s id e. “ A re y ou a ll r ig h t?”
Am elia w aved h er a w ay. “ F in e.”
Rosly n a p pea re d i n t h e d oorw ay. “ L unch i s r e a d y.”
“O h, good . W ill you ca ll Jere m ia h ?” Am elia ask ed . “H e’s
upsta ir s.”
Rosly n n od ded .
Bess a n d N an cy e sc o rte d A m elia to th e d in in g ro om . T he ta b le
was se t w it h sp ark lin g c ry sta l g ob le ts a n d silv er. S ala d g arn is h ed
wit h a sp ara gu s h ad a lr e a d y b een s e rv ed .
Rex m et th em a t th e d oor. A fte r h elp in g h is a u nt to h er s e a t, h e
sa t a t th e h ea d o f th e ta b le . N an cy tr ie d to c a tc h h is e y e, b ut h e
sta rte d sh ovelin g sa la d in to his m ou th as if he w ere sta rv in g.
Obvio u sly , t h eir c o n fr o n ta tio n h ad n’t r u in ed h is a p petit e .

“B ess a n d N an cy , I ’d l ik e y ou o n m y r ig h t a n d l e ft,” A m elia s a id .
Nan cy g la n ced a t R osly n to se e if sh e w as fe elin g slig h te d b y
Am elia ’s re q uest, b ut th e se cre ta ry w as sta rin g at th e d oorw ay.
When Jere m ia h ap pea re d , sh e sa t d ow n an d im med ia te ly b eg an
ea tin g. N an cy c o u ld n’t h elp b ut w on der w hat w as g oin g o n b etw een
th e t w o.
“A h, A m elia , a b ea u tif u l ta b le a s a lw ays!” J ere m ia h sp re a d h is
arm s w id e, t h en p ulle d o u t t h e c h air o p posit e R osly n .
“Y ou ’r e d in in g w it h h is to ry .” A m elia p ic k ed u p a g ob le t a n d h eld
it up to th e lig h t. “T his su rv iv ed th e Civ il W ar. M y gre a t-
gra n dm oth er b urie d a ll h er v alu ab le s in th e g ard en so th ey w ere
sp are d w hen t h e U nio n t r o op s s w ep t t h ro u gh .”
Rex s lo u ch ed b ack in h is c h air . H e w as fin is h ed
wit h h is s a la d .
“S o w here ’s t h e r e st o f t h e f o od ?” h e a sk ed . “ I’v e g ot t o g et b ack t o
work .”
As i f o n c u e, L ou is e b ro u gh t o u t a c o vere d d is h a n d s e t i t i n f r o n t
of A m elia .
Jere m ia h sn if fe d th e a ir . “ L et m e g u ess. It’s L ou is e ’s sp ecia lt y ,
ro ast d uck .”
The h ou se k eep er n od ded .
Jere m ia h s m ack ed h is lip s. “ A p erfe ct c h oic e! L ou is e , y ou r d uck
sh ou ld b e w rit te n u p i n
Sou th ern C uis in e.
O r b ette r y et, p erh ap s w e
sh ou ld t a lk a b ou t y ou r w rit in g a c o ok book .”
Jere m ia h tu rn ed to sm ile a t th e h ou se k eep er. A nd fo r th e fir st
tim e N an cy t h ou gh t s h e s a w a h in t o f e m otio n o n t h e w om an ’s s to n y
fa ce.
“A unt A m elia , I t h in k y ou p re fe r t o c a rv e,” R ex s a id i m patie n tly .
“O h y es.” A m elia l if te d t h e l id o ff t h e p la tte r a n d h er s m ile f r o ze.
On t o p o f t h e d uck w as a w hit e r o se , i t s p eta ls d rip pin g w it h b rig h t
re d b lo od .

11
Fic tio n al C lu es
E very on e sta re d in sh ock ed sile n ce at th e b lo od -sp atte re d w hit e
f lo w er.
Fin ally J ere m ia h la u gh ed w it h d elig h t. “ W hat a d ra m atic t o u ch !”
h e e x cla im ed . “ Is n ’t t h at a s c en e f r o m o n e o f y ou r b ook s?”
Nan cy l o ok ed u p a t A m elia ’s f a ce. I t w as a s w hit e a s t h e r o se .
“W hy . . . y es!” t h e o ld er w om an m an aged t o s ta m mer.
Wit h ou t a w ord , L ou is e p lu nked th e co ver on th e p la tte r an d
p ic k ed it u p. “ I’l l r e m ove th e flo w er, M is s B ea u fo rt,” s h e s a id in a
h ush ed v oic e.
“I’l l h elp .” N an cy p ush ed o u t h er c h air a n d f o llo w ed L ou is e in to
t h e k it c h en . L ou is e s e t th e
duck o n th e c o u nte r. S he w as g rip pin g
t h e h an dle s o f t h e t r a y s o h ard h er k nuck le s w ere w hit e .
“L ou is e ?” N an cy t o u ch ed h er a rm . “ A re y ou a ll r ig h t?”
“W ho w ou ld d o a th in g lik e th is to M is s B ea u fo rt?” th e w om an
c rie d , s p in nin g a ro u nd. “ S he’s s u ch a d ea r, s w eet l a d y.”
Nan cy s h ook h er h ea d . “ I d on ’t k now . B ut I ’d l ik e t o f in d o u t. M ay
I ?” S he p oin te d t o t h e p la tte r.
Lou is e w ru ng h er h an ds o n h er a p ro n , t h en n od ded . N an cy lif te d
o ff th e c o ver. M ayb e J ere m ia h h ad th ou gh t it w as a jo k e, b ut s h e
k new b ette r. A nd o b vio u sly L ou is e d id , t o o.
For a se co n d, sh e stu die d th e flo w er. W as th e re d stu ff re a lly
b lo od ? C lo se r e x am in atio n m ad e h er d ecid e it w asn ’t . S om e o f th e
r e d m ate ria l w as d ry in g. R ea l b lo od w ou ld b e tu rn in g b ro w n. T his
w as s till b rig h t r e d .
“K etc h up,” Nan cy sa id , an d Lou is e nod ded in agre em en t.
“ D ilu te d t o l o ok l ik e b lo od .”
“B ut w ho c o u ld ’v e d on e it ?” L ou is e a sk ed . “ I w as in th e k it c h en
a ll m orn in g. W ait a m in ute — rig h t b efo re I se rv ed , M is s R osly n

pok ed h er h ea d i n a n d s a id I h ad a p hon e c a ll.”
Nan cy p ric k ed u p h er e a rs.
“B ut w hen I g ot i n to t h e h all, t h e l in e w as d ea d .”
“H m m. T han ks f o r t e llin g m e.”
“A re y ou t w o f ix in g a n oth er w hole d uck o r
what?” R ex s tu ck h is
hea d i n to t h e k it c h en . “ I h ave t o g o, a n d I ’m s ta rv ed .”
“Ju st a s e co n d.” N an cy p lu ck ed t h e r o se f r o m t h e d uck a n d t h re w
it in th e tr a sh . T here w as n o w ay th e flo w er c o u ld le a d h er to th e
gu ilt y p arty . A nd s h e d id n’t w an t A m elia t o s e e i t a gain . T he a u th or
was u pse t e n ou gh .
“T he m ea l i s p ro b ab ly r u in ed ,” L ou is e c o m pla in ed .
Nan cy s m ile d r e a ssu rin gly . “ It’s s till h ot, a n d it s m ells h ea ven ly ,”
sh e s a id a s s h e c a rrie d t h e p la tte r i n to t h e d in in g r o om .
For a s e co n d, s h e s u rv ey ed th e g ro u p a t th e ta b le . A s u su al, R ex
lo ok ed b ore d . R osly n w as s ta rin g a t h er p la te , h er c h eek s f lu sh ed —
beca u se o f w hat? N an cy w on dere d . H ad s h e p la n te d t h e r o se o n t h e
duck w hen L ou is e a n sw ere d t h e p hon e?
Nex t, h er g aze slid to J ere m ia h . H e w as c h arm in g B ess w it h a
sto ry . A m elia w as p re te n din g to lis te n , b ut N an cy co u ld te ll h er
hea rt w asn ’t in it . S he ju st h op ed th e r e st o f th e m ea l d id n’t b rin g
an y m ore s u rp ris e s.
“L unch i s s e rv ed ,” A m elia a n nou nced . “ R ex , w ou ld y ou c a rv e?”
“C erta in ly .” H e s a t u p s tr a ig h t, a n d e x pertly w ie ld in g th e k nif e ,
beg an t o s lic e t h e d uck . “ A nyth in g t o g et t h is s h ow o n t h e r o ad .”
Nan cy s a t d ow n. S he s q ueezed A m elia ’s h an d. I t w as i c e c o ld .
• • •
Afte r l u nch , J ere m ia h l e ft f o r h is h ote l, t o m ak e s o m e p hon e c a lls , h e
sa id . N an cy a n d B ess i n vit e d A m elia t o t a k e a w alk w it h t h em .
“I’m g la d y ou w an te d t o t a lk ,” s a id A m elia a s t h ey h ea d ed f o r t h e
flo w er g ard en . “ T here ’s so m eth in g I m ust te ll y ou . It’s a b ou t th e
th in gs t h at h ave b een g oin g o n .”
“T hey ’r e all co m in g fr o m you r book s,” N an cy fin is h ed th e
wom an ’s t h ou gh t.
Bess c la p ped h er h an d o ver h er m ou th in a sto n is h m en t. “ Y ou ’r e
rig h t, N an cy ! T he b lo od -sp atte re d f lo w er w as in
Dix ie W om an .
T he
sla sh ed p ages h ap pen ed in
Hea rts o n F ir e .
A nd t h ere w as a m aid in

Sou th ern B elle
w ho w as d ru ggin g t h e h ero in e’s t e a . I c a n ’t b elie v e I
did n’t r e a liz e t h at u ntil y ou s a id i t .”
“I s ta rte d
Dix ie W om an
la st n ig h t,” N an cy e x pla in ed , “ an d I g ot
to th e p art a b ou t th e flo w er. I ju st g u esse d a b ou t th e re st. W hy
did n’t y ou t e ll u s e a rlie r, A m elia ? Y ou m ust h ave r e a liz ed w hat w as
goin g o n .”
“I w as a fr a id y ou ’d t h in k I w as c ra zy . A nd n ot e v ery th in g i s f r o m
th e b ook s. T he c a r b ra k es g iv in g o u t is n ’t t h ere ,” A m elia t o ld t h em .
“A nd t h e p hon e l in e b ein g c u t i s n ’t i n a n y o f m y b ook s, o f c o u rse .”
“N eit h er is ou r sa ilin g accid en t nor th e m is sin g C on fe d era te
unif o rm ,” a d ded B ess.
A w orrie d s c o w l c ro sse d A m elia ’s fa ce. “ A re y ou c o u ntin g th ose
ev en ts i n w it h m y s tr a n ge h ap pen in gs?”
“Y es,” N an cy s a id . “ A m elia , h ow m uch d o y ou t r u st R ex ? I m ea n ,
re a lly , t r u ly .”
“R ex ?” A m elia lo ok ed p uzzle d . “ R ex is lik e a s o n to m e. I tr u st
him c o m ple te ly . A s I ’v e t o ld y ou , t h e o n ly r e a so n I h aven ’t t o ld h im
th e tr u th a b ou t w hy y ou ’r e h ere is th at I d on ’t w an t h im to k now
how w orrie d I a m .”
Bess a n d N an cy e x ch an ged g la n ces, t h en t o ok t u rn s t e llin g A m elia
th eir s u sp ic io n s a b ou t R ex .
Am elia r a p ped h er c a n e o n t h e g ro u nd. “ R ex lo ves t h is e sta te . H e
wou ld n ev er w an t t o s e ll i t .”
“T hen h elp u s c le a r h im ,” N an cy u rg ed h er. “ C all M r. L eg ere a n d
fin d o u t w hat’s g oin g o n .”
“A ll r ig h t,” s a id A m elia , tu rn in g b ack to w ard th e m an sio n . “ I’l l
do i t . I n eed t o k now , t o o, f o r m y o w n p ea ce o f m in d.”
The g ir ls w alk ed A m elia b ack to h er s tu dy. “ I’l l b e r ig h t b ack ,”
sh e s a id , l e a vin g t h em i n t h e h all.
A fe w m in ute s la te r, sh e re tu rn ed . “W ell, N an cy , you w ere
rig h t . . . a n d w ro n g,” s h e s a id m yste rio u sly . “ R ex h as b een w heelin g
an d d ea lin g— but o n ly o n f iv e a cre s a t t h e f a rth est e n d o f t h e e sta te .
It se em s M r. L eg ere is th e o n e w it h d re a m s o f tu rn in g M agn olia
Man sio n i n to a c o u ntr y c lu b.”
“B ut w hy w ou ld R ex o ffe r j u st t h e f iv e a cre s?” B ess a sk ed .
Am elia s ig h ed . “ M on ey . H e’s a fr a id I’l l lo se th e w hole e sta te if I
ca n ’t k eep u p w it h m y b ills . B ut la te r m y n ep hew a n d I w ill h ave a

se rio u s t a lk , a n d I ’l l f in d o u t f o r s u re .”
“T han k y ou ,” N an cy s a id , g iv in g t h e w om an ’s a rm a p at. “ I k now
th at w as h ard f o r y ou .”
“B ut n ecessa ry . N ow I ’m r e a d y f o r m y n ap .”
“L et m e h elp .” B ess lin ked h er a rm th ro u gh A m elia ’s , a n d th ey
sta rte d u p t h e h all. N an cy h ung b ack a s e co n d, t r y in g t o p ut a ll t h e
pie ces t o geth er. S he c o u ld n’t q uit e d ecid e i f t h e n ew s c le a re d R ex o r
not. M ayb e a t f ir st h e w as o n ly in te re ste d in s e llin g f iv e a cre s, a n d
th en M r. L eg ere ’s o ffe r f o r t h e w hole e sta te h ad b een t o o t e m ptin g
fo r h im t o r e sis t.
“C om in g, N an cy ?” B ess c a lle d f r o m t h e m ain h all. “ M ayb e w e c a n
ch an ge i n to o u r s u it s a n d h ave a s w im a fte r a ll.”
“S ou nds g ood .” N an cy h urrie d to ca tc h u p w it h th em . A s sh e
ap pro ach ed t h e w id e f o yer, t h e t in kle o f g la ss m ad e h er g la n ce u p.
The cry sta l ch an delie r han gin g fr o m th e ceilin g w as sp in nin g
slo w ly .
Wit h a j o lt , N an cy r e a liz ed w hat w as h ap pen in g. T he c o rd h old in g
th e h ea vy c h an delie r w as u nra velin g b efo re h er e y es. In a s e co n d,
th e c h an delie r w ou ld c ra sh t o t h e f lo or. A nd B ess a n d A m elia w ere
sta n din g r ig h t u nder i t !

12
A L ig h t S ea rc h
“ L ook o u t!” N an cy c rie d a s s h e d ove f o r B ess a n d A m elia . R am min g
h er sh ou ld er in to B ess’s , sh e sh oved h er fr ie n d in to A m elia . T he
f o rc e p ush ed th em b oth to w ard th e fr o n t d oor. N an cy tu m ble d to
t h e f lo or a n d r o lle d a cro ss t h e r u g. W it h a n e a rsp lit tin g ja n gle a n d
c ra sh , t h e c h an delie r h it t h e f lo or, m is sin g h er f o ot b y a n i n ch .
“W hat in th e w orld !” L ou is e B re w to n ru sh ed in to th e ro om ,
d ry in g h er h an ds o n h er a p ro n . “ M is s B ea u fo rt! A re y ou h urt?”
Bess d ash ed a ro u nd th e ch an delie r a n d k nelt b y N an cy ’s sid e.
“ A re y ou o k ay?”
“F in e,” N an cy g asp ed . “ Ju st g ot t h e w in d k nock ed o u t o f m e. H ow
a b ou t A m elia ?”
Bess h elp ed N an cy to h er fe et. “I’m all rig h t,” sa id th e old er
w om an , a s s h e s a t a gain st th e w all. “ Ju st a b it s h ak en u p. L ou is e ,
c o u ld y ou h elp m e t o m y r o om ?”
As N an cy lo ok ed c lo se ly a t t h e c h an delie r, s h e s a w A m elia ’s c a n e
s tic k in g o u t f r o m u nder t h e b ro k en g la ss a n d t w is te d w ir e s. B en din g
d ow n, s h e p ulle d i t o u t.
Bess s h uddere d . “ T hat c o u ld h ave b een u s.”
As m uch a s N an cy d id n’t w an t t o b elie v e it , s h e k new h er f r ie n d
w as rig h t. W hoev er w as b eh in d th e fa k e b lo od o n th e flo w er a n d
s la sh ed p ages in th e b ook w as n o lo n ger p la yin g g am es. B ess a n d
A m elia c o u ld h ave b een k ille d .
Angrily , N an cy p ok ed th e ca n e in to th e p ile of b ro k en gla ss.
“ W hoev er d id t h is m ea n s b usin ess,” s h e t o ld B ess.
“It c o u ld h ave b een a n a ccid en t,” B ess s a id .
“I d on ’t th in k s o .” N an cy s tu die d th e c eilin g. “ I’m g oin g to fin d
o u t h ow , a n d w hy, t h e c h an delie r f e ll.”
“W hat’r e y ou g oin g t o d o?”

“F in d a la d der. L ook , w hy d on ’t y ou c h eck o n A m elia ? S he w as
re a lly s h ak en u p.”
Bess lo ok ed to rn . “ O kay,” s h e s a id r e lu cta n tly , “ b ut if y ou n eed
help , l e t m e k now .”
Nan cy h ea d ed ou t th e fr o n t d oor an d d ow n th e d riv e to th e
gara ge. E ven in th e d aylig h t, th e o ld , iv y-c o vere d b uild in g lo ok ed
lik e t h e p erfe ct s e ttin g f o r a h orro r m ovie . I n sid e, t h e g ara ge s m elle d
dam p
an d m usty . C ob w eb s c lu ng t o e v ery c o rn er a n d b ir d s c h ir p ed
fr o m t h eir n ests i n t h e r a fte rs.
Nan cy le t h er ey es get u se d to th e d ark , th en se a rc h ed fo r a
la d der. In a b ack co rn er, p ro p ped a gain st th e w all, sto od a n o ld
wood en s te p la d der.
Nan cy ra n h er fin ger a lo n g o n e o f th e ru ngs, th en ch eck ed it .
There w asn ’t a t r a ce o f d ust o n t h e w ood . S om eo n e h ad u se d i t v ery
re cen tly .
A c la tte r b eh in d h er m ad e h er j u m p. N an cy h eld h er b re a th . I n t h e
sile n ce, s h e h ea rd a f o ots te p .
“W ho’s t h ere ?” s h e c a lle d . “ H ello ?”
A m an ’s p ro file s u dden ly a p pea re d i n t h e l ig h t o f t h e d oorw ay.
“M r. B re w to n ? I s t h at y ou ?”
A b ulb h an gin g fr o m th e c eilin g s w it c h ed o n . N an cy r e co gn iz ed
Mile s B re w to n ’s l e a th ery f a ce a n d r u m ple d w ork c lo th es.
“W hew ! Y ou s c a re d m e.” S he c lu tc h ed h er c h est, tr y in g to c a lm
her r a cin g h ea rt.
“W hat’r e y ou d oin g i n h ere ?” h e a sk ed i n a s u sp ic io u s v oic e.
“L ook in g f o r a la d der,” N an cy q uic k ly e x pla in ed . “ T here w as a n
accid en t i n t h e m ain h all. T he c h an delie r f e ll d ow n.”
Mile s r a is e d o n e e y eb ro w . “ F ell? T hat s e em s u nlik ely .”
“R ea lly ? W hy d o y ou s a y t h at?”
“B een han gin g th ro u gh fir e s, ea rth quak es, an d flo od s,” M ile s
re p lie d . “ B esid es, I j u st c h eck ed i t a m on th a go.”
“B ut w ho c o u ld ’v e t a m pere d w it h i t ?” N an cy a sk ed .
He s h ru gged . “ D on ’t k now th at a n sw er.” T hen h e le a n ed c lo se r,
his f a ce a n e erie y ello w i n t h e d im l ig h t. “ B ut t h ere a re l o ts o f t h in gs
aro u nd h ere I d on ’t k now a b ou t.”
“W hat d o y ou m ea n ?” N an cy ed ged b ack w ard . H e sp at o n th e
flo or n ea r h er f e et.

“M agn olia M an sio n h as se en a lo t of d ea th . S ta n ds to re a so n
th ere ’r e s o m e r e stle ss s o u ls w ho h aven ’t f o u nd p ea ce.”
Nan cy ’s e y es g re w w id e. W as M ile s B re w to n t a lk in g a b ou t g h osts ?
He s o u nded l ik e A m elia . “ Y ou m ea n d ea th s t h at o ccu rre d d urin g t h e
Civ il W ar?”
He n od ded , t h en a b ru ptly c h an ged t h e s u bje ct. “ I n eed t o g o a n d
ch eck o n th at c h an delie r.” H e h ois te d th e la d der o n to h is s h ou ld er
an d s tr o d e o u t o f t h e g ara ge.
Nan cy h ad t o s h ak e h er h ea d t o m ak e s u re s h e w asn ’t d re a m in g.
Mile s m ig h t b elie v e g h osts w ere a t w ork , b ut s h e w as s u re s o m eo n e
at M agn olia M an sio n w as r e sp on sib le f o r a ll t h e s p ook y a ccid en ts .
When N an cy ca u gh t u p to M ile s, h e w as a lr e a d y clim bin g th e
porc h s te p s. S he le a p ed u p t h em b y t w os, t h en h eld o p en t h e f r o n t
door.
Fiv e m in ute s la te r, h e w as sta rin g a t h er fr o m th e la d der’s to p
ru ng. “ N op e, I w as w ro n g. T his h ere c o rd ju st r u ste d th ro u gh . I’l l
ta k e c a re o f t h e m ess,” h e a d ded a s h e c lim bed d ow n.
• • •
That n ig h t, N an cy la y in b ed u nab le t o s le ep . B ess w as h uddle d o n
her s id e, r e re a d in g A m elia ’s s ix th b ook ,
Caro lin a K ate .
Wit h a s ig h , N an cy t u rn ed t o w ard t h e w in dow , h op in g t h e b re eze
mig h t c o ol h er o ff. B ut s h e k new it w asn ’t o n ly t h e s tic k y h ea t t h at
was k eep in g h er a w ak e.
“I s till d on ’t t h in k i t w as a n a ccid en t,” s h e s a id .
“H m mm?” B ess d id n’t t a k e h er e y es o ff t h e b ook .
“T he c h an delie r. I t w as t o o m uch o f a c o in cid en ce. T hat w ir e h ad
to h ave b een c u t.”
“U m m.”
“B ess, a re y ou l is te n in g?” N an cy a sk ed o ver h er s h ou ld er.
Bess s tu ck h er f in ger i n t h e b ook t o m ark h er p la ce a n d l o ok ed u p.
“N an cy , w e’v e b een o ver t h is a m illio n t im es. E ven if t h e w ir e w as
cu t, w e s till d on ’t k now w ho d id i t a n d w hy. M ayb e w e’l l h ave s o m e
new id ea s in th e m orn in g.” S lu m pin g b ack a gain st h er p illo w , s h e
yaw ned .
“Y ou ’r e r ig h t.” N an cy s h if te d , t r y in g t o g et c o m fo rta b le . “ A g ood
nig h t’s s le ep w ill h elp c le a r m y b ra in .”

“U m . T hat so u nds b ette r.” B ess se t h er b ook o n th e n ig h ts ta n d
an d t u rn ed o u t t h e l ig h t.
Nan cy s h ut h er e y es a n d f o rc ed h er m in d t o g o b la n k. S he r e a lly
was t ir e d , a n d t h e b re eze c o m in g i n t h ro u gh t h e w in dow f e lt g re a t.
“T here i s o n e t h in g, t h ou gh ,” B ess s a id , s it tin g u p i n b ed . “ W hen I
wen t t o c h eck o n A m elia , s h e
wan te d m e t o s ta y f o r a m in ute w hile
sh e f e ll a sle ep .”
“Y ea h .” N an cy y aw ned .
“A nd a s s h e d rif te d o ff, s h e k ep t m um blin g th in gs a b ou t a b ook
th at h ad t o b e k ep t s e cre t.”
Nan cy ’s e y elid s p op ped o p en . “ T he b ook s h e’s w ork in g o n n ow ?
‘C olo n ia l H ero ’ o r w hate v er s h e c a lle d i t ?”
“W ell, t h at’s w hat I c o u ld n’t f ig u re o u t. I m ea n , a s f a r a s w e k now ,
th e o n ly b ook A m elia a n d R osly n a re w ork in g o n is a r e h ash o f t h e
on e s h e w ro te y ea rs a go.”
Nan cy sa t u p n ex t to B ess. “ M ayb e sh e w as ta lk in g a b ou t n ot
le ttin g a n yon e k now sh e’s re w ork in g th e o ld b ook . O r, m ayb e” —
Nan cy p au se d — “sh e’s w ork in g o n a n oth er b ook .”
“B ut w hy? W hy w ou ld sh e n eed to k eep it a se cre t? A nd w hat
wou ld i t h ave t o d o w it h a ll t h e w eir d t h in gs t h at h ave h ap pen ed ?”
Nan cy le a n ed o ver h er fr ie n d a n d sw it c h ed o n th e lig h t. “ G ood
questio n s. S he m ust b e w orrie d a b ou t s o m eth in g if s h e’s t a lk in g in
her s le ep . I f w e c a n f in d a m an usc rip t o r n ote s o r
so m eth in g,
w e c a n
fig u re o u t e x actly w hat s h e i s w ork in g o n .”
Bess g ro an ed . “ N ot m ore s n oop in g.”
Nan cy sw ung h er le g s o ver th e b ed . “ C om e o n . I’l l n eed y ou to
help s e a rc h t h at r a t’s n est A m elia c a lls h er o ffic e.”
She t o sse d B ess h er b ath ro b e, t h en s lip ped o n h er o w n.
“N an cy , I r e a lly d on ’t w an t to d o th is ,” B ess g ru m ble d . B ut s h e
was a lr e a d y o u t o f b ed w it h h er r o b e o n .
Nan cy o p en ed t h e d oor in to t h e h all a n d lo ok ed o u t. I t w as d ark
an d e m pty , a n d th ere w ere n o c ra ck s o f lig h t u nder a n yon e’s d oor.
She t ip to ed f r o m t h e r o om w it h B ess s tic k in g c lo se b eh in d h er.
The m oon lig h t th ro u gh th e fr o n t w in dow s c a st e erie s h ad ow s o n
th e w alls . B ess g rip ped N an cy ’s a rm .
The d oor to A m elia ’s o ffic e w as u nlo ck ed . A s N an cy p ush ed it
op en , t h e r u sty h in ges c re a k ed . S o m uch f o r s n ea k in g i n q uie tly , s h e

th ou gh t.
Bess q uic k ly s h ut th e d oor b eh in d th em a n d th e g ir ls h eld th eir
bre a th . E xcep t fo r th e w in d b an gin g th e sh utte rs, th e h ou se w as
sile n t.
Nan cy c lic k ed o n h er s m all p ock et f la sh lig h t, t h en p ic k ed h er w ay
over th e sta ck s of ju nk by th e w in dow . W hen sh e op en ed th e
cu rta in s, m oon lig h t s tr e a m ed i n , m ak in g i t e a sie r t o s e e.
“S o w hat’r e w e h untin g f o r?” B ess a sk ed . S he w as s ta n din g b y t h e
desk , p ok in g t h ro u gh a p ile o f l o ose p ap ers.
“I’m not su re ,” N an cy ad m it te d . She ben t dow n an d beg an
ru m magin g th ro u gh a b ox a t h er fe et. “ A ny n ote s o r p ap ers th at
lo ok i m porta n t, I g u ess.”
“M ost o f t h is s tu ff l o ok s l ik e j u nk m ail a n d a rtic le s c o p ie d f r o m a
magazin e,” B ess sa id , g oin g th ro u gh a p ile o f th in gs o n A m elia ’s
desk .
“T his is str a n ge,” N an cy sa id , hold in g up a fe w
pages of
han dw rit te n n ote s. “ A m elia
sa ys
sh e’s w ork in g o n a b ook a b ou t
co lo n ia l t im es. B ut a ll t h is s tu ff i n t h e b ox i s a b ou t t h e C iv il W ar.”
“T hat d oesn ’t p ro ve a n yth in g. T here ’s a p ile o f b ook s o n h er d esk
ab ou t s h ip s. A nd s e v era l o n p ir a te s. A m elia d oes s o m uch r e se a rc h ,
sh e’d n eed b ook s o n e v ery th in g.”
Nan cy p ut A m elia ’s n ote s b ack i n t h e b ox . “ Y ou ’r e r ig h t. T his i s a
wild g oose c h ase . I th in k w e n eed to c o n fr o n t A m elia a n d fin d o u t
what’s g oin g o n .”
“W ell, l e t’s n ot g iv e u p q uit e y et.” B ess p ulle d o p en a f ile d ra w er.
Nan cy la u gh ed . “ B oy, th at’s a sw it c h . F or so m eb od y w ho d id n’t
wan t to co m e dow n here a fe w m in ute s ago, you su re se em
en th usia stic .”
“H ey , w e g ot p ast a ll t h e s p ook s a n d s h ad ow s. T his i s t h e f u n s tu ff
—nosin g t h ro u gh o th er p eo p le ’s t h in gs.” S he h an ded N an cy a f o ld er.
“H ere , w hy d on ’t y ou t a k e a l o ok i n t h is .”
The t o p t a b r e a d C on tr a cts .
Nan cy le a fe d t h ro u gh u ntil s h e f o u nd t h e c o n tr a ct f r o m A m elia ’s
publis h er c o n cern in g h er l a te st b ook .
“H old ev ery th in g, B ess. T his co n tr a ct sa ys A m elia sh ou ld be
writ in g a
non fic tio n
book ab ou t th e C iv il W ar. A nd it ’s tit le d
‘C harle sto n H ero ,’ n ot ‘C olo n ia l H ero .’
  ”

“A re y ou s u re ?”
Nan cy c h eck ed t h e d ate . “ P osit iv e. T he f ir st t e n c h ap te rs w ere d ue
se v era l w eek s a go.”
Bess w his tle d . “ N o w on der J ere m ia h ’s g ettin g a n ts y .”
Nan cy q uic k ly s c a n ned t h e c o n tr a ct. A tta ch ed t o i t b y a p ap er c lip
was a l e tte r f r o m A m elia ’s p ublis h er. “ H ey , l o ok a t t h is ,” N an cy s a id
ex cit e d ly . “A cco rd in g to th is le tte r, Am elia ’s new book was
su ppose d to be a to ta l se cre t. N o on e, not ev en Jere m ia h , w as
su ppose d t o k now t h at A m elia w as w ork in g o n a
non fic tio n
b ook .”
Bess t o ok t h e l e tte r f r o m N an cy . “ L et m e s e e t h at.”
“H as A m elia e v er s a id
an yth in g
t o y ou a b ou t w rit in g a n on fic tio n
book ?” N an cy a sk ed .
Bess t h ou gh t f o r a s e co n d. “ W ell, n ow t h at y ou m en tio n it , in o n e
of her le tte rs sh e m en tio n ed an ex cit in g pro je ct sh e had been
re se a rc h in g. B ut t h at’s a ll s h e s a id .”
“H ow l o n g a go w as t h at?”
“O h g osh , a t l e a st s ix , s e v en m on th s a go,” B ess r e ca lle d .
Nan cy l o ok ed a t t h e d ate o n t o p o f t h e c o n tr a ct. “ T his w as s ig n ed
ab ou t a y ea r a go. It m ust h ave b een w hat A m elia w as w ork in g o n
when s h e w ro te y ou .”
“D o y ou th in k A m elia sta rte d th e b ook , th en sto p ped fo r so m e
re a so n ?”
Nan cy c a re fu lly p ut t h e c o n tr a ct a n d le tte r b ack
in to t h e f ile a n d
han ded it to B ess. “ M ayb e. U nle ss s h e s till
is
w ork in g o n th e C iv il
War b ook b ut d oesn ’t w an t a n yon e— in clu din g u s— to k now .”
Bess s h ru gged a n d s tu ck th e file b ack in th e c a b in et a n d c lo se d
th e d ra w er. “ N on e o f t h is m ak es a n y s e n se t o m e.”
“M ayb e t h in gs w ill c le a r u p w hen w e t e ll A m elia w hat w e f o u nd
an d a sk h er w hat’s g oin g o n ,” r e p lie d N an cy .
“U gh . I don ’t lo ok fo rw ard to th at. W hat w ill w e sa y? ‘G ee,
Am elia , w e ju st h ap pen ed to b e s n oop in g th ro u gh y ou r th in gs a n d
we f o u nd— ’
  ”
“H old o n , B ess,” N an cy in te rru pte d . S he a im ed h er fla sh lig h t a t
th e flo or under R osly n ’s desk . A sm all re d sp lo tc h sta in ed th e
ca rp et.
“L ook s l ik e b lo od ,” B ess o b se rv ed , c o m in g t o N an cy ’s s id e.

Nan cy k nelt an d sc ra tc h ed th e sta in . “It’s k etc h up,” sh e sa id .
“A nd it ’s a new sta in . M ayb e R osly n w as m ak in g blo od sta in ed
flo w ers to d ay in ste a d o f ty p in g.” N an cy tr ie d th e se cre ta ry ’s d esk
dra w er, b ut it w as lo ck ed . T hen sh e sp ie d A m elia ’s p la stic lo n g-
dis ta n ce p hon e c a rd s it tin g o n a p ile o f p ap ers n ea r h er p hon e. “ T his
will d o t h e t r ic k .”
In a fla sh , N an cy h ad u se d th e p la stic ca rd to p ush a sid e th e
desk ’s f lim sy l o ck . S he p ulle d o p en t h e d ra w er.
“T here ’s t h e k etc h up,” s a id B ess, p ic k in g t h re e p la stic p ack ets o f
fa st- fo od k etc h up fr o m th e d ra w er. “B ut it d oesn ’t re a lly p ro ve
an yth in g.”
Nan cy w as still rif lin g th ro u gh th e dra w er. S he to ok ou t an
en velo p e a d dre sse d to R osly n th at w as p ostm ark ed a fe w m on th s
ago. In sid e w as a le tte r fr o m J ere m ia h S to n e. “ R osly n , H ow is o u r
lit tle s c h em e w ork in g? P le a se g iv e m e a n u pdate . Y ou r n ex t p aym en t
dep en ds o n i t . J .”
Nan cy han ded B ess th e le tte r an d co n tin ued to se a rc h under
pap ers in R osly n ’s d ra w er. “ W ow !” s a id B ess. “ L ook s lik e R ex h as
co m pan y o n t h e s u sp ect l is t.”
“H e su re does,” N an cy agre ed . S he han ded B ess th re e w hit e
en velo p es. “ L ook w hat I j u st f o u nd.”
Bess r e a d th e a d dre ss o n th e e n velo p es. “ M y le tte rs!” s h e c rie d .
“T hese a re th e le tte rs A m elia w ro te to m e. R osly n n ev er m aile d
th em . T hey ’r e u nop en ed , s o I g u ess s h e d id n’t r e a d t h em a t l e a st.”
Sudden ly , th e d oor fle w op en an d th e lig h t w as sw it c h ed on .
“W hat’s g oin g o n h ere ?”
Bess an d N an cy ju m ped . L ou is e B re w to n w as sta n din g in th e
doorw ay, g la rin g a t th em . If lo ok s c o u ld k ill, th ou gh t N an cy , w e’d
both b e d ea d .

13
Rex ’s C han ge o f H ea rt
“ O h b oy,” B ess w his p ere d t o N an cy . “ G et u s o u t o f t h is o n e.”
“H i, L ou is e ,” N an cy s a id c a su ally . “ S orry if w e w ere m ak in g t o o
m uch n ois e . W e w ere ju st lo ok in g th ro u gh A m elia ’s th in gs to g et
s o m e b io gra p hic a l m ate ria l.”
Lou is e ’s e x pre ssio n d id n’t so fte n . “ It’s a w fu lly la te . A nd w hy is
t h e l ig h t o ff?”
“W e d id n’t w an t t o w ak e a n yon e u p,” B ess c h im ed i n .
The s to n y lo ok o n t h e h ou se k eep er’s f a ce t o ld N an cy t h at L ou is e
d id n’t b elie v e a w ord t h ey ’d s a id .
“M s. B ea u fo rt w ill h ea r a b ou t th is to m orro w !” s h e s ta te d in h er
f la t v oic e.
“O h, s h e k now s a lr e a d y,” N an cy fib bed . “ S he d oesn ’t lik e u s in
h ere w hen R osly n ’s w ork in g, so to n ig h t w as th e fir st ch an ce w e
h ad .”
Lou is e ’s g aze f lic k ere d u p a n d d ow n, n otin g t h eir p aja m as. T hen
s h e g estu re d t o w ard t h e d oor. “ G ood n ig h t. I ’l l l o ck u p.”
“G ood n ig h t,” B ess a n d N an cy c h oru se d a s t h ey h urrie d p ast h er
a n d d ow n t h e h all. O nce t h ey w ere b ack in t h eir r o om , t h ey s a t o n
t h e b ed l o ok in g a t e a ch o th er.
“C lo se ca ll,” B ess re m ark ed . “ I d on ’t th in k L ou is e b ou gh t o n e
w ord w e s a id .”
Nan cy n od ded . “ W e’r e g oin g to h ave to g et to A m elia fir st th in g
t o m orro w a n d t e ll h er w hat w e w ere d oin g i n h er o ffic e.”
Nan cy s ig h ed a s th ey c lim bed b ack in to b ed a n d tu rn ed o u t th e
l ig h t.
“O ne t h in g’s f o r s u re . T his i s o n e o f t h e s tr a n gest c a se s w e’v e e v er
b een o n .”
• • •

“A m elia , w e n eed to s p ea k to y ou ,” N an cy s a id to th e w om an th e
nex t m orn in g a fte r t h ey ’d e a te n .
They ’d ju st fin is h ed a d elic io u s b re a k fa st o f fr u it - fille d cre p es.
Jere m ia h a n d R osly n w ere o n th e p orc h fin is h in g th eir c o ffe e. R ex
had d is a p pea re d i n to t h e d ra w in g r o om .
“N ot n ow .” A m elia p atte d N an cy ’s a rm . “ I p ro m is e d m yse lf I’d
sp ea k to m y n ep hew fir st th in g th is m orn in g. H e’s w ait in g fo r m e
now .”
“A ll r ig h t, th en a s s o on a s y ou g et th e c h an ce.”
Nan cy w atc h ed
an xio u sly a s A m elia s lo w ly m ad e h er w ay t o t h e d ra w in g r o om a n d
dre w t h e d oors s h ut b eh in d h er.
“W ell, M is s D re w , w hy n ot jo in u s o n t h e p orc h .” J ere m ia h c a m e
up b eh in d h er. H e w as c a rry in g a s te a m in g p ot o f c o ffe e. “ It’s l o vely
ou ts id e t h is e a rly i n t h e m orn in g.”
Nan cy g la n ced u p t h e s ta ir s. B ess h ad g on e t o t h e r o om t o f in is h
blo w -d ry in g h er h air . N an cy c o u ld h ea r t h e w hir o f t h e d ry er.
“S ure .” N an cy f o llo w ed h im o u t t h e d oor. R osly n w as s e a te d o n a
wic k er lo ve se a t. H er b ack w as stif f a s sh e sip ped h er c o ffe e a n d
gazed a cro ss t h e g ard en s.
Jere m ia h g estu re d t o a n e x tr a c u p. “ W ou ld y ou l ik e c o ffe e?”
“N o, t h an k y ou .” N an cy s a t i n t h e r o ck er.
“T ell m e, w hic h o f A m elia ’s b ook s a re y ou r fa vorit e s?” J ere m ia h
sa t b ack i n a c u sh io n ed c h air , h is s h arp e y es s tu dyin g h er.
“O h, I’d s a y
Dix ie W om an
a n d
Love in A tla n ta ,”
N an cy r e p lie d ,
hop in g h e w ou ld n’t ask h er an yth in g sp ecif ic ab ou t an y of th e
oth ers.
“L ove in A tla n ta ?”
J ere m ia h fr o w ned . “ I’v e b een A m elia ’s a gen t
fo r y ea rs, b ut I ’v e n ev er r e a d h er f ir st b ook . I t w as p ublis h ed b efo re
sh e h ad a n a gen t.”
“Y ou m ust b e e x cit e d a b ou t h er l a te st b ook ,” N an cy s a id .
“O h y es, if th ey ’d e v er le t m e s e e it .” H e lo ok ed
over a t R osly n .
“B ut t h e a u th or a n d h er s e cre ta ry h ave b een q uit e e lu siv e. I s n ’t t h at
so , M is s S illa y?”
Rosly n ’s fin gers c lu tc h ed h er c u p tig h tly . “ Y ou ’l l h ave to d is c u ss
th at w it h A m elia , M r. S to n e. I ’m o n ly h er e m plo yee.”
“H m mph.” Look in g an noyed , Jere m ia h tu rn ed back to w ard
Nan cy .

“A m elia t o ld m e y ou r e co m men ded R osly n t o h er,” s a id N an cy . “ It
se em s a s i f s h e’s b een a b ig h elp .”
Jere m ia h nod ded cu rtly . “It se em s th at w ay, but I have m y
dou bts .”
Rosly n sn ap ped h er h ea d aro u nd. “I’v e d on e all I co u ld !” sh e
re to rte d . G ettin g u p, sh e m arc h ed a n grily in to th e h ou se , a lm ost
ru nnin g i n to B ess o n t h e w ay i n .
“W hoa, w hat w as th at a ll a b ou t?” B ess s a id a s s h e s te p ped o n to
th e p orc h .
Jere m ia h se t h is c u p d ow n w it h a lo u d c la tte r. “ W ho k now s? If
you ’l l e x cu se m e,
so m e
p eo p le h ave w ork to d o.” H e s to od u p a n d
fo llo w ed t h e s e cre ta ry i n to t h e h ou se .
“W ork o n S atu rd ay? N o w ay,” B ess s a id a s s h e s a t d ow n. “ T his i s
su ppose d t o b e a d ay f o r s w im min g, s a ilin g, s h op pin g— ”
“A nd s ig h ts e ein g,” a d eep v oic e s a id f r o m t h e f r o n t d oorw ay.
They lo ok ed u p. R ex t o w ere d a b ove t h em , jin glin g h is c a r k ey s in
his h an d.
“A m elia s a id I s h ou ld d riv e y ou g ir ls in to
Charle sto n . I’v e g ot to
do s o m e e rra n ds, s o i t ’l l b e o n m y w ay.”
“B ut w e h ave t o t a lk t o y ou r a u nt,” N an cy s a id . S he p eere d u p a t
him , w on derin g h ow h e’d r e a cte d to A m elia ’s a ccu sa tio n s a n d if it
was s a fe t o t a k e a r id e w it h h im . B ut h is f a ce w as u nre a d ab le .
He s h ook h is h ea d . “ I t h in k s h e n eed s t o d is c u ss s o m e t h in gs w it h
Mr. S to n e.”
Boy, d oes sh e, N an cy th ou gh t, h op in g th ey c o u ld g et to A m elia
befo re L ou is e f ille d h er i n o n w hat h ad h ap pen ed t h e n ig h t b efo re .
Rex c le a re d h is t h ro at. “ I o w e y ou a n a p olo gy,” h e s a id . “ Y ou g ir ls
bro u gh t s o m eth in g o u t i n t h e o p en t h at n eed ed t o b e d is c u sse d .”
“Y ou m ea n t h e r e a l e sta te d ea l,” B ess s a id .
“Y es. M y a u nt’s a void ed t a lk in g a b ou t m on ey — or t h e la ck o f it —
fo r s o l o n g t h at I g ave u p t r y in g t o d is c u ss i t . S o y ou t w o w ere r ig h t.
I w en t b eh in d h er b ack , w hic h I n ev er s h ou ld h ave d on e.”
Bess n od ded . “ It d id m ak e u s s u sp ic io u s o f y ou , e sp ecia lly a fte r
we c a u gh t y ou g oin g t h ro u gh o u r t h in gs.”
Rex c h uck le d . “ N ow d o y ou tr u st m e e n ou gh to ta k e a r id e in to
to w n? W e c a n c o n tin ue t a lk in g i n t h e c a r.”

Nan cy a n d B ess n od ded , a n d s o on t h ey w ere i n A m elia ’s c a r, w it h
Rex d riv in g t o w ard C harle sto n .
“S o w hy w ere y ou t r y in g t o s e ll o ff t h e f iv e a cre s?” N an cy a sk ed .
“M on ey . B ut n ot fo r m yse lf . T he m an sio n ’s fa llin g
dow n, th e
gard en lo ok s lik e a ju ngle . Aunt Am elia m ad e so m e fo olis h
in vestm en ts , a n d s h e a ls o o w es b ack ta x es. T he o n ly th in g h old in g
th e p la ce t o geth er is M ile s a n d L ou is e B re w to n . W hy t h ey s ta y, I ’l l
nev er k now . A m elia d oesn ’t p ay th em m uch . A nd R ic h ard L eg ere
was g oin g to g iv e m e a lm ost a h undre d th ou sa n d d olla rs fo r th ose
fiv e a cre s,” R ex e x pla in ed .
“W ow ! T hat’s a l o t o f m on ey !” c rie d B ess.
Rex s n orte d . “ H e’d m ak e t e n t im es t h at m uch d ev elo p in g i t .”
“W hy is A m elia s o r e lu cta n t t o t a lk a b ou t s e llin g?” N an cy a sk ed .
“S eem s l ik e a g ood d ea l t o m e.”
“W ell, a w hile a go sh e p ut m e o ff b y sa yin g h er n ew b ook w as
goin g to b e a b est- se lle r. S he s e em ed s o s u re , I k in d o f d ro p ped it .
Then ”— he s h ru gged — “I d on ’t k now w hat h ap pen ed . S he g ot k in d
of p ara n oid .”
Pro b ab ly a ro u nd th e s a m e tim e th e a ccid en ts a n d p ra n ks b eg an ,
Nan cy th ou gh t. F or th e fir st tim e sin ce th ey ’d driv en off, sh e
re la x ed . E very th in g t h at R ex s a id m ad e s e n se .
He s c re ech ed to a h alt in fr o n t o f a s to p s ig n al. “ A c o u ple m ore
blo ck s a n d I ’l l d ro p y ou o ff i n t h e h is to ric d is tr ic t,” h e s a id .
“C an I a sk y ou a q uestio n ?” s a id N an cy . “ W hy h ave y ou b een s o
ru de t o u s? A nd w hy a re y ou b ein g s o m uch f r ie n dlie r t o d ay?”
Rex g rin ned . “ B eca u se A unt A m elia to ld m e w ho y ou tw o r e a lly
are ,” h e s a id . “ Y ou d on ’t k now h ow
much I d ete st th e m em bers o f
her fa n c lu b. T hey c o m e to th e m an sio n , e a t h er fo od , d is tr a ct h er
fr o m h er w ork , s te a l l it tle o d ds a n d e n ds a s s o u ven ir s. B ut e v ery s ix
mon th s o r s o , A unt A m elia le ts o n e o r tw o c o m e fo r a v is it . T hen ,
when I t h ou gh t y ou w ere r e a l e sta te a gen ts , I h ate d y ou e v en m ore .”
“W ho d id A m elia s a y w e w ere ?” N an cy a sk ed c a u tio u sly .
“S he sa id you w ere fr ie n ds w hom sh e in vit e d d ow n to sn oop
aro u nd. I t’s A unt A m elia ’s f o rm o f w rit e r’s b lo ck . W hen s h e d oesn ’t
wan t t o w ork , s h e f in ds e x cu se s t o w aste t im e.”
“T hen y ou d on ’t th in k y ou r a u nt h as a n y r e a so n to b e w orrie d ?”
ask ed B ess f r o m t h e b ack se a t.

“A unt A m elia is o verly d ra m atic ,” s a id R ex . “ T hat’s w hat m ak es
her s u ch a g ood w rit e r, b ut s h e’s a lw ays b een a l it tle e ccen tr ic .”
“W hat a b ou t t h e b lo od y r o se y este rd ay?” a sk ed N an cy .
Rex s h ru gged . “ I w ou ld n’t b e s u rp ris e d if A unt A m elia d id th at
herse lf , a s J ere m ia h s a id . S he’s b eh in d i n h er w ork o n t h e n ew b ook ,
an d s h e’s tr y in g to th ro w S to n e a c u rv e s o h e w on ’t b ug h er a b ou t
it .”
Nan cy d ecid ed n ot to s a y a n y m ore . S he s till w asn ’t 1 00 p erc en t
su re o f R ex , a n d s h e d id n’t w an t t o g iv e t o o m uch a w ay.
Rex p ulle d o ver to th e c u rb , a n d N an cy a n d B ess g ot o u t o f th e
ca r.
“H ow a b ou t i f I m eet y ou a t t h e C harle sto n H ou se H ote l f o r a l a te
lu nch , sa y on e-th ir ty ?” he ca lle d ou t th e op en ca r door. T hen ,
sla m min g i t s h ut, h e p ulle d o u t i n to h ea vy t r a ffic .
“W here ’s t h at?” B ess s h ou te d , b ut h er w ord s w ere lo st in t h e r o ar
of th e e n gin e. “ I g u ess th e a d dre ss w ill b e in m y g u id eb ook ,” B ess
mutte re d .
“H e s u re h as d on e a t u rn aro u nd,” N an cy c o m men te d . “ I w on der i f
he’s t e llin g u s a ll h e k now s.”
“N an cy , le t’s fo rg et ab ou t him an d M agn olia M an sio n an d
ev ery th in g f o r o n e a fte rn oon ,” s a id B ess. “ I w an t t o b e a r e g u la r o ld
to u ris t r ig h t n ow .”
Nan cy la u gh ed . “C om e on , fe a rle ss to u ris t, le t’s se e th e sig h ts
befo re i t g ets t o o h ot.”
Bess o p en ed h er g u id eb ook t o a m ap , a n d t h ey f ig u re d o u t w here
th ey w ere . W hile th ey w ere r e a d in g, a h orse -d ra w n c a rria ge r o lle d
past.
“T hat lo ok s lik e f u n. H ow a b ou t a q uic k w alk t h ro u gh o n e o f t h e
his to ric h om es, th en a s u rre y to u r?” B ess s u ggeste d . “ T hen w e c a n
hit t h e a ir -c o n dit io n ed m use u m .”
“G ood p la n ,” N an cy a gre ed .
They h ea d ed fo r th e J o se p h M an ig au lt H ou se , a b ea u tif u l h om e
built in 1 803. I t w as e x pertly r e sto re d a n d d eco ra te d w it h a n tiq ues.
Nan cy w as in tr ig u ed to s e e it e v en h ad a s e cre t s ta ir w ay b etw een
th e t h ir d a n d f o u rth f lo ors.
When th ey ste p ped b ack ou ts id e, th e b rig h t su n h it th em fu ll
fo rc e.

“N ow I s e e w hat M agn olia M an sio n
co u ld
lo ok lik e,” N an cy s a id
as t h ey w alk ed d ow n t h e s id ew alk .
“Y ea h . W ow ! I s it h ot!” B ess s to op ed a n d r u bbed t h e b ack o f h er
heel. “ A nd b oy, d o m y f e et h urt. L et’s f in d t h at s u rre y .”
“O kay,” a gre ed N an cy . “ W here d o w e g et o n e?”
Bess p oin te d to th e m ap . “ T he C harle sto n C arria ge C om pan y’s
ab ou t f o u r b lo ck s f r o m h ere . W e’l l h ave t o w alk .”
Bess’s a n gu is h ed lo ok m ad e N an cy la u gh . “ T he w alk w ill d o y ou
good . A nd i f w e s e e a c a fé o n t h e w ay, I ’l l t r e a t y ou t o a s o d a.”
The g ir ls s ta rte d d ow n t h e s tr e et, s to p pin g a t t h e c u rb t o w ait f o r
a lig h t. A c a rria ge p ulle d u p in f r o n t o f t h em . C allin g, “ W hoa,” t h e
driv er h alt e d t h e c h estn ut h orse .
“W ou ld you lik e a rid e?” he ask ed . H e w as dre sse d in a
Con fe d era te u nif o rm . A h ea vy b ea rd a n d b ush y e y eb ro w s m ask ed
his f a ce. S om eth in g a b ou t h is v oic e s o u nded f a m ilia r t o N an cy . B ut
th at w as i m possib le , s o N an cy d ecid ed s h e w as w ro n g.
“B oy, you ca m e at th e rig h t tim e.” B ess clim bed in w it h ou t
fu rth er e n co u ra gem en t.
“H ow m uch ?” N an cy a sk ed .
“F iv e d olla rs, a n d w orth i t o n s u ch a h ot d ay.”
“C om e o n , N an cy , g et in ,” B ess s a id , p attin g th e c u sh io n o n th e
se a t. “ T his i s t h e w ay t o t r a vel.”
Nan cy p aid th e m an a n d clim bed u p n ex t to B ess. T he d riv er
clu ck ed t o t h e h orse , w ho t o ok o ff a t a b ris k t r o t. T hey c lip -c lo p ped
past c a rs s tu ck i n t r a ffic a n d w ea ry -lo ok in g w alk ers.
“Is n ’t t h is f u n?” B ess g ig gle d .
The d riv er tu rn ed d ow n a c o b ble sto n e la n e. T ou ris ts d otte d th e
sid ew alk , a n d o ld h om es p ain te d i n s o ft p aste ls l in ed t h e s tr e et. T he
sm ell o f r o se s a n d m agn olia s d rif te d i n f r o m s m all g ard en s.
“T his is so quain t,” N an cy sa id . “A nd I’v e nev er se en su ch
deco ra tiv e w ro u gh t- ir o n f e n ces.”
Bess o p en ed h er g u id eb ook . “ T he b ook s a ys t h at C harle sto n h as s o
man y o ld g ate s i t ’s k now n a s t h e C it y o f F am ou s G ate w ays.”
She t a p ped t h e d riv er o n t h e s h ou ld er. “ C ou ld y ou t e ll u s a lit tle
ab ou t t h is a re a ?”
He g ru nte d , t h en p ic k in g u p a b uggy w hip , h e s n ap ped i t o ver t h e
horse . T he s ta rtle d c h estn u t le a p t f o rw ard , t o ssin g t h e g ir ls r o u gh ly

again st t h e b ack o f t h eir s e a t.
Nan cy g ra b bed t h e s id e o f t h e c a rria ge a n d p ulle d h erse lf u prig h t.
The driv er cra ck ed th e w hip again , an d th en in on e quic k
movem en t, h e j u m ped f r o m t h e c a rria ge a n d r a n d ow n a n a lle y .
“H ey !” N an cy c rie d a fte r h is f le ein g s h ap e. W hat w as g oin g o n ?
The d riv erle ss h orse b ro k e in to a c a n te r. T he s u rre y b um ped a n d
ra ttle d o ver t h e c o b ble sto n es.
Nan cy s w ayed a gain st B ess, k nock in g
her f r ie n d s id ew ays.
She g ra b bed B ess’s a rm t o k eep h er f r o m f a llin g. T hen s h e l o ok ed
ah ea d . T he fr ig h te n ed h orse w as b olt in g w ild ly — rig h t to w ard a
busy i n te rse ctio n !

14
The M yste ry D riv er
“ W hoa. E asy !” N an cy c a lle d in a s o oth in g v oic e, th ou gh h er h ea rt
w as b ea tin g r a p id ly . S he h ad t o s to p t h e h orse b efo re it h it a c a r o r
c a u se d a n a ccid en t.
Try in g to keep her bala n ce, sh e pulle d herse lf to a sta n din g
p osit io n . S he h ad t o g et t h e r e in s— fa st!
Nan cy t u m ble d in to t h e d riv er’s s e a t. Q uic k ly , s h e r e a ch ed d ow n,
s n atc h in g u p b oth r e in s.
“W hoa,” s h e c rie d a s s h e p ulle d o n t h e r e in s. T he h orse t h re w h is
h ea d u p a n d p lu nged a h ea d . A c a r s c re ech ed o n it s b ra k es. A noth er
d riv er h on ked , f r ig h te n in g t h e h orse e v en m ore .
Nan cy b eg an t o p an ic . T hen o u t o f t h e c o rn er o f h er e y e, s h e s a w
a n e m pty a lle y — th e l a st b efo re t h e m ain r o ad .
Tuggin g o n th e rig h t re in w it h a ll h er str e n gth , sh e tu rn ed th e
h orse to w ard th e a lle y . A s th e h orse r e sp on ded , th e c a rria ge tilt e d
o n t w o w heels . B ess s h rie k ed a n d N an cy h eld h er b re a th , h op in g it
w ou ld n’t t o p ple s id ew ays.
“W hoa,” s h e c a lle d a gain . “ E asy .” S tr a ig h t a h ea d , a t th e e n d o f
t h e a lle y , w as a b ric k w all. N an cy g asp ed a n d g ave o n e la st p ull o n
t h e re in s. T he tir e d h orse slo w ed to a tr o t, th en , w it h a sh udder,
h alt e d s e v era l f e et i n f r o n t o f t h e w all.
Exhau ste d , N an cy s lu m ped in th e s e a t. H er a rm s a ch ed a n d h er
h an ds w ere r a w f r o m t h e f r ic tio n o f t h e le a th er r e in s. B ess r e a ch ed
o ver f r o m b eh in d a n d h ugged h er.
“Y ou d id i t !” s h e s a id w it h a m uffle d s o b . T w o m en r a n u p t o a sk
h ow th ey w ere , a n d a y ou ng w om an g ra b bed th e h orse ’s b rid le .
S eco n ds l a te r, N an cy c o u ld h ea r t h e b la re o f a p olic e s ir e n .
Som eo n e h elp ed t h em f r o m t h e c a rria ge.

“I d on ’t t h in k I ’l l e v er t a k e a b uggy r id e a gain ,” B ess s a id w it h a
tir e d g rin .
A h an dso m e p olic e o ffic er s tr o d e u p, p ad i n h an d. H is f a ce l o ok ed
se rio u s, b ut th ere w as a tw in kle in h is ey e. “ U h, ca n I se e y ou r
driv er’s l ic en se ?” h e a sk ed N an cy .
When h e sa w th e stu nned ex pre ssio n o n h er fa ce, h e g rin ned .
“Ju st k id din g. A nd d on ’t w orry . T he re a l d riv er a lr e a d y c a lle d in
an d t o ld t h e d is p atc h er h is c a rria ge h ad b een s to le n . T hat g u y r o d e
off w it h
th e c a rria ge w hile t h e d riv er w as t a k in g a b re a k . I j u st n eed
you g ir ls t o a n sw er s o m e q uestio n s.”
Nan cy la u nch ed in to a d eta ile d a cco u nt o f th e m orn in g a s th e
offic er t o ok n ote s.
“W hat d id t h e d riv er l o ok l ik e?” h e a sk ed .
When B ess d esc rib ed th e u nif o rm a n d b ea rd , h e s ig h ed . “ T hat’l l
mak e id en tif ic a tio n a lm ost im possib le . T he u nif o rm a n d th e b ea rd ,
well, y ou c a n g et t h em a t a n y t o u ris t s h op o r c o stu m e s to re .”
Nan cy n od ded . “ I t h ou gh t s o . A nd h e d id n’t s a y m uch — th ou gh h e
had a S ou th ern a ccen t.”
“A lo n g w it h e v ery on e e ls e in C harle sto n .” N ex t t h e o ffic er a sk ed
th em th eir n am es a n d w here th ey w ere sta yin g. “ Ju st in c a se w e
ca tc h s o m eb od y, t h ou gh . . .”
“W e w on ’t h old o u r b re a th ,” N an cy t o ld h im .
“R ig h t. E sp ecia lly i f t h e c a rria ge c o m pan y d oesn ’t p ursu e i t . A fte r
all, t h ey ’r e g ettin g t h eir h orse a n d b uggy b ack .” H e s h ook h is h ea d ,
lo ok in g b ew ild ere d . “ D o y ou h ave a n y id ea w hy t h e d riv er ju m ped
sh ip ?”
Nan cy s h ot B ess a w arn in g g la n ce. S he d id n’t w an t t h e o ffic er t o
know ab ou t th e tr o u ble at M agn olia M an sio n . It w asn ’t polic e
busin ess— yet.
“N o. M ayb e i t w as a p ra n k,” B ess r e p lie d l ig h tly .
“A dan gero u s on e, if you ask m e. Can I dro p you gir ls
so m ew here ?” H e s tu ck h is p ad i n h is s h ir t p ock et.
Nan cy c h eck ed h er w atc h . I t w as a lm ost n oon .
“W e’r e s u ppose d t o
meet a f r ie n d a t t h e C harle sto n H ou se H ote l a t o n e-th ir ty .”
“A nd b elie v e m e, w e’r e n ot h ailin g a c a rria ge,” B ess j o k ed .
“H ow a b ou t i f I d ro p y ou o ff i n B atte ry P ark ? I t’s n ot f a r f r o m t h e
hote l, a n d i t ’l l g iv e y ou a c h an ce t o s e e t h e c it y — at a s lo w er p ace.”

The t h re e l a u gh ed . A noth er p olic em an h ad a rriv ed w it h t h e o w ner
of t h e c a rria ge, s o N an cy k new t h e h orse w as i n g ood h an ds. W it h a
sig h o f r e lie f, s h e s h ut t h e s q uad c a r d oor.
Clo sin g her ey es, sh e le a n ed her hea d back again st th e se a t.
Im med ia te ly h er m in d b eg an r e p la yin g t h e w hole i n cid en t. W ho h ad
se t up th e “accid en t” an d w hy? H ad sh e been rig h t ab ou t th e
driv er’s v oic e? W as h e r e a lly s o m eo n e th ey k new d is g u is e d b eh in d
th at b ea rd ?
She k new t h e d riv er w asn ’t R ex . T he m an h ad b een t o o s h ort a n d
sto ck y. But th at did n’t m ea n Am elia ’s nep hew had n’t hir e d
so m eo n e.
But w hy s ta ge t h e w hole t h in g in t o w n? I f h e’d w an te d t o g et r id
of t h em , h e c o u ld h ave d on e i t m ore e a sily a t t h e m an sio n .
Then i t d aw ned o n h er.
“M is s D re w ?” T he o ffic er’s v oic e cu t in to h er th ou gh ts . “ W e’r e
here .”
Nan cy s a t u p a n d b lin ked . B ess w as s ta n din g o u ts id e th e s q uad
ca r, l o ok in g a t h er t h ro u gh t h e w in dow .
“A re y ou a ll r ig h t?” s h e a sk ed a fte r N an cy t h an ked t h e o ffic er a n d
clim bed o u t.
Shuttin g t h e c a r d oor, N an cy p ulle d B ess a w ay f r o m t h e c u rb a n d
in to t h e p ark . “ I j u st f ig u re d o u t w hy t h e d riv er s e em ed s o f a m ilia r.”
“W hy?” a sk ed B ess.
“H e w as th e sa m e b uild as M ile s B re w to n ,” N an cy ex pla in ed
ex cit e d ly . “ A nd h is v oic e s o u nded l ik e M ile s’s , t o o.”
Bess lo ok ed d ou btfu l. “ I d on ’t k now , N an cy ,” sh e sa id , sin kin g
on to a p ark b en ch . “ I d on ’t g et i t — why w ou ld M ile s g o t o s u ch g re a t
le n gth s t o t r y t o h urt u s?”
“I t h in k it w as t o d is tr a ct u s f r o m w hat’s h ap pen in g a t M agn olia
Man sio n a n d m ak e it s e em a s if t h e in cid en ts a re n ’t ju st c o n necte d
to A m elia . It’s p re tty c le a r th at w hoev er w as d riv in g th e c a rria ge
wan te d t o s c a re u s.”
“H e s u cceed ed in s c a rin g m e!” B ess e x cla im ed , r u bbin g h er a rm
where s h e’d b ou nced a gain st t h e b ack o f t h e c a rria ge.
Nan cy lo ok ed aro u nd. “C om e on , le t’s fin d a phon e an d ca ll
Magn olia M an sio n . I ’l l f in d o u t i f M ile s i s h om e.”

Dra ggin g B ess w it h h er, N an cy c ro sse d t h e s tr e et t o a s m all c o ffe e
sh op .
“A h, f o od ,” B ess s a id . “ I’m s ta rv ed .” S he s a t d ow n a t a t a b le a n d
ord ere d s o d as a n d s o m e p astr ie s w hile N an cy u se d t h e p hon e.
“W ell? ” B ess a sk ed w hen h er f r ie n d r e tu rn ed .
Nan cy s a t d ow n a n d b ro k e o ff a p ie ce o f o n e o f th e p astr ie s. “ I
ta lk ed t o L ou is e a n d p re te n ded w e m ig h t n eed a r id e b ack . S he s a id
Am elia , J ere m ia h , a n d R osly n w ere s till w ork in g, a n d M ile s w as o u t
in t h e g ard en . I d id n’t s a y a n yth in g a b ou t t h e a ccid en t.”
Bess r a is e d h er e y eb ro w s. “ S o m ayb e it w asn ’t M ile s d riv in g th e
ca rria ge.”
Nan cy t a p ped t h e t a b le w it h a s p oon . “ I d on ’t k now
what
t o t h in k.
Lou is e m ad e i t s o u nd a s i f M ile s w as a vaila b le . S he s a id t o c a ll i f w e
need ed a r id e, s o I g u ess t h at c le a rs h im . H ow lo n g b efo re w e m eet
Rex ?”
Bess c h eck ed h er w atc h . “ A n h ou r. I ’m g la d I a te s o m eth in g n ow ,”
sh e s a id g lo om ily . “ I c a n te ll th at lu nch is g oin g to b e m ore lik e a
polic e i n te rro gatio n .”
Nan cy la u gh ed . “ P ro b ab ly . B ut I p ro m is e I w on ’t b e t o o r o u gh o n
him . C om e o n . F in is h y ou r so d a. L et’s e n jo y C harle sto n w hile w e
ca n .”
• • •
The C harle sto n H ou se H ote l w as c o ol a n d e le g an t. T he g ir ls w ere
esc o rte d in to t h e h ush ed in te rio r o f t h e r e sta u ra n t b y a m aît r e d ’ in
a sta rc h ed u nif o rm . N an cy sc a n ned th e ro om , h ap py to n ote th at
man y o th er p atr o n s l o ok ed a s i f t h ey w ere f r o m o u t o f t o w n.
Rex w aved f r o m a t a b le . T he m aît r e d ’ s e a te d
th em a s c a re fu lly a s
if t h ey w ere w ea rin g f o rm al g ow ns, h an ded t h em a m en u, a n d t h en ,
wit h a b ow , m oved a w ay.
“W ell, w ea ry sig h ts e ers, d id you en jo y ou r lo vely to w n?” R ex
ask ed .
“A r e a l b la st,” B ess m um ble d .
Rex g ave h er a p uzzle d l o ok , t h en p oin te d t o s e v era l e n tr ie s o n t h e
men u. “ T his p la ce is k now n f o r t h e d ev ile d c ra b a n d f o r t h e s h rim p
sa la d .”
“Y um .” B ess l ic k ed h er l ip s. “ I’l l t a k e o n e o f e a ch .”

Rex l a u gh ed . “ G o a h ea d . I t’s m y t r e a t.”
“T hat’s n ot n ecessa ry ,” N an cy s a id q uic k ly .
“H ey , y ou ’v e b een a b ig h elp to m y a u nt. S he lik es h avin g y ou
aro u nd. I t’s t h e l e a st I c a n d o,” h e r e p lie d g alla n tly .
They o rd ere d . R ex a n d B ess ta lk ed a b ou t th e sig h ts th ey ’d se en
th at m orn in g. N an cy f o ld ed a n d u nfo ld ed h er n ap kin , w on derin g if
Rex h ad s o m eh ow b een i n volv ed i n t h e c a rria ge a ccid en t. S o f a r, h is
actio n s a n d w ord s h ad n’t t o ld h er a n yth in g.
“H ow w as y ou r m orn in g?” s h e a sk ed h im .
“B orin g. I w en t t o t h e h ard w are s to re , t h en o ff t o t h e n urse ry f o r
weed k ille r.”
“O h, g ood , so y ou w ere n ’t th e o n e d riv in g th e ca rria ge,” B ess
blu rte d o u t.
Nan cy k ic k ed h er u nder t h e t a b le .
Rex s a t b ack i n h is c h air , g iv in g B ess a c u rio u s l o ok .
Ju st t h en t h e w ait e r c a m e u p w it h a p it c h er o f w ate r a n d a b ask et
of h ot p op overs. N an cy w as g la d f o r t h e i n te rru ptio n .
“N ow
w hat a re y ou a ccu sin g m e o f?” R ex d em an ded a s s o on a s t h e
wait e r h ad l e ft. B ess b usily b utte re d a p op over.
Nan cy d ecid ed t o p lu nge in a n d t e ll h im t h e w hole s to ry , le a vin g
ou t o n ly h er s u sp ic io n s a b ou t M ile s. W hile s h e t a lk ed , s h e w atc h ed
Rex ’s e x pre ssio n c a re fu lly . A ll s h e s a w w as s in cere i n te re st.
As N an cy fin is h ed te llin g R ex ab ou t th e in cid en t, th e w ait e r
re tu rn ed w it h t h e m ain c o u rse .
“T his lo ok s g re a t!” B ess sc o op ed u p a fo rk fu l o f sh rim p sa la d .
Nan cy h ad o rd ere d t h e d ev ile d c ra b , a n d i t l o ok ed w on derfu l.
The t h re e a te i n h ungry s ile n ce. F in ally R ex s e t d ow n h is f o rk a n d
gave a s a tis fie d s ig h .
“T hat’s s o m e s to ry y ou to ld ,” h e s a id . “ I’m g la d to s e e y ou g ir ls
are o k ay. N ow , a re y ou u p t o s o m e d ete ctiv e w ork ?”
“D ete ctiv e w ork ?” N an cy a n d B ess s a id t o geth er.
“O f c o u rse !” R ex s a t f o rw ard e a gerly . “ W e n eed t o g o b ack t o t h e
sc en e o f t h e c rim e a n d l o ok f o r c lu es.” H e s ig n ale d f o r t h e w ait e r.
“G re a t i d ea ,” N an cy r e sp on ded e a gerly . “ T he p olic e w on ’t b oth er.
I m ea n , th ey h ave m ore im porta n t ca se s th an a ru naw ay h orse .”
Secre tly s h e w as t h in kin g i t w ou ld g iv e h er a c h an ce t o o b se rv e R ex .

She w as p re tty c o n fid en t t h ey c o u ld t r u st A m elia ’s n ep hew , b ut s h e
wasn ’t a b so lu te ly c erta in .
The gir ls q uic k ly lo ca te d th e alle y d ow n w hic h th e m an h ad
dis a p pea re d . R ex p ulle d th e c a r in , p ark ed u nder a sig n th at sa id
Tow aw ay Z on e, a n d t h e t h re e j u m ped o u t.
“S o w hat a re w e se a rc h in g fo r?” B ess g ru m ble d a s sh e lo ok ed
aro u nd a t a ll t h e b ags o f g arb age.
“A nyth in g th at’l l g iv e u s a c lu e a s to th e id en tit y o f th e d riv er.”
Nan cy w as a lr e a d y r u m magin g i n a t r a sh c a n .
“A nyth in g t h at’l l c le a r
me
,” R ex a d ded . “ I’m s ic k o f b ein g t h e b ad
gu y.”
Wrin klin g h er n ose , B ess p ok ed h alf h ea rte d ly a t a b ox o f o ld c a n s.
“B ut th is s tu ff s m ells .” S he h eld h er n ose a n d tu rn ed o ver a r u sty
ca n . H er fin ger to u ch ed so m eth in g fu rry .
“E iii!”
sh e sc re ech ed ,
ju m pin g b ack w ard o n to N an cy ’s t o es.
“O uch !” N an cy h op ped o n o n e f o ot.
Bess gestu re d to w ard th e box . “T here ’s so m e kin d of— of—
cre a tu re i n t h ere .”
“O h, c o m e o n , B ess. I t’s p ro b ab ly a m ou se .” N an cy p eere d i n to t h e
box . “ H ey !” S he g ra b bed a s tic k , f is h ed u nder t h e c a n s, a n d p ulle d
ou t w hat h ad s c a re d B ess.
“T he d riv er’s b ea rd !” B ess e x cla im ed .
“Y ea h . W e c a n d ro p it o ff a t t h e p olic e s ta tio n , t h ou gh m y h unch
is it w on ’t d o u s m uch g ood . L ook s lik e a c o stu m e-ty p e b ea rd y ou
co u ld b uy a n yw here ,” s a id N an cy .
“H ey !” R ex c a lle d fr o m h alf w ay d ow n th e a lle y . “ C om e lo ok a t
th is .”
The g ir ls t o ok o ff a t a j o g. R ex w as s ta n din g b y a p ic k et f e n ce. H e
poin te d t o a f o otp rin t i n t h e s o ft m ud o n t h e o th er s id e. “ T he d riv er
must’v e e sc a p ed o ver th e fe n ce a n d th ro u gh th is b ack yard . It’s a
blin d a lle y a n d t h ere ’s n o o th er w ay o u t.”
“B oy, h e s u re w asn ’t c a re fu l a b ou t n ot le a vin g c lu es b eh in d, w as
he?” B ess c o m men te d .
“T hat’s fo r su re . L ook a t th is .” L ea n in g o ver th e fe n ce, N an cy
use d h er s tic k t o p ok e a t s o m eth in g u nder a r o se b ush . S he s p ea re d
it , th en ca re fu lly ra is e d it up so ev ery on e co u ld se e. It w as a
Con fe d era te h at.

“H e w as d efin it e ly i n a h urry ,” B ess s a id . “ O r d id n’t t h in k a n yon e
wou ld c o m e b ack a n d l o ok f o r e v id en ce.”
Rex ste p ped clo se r an d stu die d th e hat. “W ell, w hate v er his
re a so n , h e m ad e a b ig m is ta k e, b eca u se th is ju st m ig h t h elp th e
polic e t r a ck t h e d riv er.”
“W hy d o y ou s a y t h at?” N an cy a sk ed .
“B eca u se th is h at is n ’t fr o m a c o stu m e s h op o r d im e s to re . It’s a
gen uin e C on fe d era te c a p .”
“H ow d o y ou k now ?” a sk ed N an cy .
“It’s ex actly lik e th e on e A unt A m elia se em s to th in k sh e’s
mis sin g.” R ex ’s e y es n arro w ed a n d h e lo ok ed in sid e th e c a p . T he
in it ia ls A B w ere s tit c h ed i n t h e l in in g.
“A sh le y B ea u fo rt!” N an cy crie d . “It
is
th e h at fr o m A m elia ’s
mis sin g u nif o rm !”

15
Clu es i n t h e K it c h en
N an cy w as q uie t o n th e w ay h om e. S he n ow k new fo r c erta in th at
s o m eo n e sta yin g at M agn olia M an sio n w as re sp on sib le fo r th e
s u rre y a ccid en t. T he p hon y d riv er h ad s e em ed s o m uch lik e M ile s.
B ut s h e c o u ld n’t p ro ve i t . A nd w hat w as h is m otiv e?
Rex p ulle d u p in fr o n t o f th e m an sio n . B ess a n d N an cy th an ked
h im f o r h is h elp a n d g ot o u t. E ager t o f in d A m elia , t h e g ir ls d ash ed
u p t h e s te p s a n d t h ro u gh t h e f r o n t d oor. I n sid e t h e h ou se a n a n gry
v oic e w as co m in g fr o m th e d ra w in g ro om . N an cy sto p ped in h er
t r a ck s, l is te n in g.
It w as R osly n .
“It s o u nds a s i f s h e’s c ry in g,” w his p ere d B ess.
Rex r u sh ed i n b eh in d t h em , a lm ost k nock in g t h e
gir ls o ver. N an cy
q uic k ly p ut a f in ger t o h er l ip s t o s ile n ce h im .
“I’v e h ad e n ou gh , J ere m ia h !” R osly n ’s v oic e r o se , a n d t h ey c o u ld
h ea r h er c le a rly . “ Y ou ’v e b rib ed m e f o r t h e l a st t im e!”
Bess gasp ed at th e you ng w om an ’s w ord s. N an cy h ush ed h er
f r ie n d, t h en t ip to ed t o t h e c lo se d d ra w in g-ro om d oors. S he p ut h er
e a r t o t h e c ra ck .
“Y ou ’r e in t o o d eep t o g et o u t n ow ,” J ere m ia h s a id in a lo w t o n e.
“ D o y ou h ea r m e?”
“Ju st w atc h m e!”
Nan cy hea rd th e sc ra p e of a ch air bein g push ed back , th en
f o ots te p s. S udden ly , th e d oors fle w o p en . R osly n sc re a m ed a t th e
s ig h t o f t h e t h re e s ta rin g f a ces.
Jere m ia h j u m ped u p f r o m t h e c o u ch , h is c h eek s b rig h t r e d . “ W hat
— what’r e y ou d oin g l is te n in g a t t h e d oor!” h e s p utte re d .
“P ro te ctin g A m elia !” N an cy s a id .

“F ro m p eo p le w ho a re s u ppose d to b e h er fr ie n ds!” B ess c h im ed
in .
Rex p ush ed h is w ay in to th e ro om . “ M ayb e y ou tw o h ad b ette r
ex pla in w hat’s g oin g o n ,” h e s a id a n grily . “ O r p ack y ou r b ags a n d
get o u t.”
Puttin g h er h an ds i n f r o n t o f h er f a ce, R osly n b eg an t o s o b .
“O h, h ush ,” J ere m ia h s a id im patie n tly . S it tin g d ow n, h e c ro sse d
his l e g s. “ W e h aven ’t d on e a n yth in g w ro n g.”
“O h, re a lly ?” N an cy str o d e in a n d sa t o p posit e h im . “ T hen w hy
wou ld y ou h ave t o b rib e R osly n ?”
Jere m ia h lo ok ed d is g u ste d . “B eca u se sh e’s su ch a m ou se . S he
wou ld n’t d o i t o th erw is e .”
“D o w hat?” R ex s to rm ed o ver, l o ok in g a s i f h e’d l ik e t o c h ok e t h e
agen t. “ S ca re m y a u nt h alf t o d ea th ?”
“N o!” J ere m ia h t h re w h is h an ds u p. “ M otiv ate h er. T hat’s a ll w e
were d oin g. T ry in g t o b re a k t h ro u gh h er w rit e r’s b lo ck .”
“B ut i t
was
s c a rin g h er,” R osly n c rie d . “ T hat’s w hy I r e fu se d t o d o
it a n ym ore . E ven i f y ou d on ’t p ublis h m y b ook .”
Jere m ia h sh ook his hea d . “W ell, if you had n’t bungle d it , it
wou ld ’v e w ork ed perfe ctly . A ll th e lit tle m aca b re to u ch es w ere
su ppose d t o s tim ula te A m elia .”
“Y ou m ea n t h e s la sh ed p ages a n d t h e b lo od y r o se ?” N an cy a sk ed .
“Y es!” J ere m ia h c la p ped h is h an ds. “ W ere n ’t t h ey b rillia n t?”
“A nd o f c o u rse y ou b rib ed R osly n t o c a rry t h em o u t.” R ex s to op ed
an d g ra b bed J ere m ia h b y t h e c o lla r. “ I t h in k y ou ’r e s ic k , S to n e. M y
au nt c o u ld ’v e b een h urt i n t h at c a r a ccid en t.”
“B ut w e d id n’t d o t h at!” R osly n p ro te ste d . “ T hat’s w hat g ot m e s o
worrie d . . . a n d co n fu se d . T hin gs w ere h ap pen in g th at m ig h t’v e
re a lly h urt M s. B ea u fo rt. I g ot so sc a re d , I— ” S he sta rte d c ry in g
again . E ven J ere m ia h l o ok ed c o n cern ed .
“N ow , lo ok h ere !” H e sh ook fr e e o f R ex ’s g ra sp . “ I d id n’t p la n
an yth in g t h at w ou ld e n dan ger A m elia . S he’s m y b est a u th or!”
Nan cy w as p uzzle d n ow . “ S o t h e s le ep in g p ills h ad n oth in g t o d o
wit h y ou t w o?”
“W hat s le ep in g p ills ?” R osly n a sk ed , l o ok in g b affle d .
Nan cy q uic k ly ex pla in ed w hy A m elia h ad oversle p t th e oth er
morn in g.

“I’v e g ro w n t o l o ve A m elia ,” R osly n s a id e m phatic a lly . “ I p ro m is e ,
Nan cy , I w ou ld n ev er h urt h er.”
Rex g la re d a t J ere m ia h .
“L ik ew is e . I w an te d h er to w rit e , n ot sle ep . I th ou gh t sh e w as
gettin g sta le a n d ju st n eed ed a lit tle , w ell, ex cit e m en t to g et h er
goin g a gain . W e w ere g oin g t o t r y o n e m ore t h in g, b ut a s y ou h ea rd ,
Rosly n b ack ed o u t.”
“S o w hy d id n’t y ou m ail m y l e tte rs?” B ess a sk ed R osly n .
Rosly n h ung h er h ea d . “ Y ou a n d th e re st o f A m elia ’s fa n s w ere
ta k in g u p a l o t o f h er t im e. I f ig u re d y ou ’d s to p w rit in g i f y ou g ot n o
re p ly . J ere m ia h t o ld m e t o k eep a ll d is tr a ctio n s a w ay f r o m A m elia .
I’m r e a lly s o rry .”
Jere m ia h t h re w u p h is h an ds. “ L is te n . I ’l l a d m it I w as d esp era te .
Rosly n h ad c o n fid ed to m e th at A m elia w as o n ly o n C hap te r O ne.
The publis h in g co m pan y w as bre a th in g dow n m y neck . And
su ggestio n s a n d h in ts w ere n ’t b udgin g h er. S he ju st w asn ’t w rit in g
fa st e n ou gh .”
Nan cy n od ded . E very th in g J ere m ia h s a id m ad e s e n se . S he k new
th e a gen t h ad n’t w an te d to h urt A m elia , ju st g et th e p ublis h er o ff
his b ack a n d r e ceiv e t h e m on ey h e w as d ue w hen A m elia t u rn ed h er
book i n .
Nan cy t u rn ed t o R osly n . “ D o y ou h ave a n y i d ea w ho e ls e c o u ld b e
pla yin g s o m e v ery d ea d ly t r ic k s o n A m elia ?”
The se cre ta ry sh ook h er h ea d , th en g la n ced h esit a n tly a t R ex .
“N o, e x cep t . . . w ell, I d id o verh ea r R ex t a lk in g o n t h e p hon e. A nd
he s a id s o m eth in g a b ou t g ettin g h is a u nt t o s ig n — no m atte r w hat.”
“W hoa,” c rie d R ex a s e v ery on e lo ok ed a t h im . “ I fin ally th ou gh t
I’d w on m y g old sta r. If y ou sta rt a ccu sin g m e a gain , I’m o u t o f
here .” H e b eg an b ack in g to w ard th e h all, th en tu rn ed an d le ft
quic k ly .
“N ot s o f a st,” B ess w arn ed .
“L et h im g o,” N an cy s a id . “ H e w as p ro b ab ly ju st ta lk in g a b ou t
gettin g h er t o s e ll t h ose f iv e a cre s.”
Jere m ia h s to od u p, t o o. “ I t h in k i n l ig h t o f a ll t h is , I ’d b ette r p ack
my b ags. I d on ’t t h in k m y p re se n ce is g oin g t o h elp A m elia a n y. I ’l l
ju st h ave t o a sk t h e p ublis h er f o r m ore t im e.”

“F ir st, I th in k w e h ave so m e ex pla in in g to d o,” R osly n sa id .
Sta n din g u p str a ig h t, sh e lo ok ed J ere m ia h in th e e y e fo r th e fir st
tim e. “ I w an t A m elia t o k now e v ery th in g.”
“Y ou ’r e r ig h t.” T he a gen t s ig h ed . “ W ell, a fte r
th is , m ayb e I w on ’t
have a b ook or an au th or— or an agen cy ,” h e m utte re d as th ey
hea d ed o u t t h e d oor.
“I d on ’t k now ,” N an cy s a id . “ M ayb e A m elia w ill f o rg iv e y ou .”
The tw o le ft. N an cy a n d B ess w atc h ed th em g o. “ D o y ou b elie v e
th eir s to ry ?” a sk ed B ess, d ro p pin g d ow n o n o n e o f t h e c h air s in t h e
dra w in g r o om .
Nan cy s h ru gged . “ A s c ra zy a s i t s o u nds, i t f it s . T hey d on ’t s e em t o
know an yth in g ab ou t A m elia ’s se cre t pro je ct so th eir actio n s
co u ld n’t b e c o n necte d t o t h at b ook .” S udden ly N an cy f e ll s ile n t.
“U h-o h ,” B ess s a id . “ I k now t h at l o ok . W hat a re y ou t h in kin g?”
“I’m w on derin g a b ou t t h at C on fe d era te c a p a n d M ile s.”
“B ut L ou is e s a id M ile s w as i n t h e g ard en ,” B ess r e m in ded h er.
“I k now ,” sa id N an cy . “ B ut w e c a lle d a n h ou r a fte r th e d riv er
ju m ped f r o m t h e c a rria ge. Y ou s a id y ou rse lf t h e c u lp rit w as i n a b ig
hurry . M ile s c o u ld ’v e m ad e i t b ack h ere j u st i n t im e.”
“Y ou ’r e r ig h t.” B ess’s e y es m et N an cy ’s . “ W hy w ou ld h e b e t r y in g
to s c a re A m elia ?”
Nan cy ’s ey es tw in kle d . “S om etim es dete ctiv es have to fin d
ev id en ce f ir st, t h en f ig u re o u t t h e m otiv e.”
“O h n o!” B ess g ro an ed . “ I k now w hat y ou ’r e t h in kin g. W e’v e g ot
to f in d t h at C on fe d era te u nif o rm .”
Nan cy n od ded . “ W e h ave th e c a p a n d th e b elt
buck le . W e ju st
need t o f in d t h e r e st o f i t — an d w it h l u ck , t h e p erso n w ho s to le i t .”
Bess sto od u p. “C ou nt m e ou t. I’m n ot sn oop in g aro u nd th at
cre ep y o ld g ara ge o r b arn o r w hate v er t h ey c a ll t h eir h om e.”
“Y ou d on ’t h ave t o ,” N an cy a ssu re d B ess. “ Y ou j u st h ave t o m ak e
su re M ile s a n d L ou is e a re b usy s o m ew here e ls e .”
“D oin g w hat?”
Nan cy g rin ned . “ O h, y ou ’l l t h in k o f s o m eth in g.”
“Y ou k now , I d id ju st th in k o f a w ay to d o it ,” sa id B ess. S he
tu rn ed h er b ack to N an cy . “ H elp m e u ncla sp th is lo ck et, w ou ld
you ?”

Nan cy u ndid th e c h ain o f th e lo ck et B ess w ore a ro u nd h er n eck .
She h an ded i t t o h er f r ie n d.
“T han ks,” sa id B ess, dro p pin g th e lo ck et an d ch ain in to her
pock et. “ N ow y ou ju st s it o n th e b ack p orc h a n d w ait fo r M ile s to
co m e i n to t h e h ou se . L ea ve t h e r e st t o m e.”
“O kay, good lu ck ,” sa id N an cy , se a tin g herse lf on a w ic k er
ro ck in g c h air o n t h e p orc h . S he t o ok a f o ld ed b ro ch ure s h e’d g otte n
at t h e m use u m f r o m h er p ock et a n d p re te n ded t o r e a d i t .
She s m ile d w hen s h e h ea rd B ess’s v oic e c o m in g f r o m t h e k it c h en
th ro u gh t h e o p en w in dow . “ I d on ’t b elie v e it , L ou is e ,” B ess w aile d .
“M y c h ain b ro k e j u st a s I w as b en din g o ver t h e s in k. T he l o ck et f e ll
in to t h e d ra in .”
Nan cy c o u ld h ea r L ou is e ’s v oic e, b ut s h e c o u ld n’t m ak e o u t h er
word s. B ess c a m e th ro u gh
lo u d a n d c le a r. “ Y ou m ea n M ile s k now s
how to d o th at? H e c o u ld re a lly ta k e a d ra in a p art?” B ess a sk ed
in nocen tly .
Ten m in ute s la te r N an cy s a w M ile s c o m in g u p th e w alk . H e w as
co m in g f r o m t h e d ir e ctio n o f h is h ou se . N an cy a ssu m ed L ou is e h ad
phon ed h im th ere . H e sto m ped u p th e sta ir s, n od din g cu rtly at
Nan cy b efo re g oin g i n to t h e h ou se .
Nan cy c a su ally s a u nte re d o ff t h e p orc h . W hen s h e w as f a r e n ou gh
fr o m th e h ou se , sh e b ro k e in to a ru n to th e g ara ge. T he u psta ir s
en tr a n ce t o t h e B re w to n s’ lo d gin gs w as a ro u nd t h e b ack . S he w en t
up t h e o u ts id e s ta ir s.
The B re w to n s’ th re e-ro om ap artm en t w as as sp otle ss as th e
man sio n ’s k it c h en . S udden ly N an cy re a liz ed so m eth in g. If a n yon e
was in a p erfe ct p osit io n to s te a l th at C on fe d era te u nif o rm , it w as
Lou is e . T he h ou se k eep er h ad a ccess t o a ll t h e m an sio n ’s r o om s. B ut
why w ou ld L ou is e o r M ile s b e i n te re ste d i n a n o ld u nif o rm ?
Nan cy gla n ced at th e tit le s on th e Bre w to n s’ book sh elf .
Con fe d era te W ar, T he B lu e a n d th e G ra y, U nio n V ic to ry .
O ne o r
both o f t h em w as v ery i n te re ste d i n t h e C iv il W ar. B ut t h en , a l o t o f
so u th ern ers w ere , N an cy r e a so n ed .
Nan cy ’s e y es s w ep t th e r o om . T here w as s im ply n o p la ce to h id e
an yth in g i n t h is s m all, t id y a p artm en t. S he s te p ped i n to t h e k it c h en .
It w as o ld -fa sh io n ed a n d l o ok ed a s i f i t w ere h ard ly e v er u se d . T hat
mad e se n se , N an cy fig u re d . L ou is e did all her
co ok in g at th e

man sio n . N an cy h ad n otic ed t h at M ile s a n d L ou is e e v en a te in t h at
kit c h en .
A l ig h t w en t o n i n N an cy ’s h ea d . S he q uic k ly b eg an s e a rc h in g t h e
kit c h en . T he r e fr ig era to r c o n ta in ed m ilk , b utte r, a n d a f e w o d ds a n d
en ds. T he f r e ezer w as e m pty .
Nan cy p ulle d o p en th e c a b in ets . P ots , p an s a n d d is h es w ere a ll
nea tly s ta ck ed .
Then sh e p ulle d o p en th e d oor to th e sto ve o ven . T here , n ea tly
fo ld ed , w as a g ra y C on fe d era te u nif o rm . N an cy t o ok i t o u t. T he f ir st
th in g sh e ch eck ed w as th e belt . Sure en ou gh , th e buck le w as
mis sin g. I t h ad p ro b ab ly f a lle n o ff in t h e d ark p assa ge w hen L ou is e
or M ile s w as t a k in g i t f r o m t h e h ou se . A nd t h ere w as n o h at, e it h er.
Nan cy f e lt u nea sy a s s h e n otic ed t h at o n e m ore t h in g w as m is sin g—
th e s w ord .
She w as j u st a b ou t s u re M ile s w as t h e d riv er o f t h e c a rria ge. N ow
sh e n eed ed a m otiv e.
Quic k ly , sh e le t h erse lf ou t of th e ap artm en t. S he h ad alm ost
re a ch ed t h e m an sio n w hen a s c re a m r ip ped t h ro u gh t h e a ir . I t c a m e
fr o m t h e m an sio n .
Then a n oth er v oic e c rie d o u t. I t w as A m elia . “ F ir e !” s h e s h rie k ed .
“F ir e !”
Nan cy s p rin te d t o w ard t h e m an sio n a n d d ash ed u p t h e b ack p orc h
ste p s. S he fo llo w ed th e sm ell of th e sm ok e dow n th e hall— to
Am elia ’s o ffic e.

16
Fam ily S ec rets
W it h a c ry , A m elia s ta rte d i n to t h e b urn in g r o om .
Nan cy g ra b bed h er a rm a n d p ulle d h er b ack . “ N o!” s h e c rie d . “ It’s
t o o d an gero u s.”
“B ut m y p ap ers. A ll m y w ork !” T he w om an ’s fa ce w as a sh en a s
s h e s ta re d a t t h e f la m es.
“W here ’s a f ir e e x tin gu is h er?” a sk ed N an cy .
Am elia w aved h er c a n e t o w ard t h e h all c lo se t. “ In t h ere .”
Ju st th en B ess c a m e r u nnin g d ow n th e s ta ir s. W hen s h e s a w th e
f ir e , s h e s h ou te d f o r h elp o ver h er s h ou ld er.
Nan cy g ra b bed B ess’s a rm . “ H old o n t o A m elia . D on ’t l e t h er g o i n
t h at r o om !” T hen s h e r a n f o r t h e c lo se t.
Nan cy p ulle d o u t th e e x tin gu is h er ju st a s R osly n
ca m e fr o m th e
k it c h en w it h o n e in h er h an d. T he tw o o f th em s te p ped c a u tio u sly
i n to t h e s m ok e-fille d o ffic e.
They s p ra yed f o am e v ery w here . N an cy c o n cen tr a te d o n t h e s ta ck s
o f p ap ers. T hey h ad q uic k ly ca u gh t fir e a n d m ost o f th em w ere
d estr o yed . L uck ily , N an cy a n d R osly n h ad b een in t im e t o k eep t h e
f u rn it u re a n d t h e r e st o f t h e h ou se f r o m c a tc h in g f ir e .
Fin ally th e la st fla m e was sm oth ere d . Nan cy lo w ere d th e
e x tin gu is h er. S ile n tly , t h e f o u rso m e s u rv ey ed t h e d am age. T he r o om
w as a m ess.
“W hat h ap pen ed ?” M ile s B re w to n ’s v oic e b ro k e t h e s ile n ce. N an cy
t u rn ed a n d lo ok ed a t h im . F or a s e co n d t h ere w as a n e x pre ssio n o f
s h ock o n h is f a ce— th en h e l o ok ed c o m ple te ly b la n k.
“I’l l c le a n i t u p,” h e s a id g ru ffly .
“N o!” A m elia blo ck ed his w ay w it h her ca n e. “I don ’t w an t
a n yon e to u ch in g a th in g. S hut th e ro om u p. I’m g oin g u psta ir s to

re st. P le a se s e n d u p m y d in ner o n a t r a y.” S he s lo w ly m ad e h er w ay
up t h e h all.
“Y ou h ea rd h er,” L ou is e s a id . S he h ad b een w atc h in g th e s c en e
quie tly f r o m t h e h all. F ir m ly , s h e c lo se d t h e d oor o n t h e b la ck , s o ggy
mess o f a n o ffic e. “ D in ner i s i n a n h ou r, M ile s.” L ou is e m otio n ed t o
her h usb an d, a n d th e tw o w en t in to th e k it c h en ju st a s J ere m ia h
ca m e i n f r o m o u ts id e.
“W hat’s g oin g o n h ere ?” h e a sk ed . R osly n g estu re d to w ard th e
clo se d o ffic e d oor. “ O h m y!” s a id
th e a gen t a s h e o p en ed t h e d oor.
“T here g oes a n y h op e f o r a b ook i n t h e n ea r f u tu re .”
“D on ’t y ou e v er t h in k o f a n yon e b ut y ou rse lf ?” R osly n d em an ded .
Nan cy p ut a h an d o n h er a rm . “ W here w ere y ou b oth ?” s h e a sk ed .
Rosly n s to p ped c o ld . “ Y ou ’r e n ot a ccu sin g u s . . . m e?”
“Y es, w e a re !” B ess s a id a n grily .
“S pare m e!” J ere m ia h s la m med t h e d oor. “ T his is it . I ’m le a vin g.
Am elia p ersu ad ed m e t o s ta y, t h ou gh I h ave n o id ea w hy I lis te n ed
to h er. N ow I h ave s o m e y ou ng g ir l i n te rro gatin g m e.”
“M r. S to n e.” N an cy ’s voic e w as lo w an d se rio u s. “S om e very
str a n ge t h in gs a re g oin g o n a ro u nd h ere . I n eed y ou r h elp i n f in din g
ou t w ho’s b eh in d t h em . A m elia n eed s y ou r h elp .”
The a gen t w as s ile n t.
“W e w ere w alk in g in th e g ard en ,” R osly n sa id q uie tly . “ I c a m e
back a h ea d o f J ere m ia h .”
“D id y ou s e e R ex ?” B ess a sk ed .
“N o, a s a m atte r o f f a ct, w e d id n’t ,” s a id R osly n .
Bess a n d N an cy l o ok ed a t e a ch o th er.
“I’m g oin g u psta ir s t o c h eck o n A m elia ,” R osly n s a id .
“I’l l g o fin d R ex ,” J ere m ia h v olu nte ere d . “ I’m s u re h e’l l w an t to
know w hat h ap pen ed .”
“W hen y ou f in d h im , t e ll h im I ’d l ik e t o t a lk t o h im ,” s a id N an cy .
Afte r th ey h ad le ft, N an cy o p en ed th e o ffic e d oor
an d to ok o n e
la st lo ok . S he n ote d th at th e w in dow fa cin g th e b ack g ard en w as
op en .
“A nyon e c o u ld ’v e to sse d a m atc h in h ere fr o m o u ts id e,” s h e s a id
to B ess a s s h e b en t d ow n t o c h eck u nder t h e w in dow .
“Y ea h ,” B ess a gre ed . “ It w ou ld o n ly h ave t a k en a s e co n d f o r t h ese
pap ers t o c a tc h o n f ir e .”

Nan cy h eld u p a t in y, c h arre d p ie ce o f w ood .
“It lo ok s lik e a w ood en m atc h stic k ,” s a id B ess, “ b ut it ’s h ard to
te ll.”
Nan cy d ro p ped i t o n t h e h ea p o f b urn t t h in gs. “ Y ou ’r e r ig h t. N on e
of o u r c lu es s e em t o h elp u s m ove f o rw ard o n t h is c a se .”
Bess knelt dow n besid e her. “D id you fin d an yth in g at th e
Bre w to n s’? ”
Nan cy n od ded . “ Y ep . T he u nif o rm .”
“W ow ! T hen i t
was
M ile s.”
“I th in k so ,” sa id N an cy . S he sto od u p a n d su rv ey ed th e ro om ,
th en l o ok ed b ack a t B ess. “ T he m ore I t h in k a b ou t t h is m yste ry , t h e
more c erta in I a m t h at t h e s o lu tio n l ie s w it h A m elia a n d h er w rit in g.
Oth erw is e , w hy w ou ld s o m eo n e b urn h er p ap ers? S he’s b een k eep in g
so m eth in g f r o m u s . . . a n d n ow i t ’s t im e t o f in d o u t w hat t h at i s .”
• • •
Afte r d in ner, B ess a n d N an cy k nock ed o n A m elia ’s b ed ro om d oor.
“C om e i n .”
Nan cy p ush ed t h e d oor o p en , a n d t h e g ir ls p eere d in sid e. A m elia
waved t h em i n .
“I w as ex pectin g you ,” th e w om an sa id . S he w as se a te d in a
ro ck er, s ta rin g o u t t h e w in dow . “ L ook a t t h at v ie w .”
The su n w as se ttin g, a n d th e sk y o ver th e riv er h ad tu rn ed a
sm ok y p in k.
“It’s b ea u tif u l,” a gre ed N an cy .
“S o y ou w an t t o k now w hy s o m eo n e s e t m y o ffic e o n f ir e ,” A m elia
sa id , s till s ta rin g o u t t h e w in dow .
“T hat’s r ig h t,” N an cy s a id . S he s a t o n t h e f lo or n ex t t o B ess. “ W e
know y ou ’v e b een k eep in g s o m eth in g fr o m u s,” N an cy b eg an . “ W e
fo u nd o u t a b ou t t h e f a k e m an usc rip t. W e r e co gn iz ed it a s y ou r f ir st
book .”
Am elia la u gh ed . “ G ood fo r y ou , d ea r. R osly n h ad n o id ea . I to ld
her ju st th is a fte rn oon . T hen w e b ro k e it to J ere m ia h . H e’s n ot th e
on ly o n e w ho c a n p la y t r ic k s.”
“W e a ls o r e a d y ou r c o n tr a ct. Y ou w ere s u ppose d t o b e w ork in g o n
a
non fic tio n
b ook a b ou t t h e C iv il W ar,” s a id N an cy . “ W hy d id y ou
keep i t s u ch a b ig s e cre t— ev en f r o m y ou r a gen t?”

Am elia s ig h ed . “ It w as t o b e a b ook a b ou t m y g re a t- g ra n dpare n ts .
I w as s o e x cit e d . I t h ou gh t i t w ou ld b e a w ay t o l e a rn m ore a b ou t m y
fa m ily ’s h is to ry a s w ell a s w rit e a n im porta n t b ook . I w an te d to
keep th e p ro je ct a se cre t b eca u se I d id n’t th in k Jere m ia h , o r m y
fa n s, w ou ld a p pro ve. E very on e i s u se d t o g ettin g n ovels f r o m A m elia
Bea u fo rt. U nfo rtu nate ly , a fte r I b eg an m y re se a rc h , I, to o, b eg an
wis h in g I ’d s tu ck t o f ic tio n .”
“W hy? W hat c o u ld b e s o h orrib le th at y ou ’d w an t to g iv e u p th e
whole p ro je ct?” N an cy a sk ed .
Wit h a s ig h , A m elia p ic k ed u p h er c a n e. U sin g th e tip o f it , s h e
pre sse d o n th e w all b elo w th e w in dow . A s m all r e cta n gle o f w ood
pop ped o u t, r e v ea lin g a h ole i n t h e w all. I n t h e h ole w as a b ook .
Nan cy re a ch ed in an d p ulle d it ou t. It w as b ou nd in cra ck ed
le a th er a n d l o ok ed v ery o ld .
“M y g re a t- g ra n dfa th er’s j o u rn al,” A m elia s a id . “ A bou t a y ea r a go,
when I b eg an re se a rc h in g m y b ook , I ca m e acro ss a le tte r h e’d
writ te n to m y g re a t- g ra n dm oth er. In it h e m en tio n ed a p an el in a
bed ro om w all. H e to ld h er h e’d h id den a g u n th ere a n d th at sh e
sh ou ld u se i t a t a n y s ig n o f t r o u ble .
“N atu ra lly , I w as c u rio u s, b ut i t t o ok m e m on th s t o f in d t h e p an el.
That’s w hen I d is c o vere d t h e j o u rn al.”
“Y ou m ust h ave b een r e a lly e x cit e d !” B ess s a id .
“E csta tic . It w as a n a n sw er to a w rit e r’s d re a m s. I w as g oin g to
base m y w hole b ook o n t h e j o u rn al.”
“W hat h ap pen ed ?”
“I fo u nd o u t th at C olo n el A sh le y B ea u fo rt d id n’t d ie a h ero . H e
die d a t h ie f a n d a t r a it o r.” A m elia ’s v oic e w as b it te r. S he o p en ed t h e
book a n d c a re fu lly t h um bed t h ro u gh t o t h e b ack p ages. “ W hy d on ’t
you r e a d t h e l a st e n tr y a lo u d.” S he h an ded i t t o N an cy .
Nan cy cle a re d h er th ro at a n d b eg an to re a d . “
  ‘I h aven ’t m uch
tim e. C harle sto n is in fla m es. I a m p re p arin g to d ig u p th e g old .
Lie u te n an t P . a n d I
burie d i t a t t h e p oin t o f t h e M . T he l ie u te n an t i s
so g u llib le . H e t h in ks h is f a m ily g old is g oin g t o E ngla n d t o b e s o ld
fo r a rm s. I e v en c o n vin ced h im t o h elp m e b ury i t — I s a id i t w as t h e
on ly w ay t o s a fe g u ard it f r o m Y an kee t h ie v es. N ow I w ill g o d ig it
up a n d a d d it to th e fo rtu ne I’v e a m asse d b y ste a lin g fr o m o th er
sh ip m en ts . T han k G od n o o n e w ill b e th e w is e r. T he sh ip it w as

in te n ded f o r s a n k i n t h e h arb or. N ow I m ust g et i t a n d f le e w it h m y
fa m ily . T here i s n o t im e.’
  ”
When N an cy f in is h ed r e a d in g, t h ere w as a l o n g s ile n ce.
“H e sto le fr o m th e C on fe d era te a rm y,” A m elia sa id a n grily . “ It
was h is jo b to m ak e su re th e g old a n d je w els g ot o n th e sh ip s to
Engla n d. W hen h e s a w t h e S ou th w as lo sin g, h e t u rn ed o n h is o w n
peo p le .”
“H e m ust’v e b een d esp era te ,” B ess s a id g en tly .
“I d on ’t c a re !” A m elia r e to rte d . “ H e is s till a t r a it o r t o m e a n d t o
an yon e e ls e w ho’d f in d o u t t h e t r u th .”
“W hic h i s w hy y ou q uit w rit in g t h e b ook ?” a sk ed N an cy .
Am elia nod ded w ea rily . “Y es. F or gen era tio n s m y fa m ily has
prid ed it s e lf o n b ein g d esc en ded fr o m a h ero . I w asn ’t a b ou t to
re v ea l A sh le y ’s d is g ra ce to a n yon e, so I c o u ld n’t d o th e C iv il W ar
book I’d p la n ned o n su rp ris in g th e w orld w it h . In th e m ea n tim e
Jere m ia h w as p re ssu rin g m e, t e llin g m e m y f a n s w ou ld d ese rt m e if
th ere w asn ’t a n ew A m elia
Bea u fo rt b ook o u t so on . H e th ou gh t I
was w ork in g o n a b ook c a lle d ‘C olo n ia l H ero ,’ so I p re te n ded m y
fir st b ook w as t h at b ook . S in ce n eit h er h e n or R osly n h ad e v er r e a d
Love i n A tla n ta ,
t h ey n ev er c a u gh t o n .”
“D id n’t R osly n e v er n otic e y ou w ork in g o n th e C iv il W ar b ook ?”
ask ed B ess.
“N o, m y d ea r,” A m elia r e p lie d . “ O rig in ally I ’d p la n ned o n t e llin g
her a b ou t m y s e cre t p ro je ct, b ut th en I m ad e th at a w fu l d is c o very
ab ou t A sh le y . A fte r t h at, I j u st k ep t h er b usy t y p in g.”
As N an cy lis te n ed in s ile n ce, h er m in d w as r a cin g. “ A m elia ,” s h e
beg an , “ if A sh le y ’s se cre t w as n ev er re v ea le d , th en th e g old m ay
nev er h ave b een f o u nd.”
“I a ssu m e h e d ug it u p b efo re h e d ie d ,” a n sw ere d A m elia . “ B ut
what b eca m e o f i t , I h ave n o i d ea .”
“W hat if h e n ev er g ot th e c h an ce to d ig it u p?” N an cy s u ggeste d
ex cit e d ly . “ W hat if it ’s s till h ere a n d th at’s w hy s o m eo n e h as b een
tr y in g t o s c a re y ou ?”
“I d on ’t u ndersta n d,” s a id A m elia .
“I t h in k s o m eh ow s o m eo n e k now s t h ere ’s g old h ere ,” s a id N an cy .
“A nd t h at p erso n w an ts y ou o ff t h e e sta te t o b e f r e e t o s e a rc h f o r i t .
And t h e o n ly w ay t o d o t h at i s t o s c a re y ou o ff.”

“B ut w hy i s a ll t h is s u dden ly h ap pen in g n ow ?” A m elia a sk ed .
“M y g u ess is th at o u r c u lp rit k now s y ou ’v e fo u nd th is jo u rn al.
Befo re t h is , h e o r s h e h ad t im e. N ow ,
whoev er i t i s i s a fr a id t h at t h e
jo u rn al i s g oin g t o g iv e y ou t h e c lu e y ou n eed t o f in d t h e g old f ir st,”
Nan cy s p ecu la te d .
“W ho’s o u r m ain s u sp ect n ow ?” a sk ed B ess.
“T here ’s R osly n ,” s a id N an cy . “ S he h ad a ccess t o A m elia ’s n ote s.
And w e k now s h e c a n b e b rib ed . S he c o u ld b e in it w it h J ere m ia h .
Then th ere a re th e B re w to n s.” N an cy p la ced h er h an d o n A m elia ’s
arm . “ I f o u nd y ou r s to le n u nif o rm a t t h e B re w to n s’ a p artm en t.”
“N o!” crie d A m elia , sh ock ed . “B ut th en , L ou is e has alw ays
ad m ir e d i t . P erh ap s t e m pta tio n g ot t h e b ette r o f h er. I t d oesn ’t p ro ve
an yth in g. N ot r e a lly .”
“I h ave so m e g ood n ew s, th ou gh .” N an cy sm ile d . “ I d on ’t th in k
Rex w ou ld t r y t o s e ll o ff f iv e a cre s o f la n d if h e t h ou gh t g old m ig h t
be b urie d o n i t .”
“T hat is good new s,” sa id A m elia . “R ex hate s th e sta te of
dis re p air t h at t h e m an sio n h as f a lle n i n to , b ut h e l o ves t h e p la ce. A s
a b oy, h e l o ved t o p la y o n t h e g ro u nds n ea r t h e r o se b ush es.”
Sudden ly N an cy ’s f a ce b rig h te n ed . “ T he r o se b ush es!” s h e c rie d .
“W hat a b ou t t h em ?” a sk ed B ess.
“T hin k. T he p oin t o f t h e M . T he r o se b ush es.”
Am elia sh ook h er c a n e e x cit e d ly . “ T he ro se s a re p la n te d in th e
sh ap e o f a n M fo r M agn olia M an sio n . It’s n ot s o e a sy to te ll n ow ,
th ey ’r e s o s tr a ggly . B ut in m y c h ild hood t h ey w ere p ru ned c a re fu lly
in to a n M s h ap e.”
Nan cy h elp ed A m elia t o h er f e et. “ C om e o n ,”
sh e s a id . “ W e’v e g ot
so m e d ig gin g t o d o b efo re i t ’s c o m ple te ly d ark o u ts id e.”
“Y ou a n d A m elia h ea d fo r th e ro se s,” N an cy to ld B ess a t th e
botto m o f t h e s ta ir s. “ I’l l g o f o r a s h ovel.”
Nan cy r e a ch ed t h e g ara ge, g la d t h at t h e w in dow s i n t h e B re w to n s’
ap artm en t a b ove w ere d ark . S he f o u nd a s h ovel a n d s p rin te d t o t h e
ro se g ard en .
“O ver h ere .” B ess w aved .
“T he le tte r M h as th re e p oin ts ,” sa id A m elia a s N an cy jo in ed
th em . “ T he c en te r p oin t, a n d t h e t w o p oin ts a t t h e t o p . L et’s s ta rt a t
th e c en te r p oin t.”

Nan cy d ug th e s h ovel in . S he d ug a b ou t s e v en in ch es. T hen B ess
to ok a t u rn . S oon t h ey h ad d ug a h ole a b ou t a f o ot d eep .
Tak in g th e sh ovel b ack fr o m B ess, N an cy w ip ed h er b ro w a n d
beg an t o d ig a gain . I t w as d ark o u t n ow , a n d s h e c o u ld n’t s e e m uch
as s h e ja b bed t h e s h ovel in to t h e b otto m o f t h e h ole in f r u str a tio n .
Clu nk!
“T hat s o u nds l ik e m eta l t o m e!” c rie d B ess.
Usin g th e s id e o f th e s h ovel, N an cy s c ra p ed a w ay m ore d ir t a n d
knelt d ow n. G le a m in g i n t h e m oon lig h t w as t h e t o p o f a b ox .
“I d on ’t b elie v e i t ,” s a id A m elia i n a n a sto n is h ed w his p er.
“S te p b ack ,” c a m e a c o ld v oic e f r o m b eh in d A m elia . “ T hat g old i s
min e.”

17
Am elia ’s N ew B ook
N an cy w hir le d a ro u nd. It w as L ou is e B re w to n ! S he w as sta n din g
b eh in d th em , a C on fe d era te sw ord g ra sp ed w it h b oth h an ds a n d
r a is e d h ig h o ver h er h ea d . “ T hat g old b elo n gs t o m e!” s h e c rie d .
Am elia a n d t h e g ir ls t o ok a f e w s te p s b ack w ard .
“L ou is e , p le a se , y ou ’r e g oin g to h urt s o m e— ” A m elia b eg an , b ut
L ou is e d id n’t le t h er f in is h . S he k ic k ed t h e c a n e a w ay f r o m A m elia
a n d w it h o n e a rm g ra b bed h er a ro u nd th e n eck . “ W ou ld n’t it b e
i r o n ic if y ou r g re a t- g ra n dfa th er’s o w n tr a it o ro u s b la d e w ere u se d
a gain st y ou !” s h e s a id , h er e y es f la sh in g w it h a n ger.
“T hat’s e n ou gh , L ou is e !” M ile s B re w to n c a lle d , ru nnin g to w ard
t h em . “ I s a id , e n ou gh .”
“G o a w ay, M ile s,” L ou is e s n ap ped . “ T his d oesn ’t c o n cern y ou .”
“Y es, i t d oes,” h e p ro te ste d . “ I’v e h ad e n ou gh o f y ou r o b se ssio n .”
“W hat a m I s u ppose d to d o, M ile s?” L ou is e r a n te d , s till h old in g
A m elia tig h t. “S hou ld I fo rg et th at A sh le y B ea u fo rt sto le m y
f a m ily ’s f o rtu ne? S hou ld I f o rg et t h at t h e h ig h a n d m ig h ty B ea u fo rts
h ave been para d in g aro u nd lik e sa in ts when th ey ’r e re a lly
d esc en ded f r o m a t h ie f a n d a t r a it o r? S hou ld I f o rg et t h at m em bers
o f t h e P rin gle f a m ily n ow w ork a s s e rv an ts b eca u se A sh le y B ea u fo rt
s to le a ll t h eir m on ey ?”
“Y ou r g re a t- g ra n dfa th er w as L ie u te n an t P . in t h e jo u rn al, w asn ’t
h e?” N an cy s a id .
“H e c erta in ly w as,” L ou is e re p lie d . “ H e d is c o vere d th at A sh le y
B ea u fo rt h ad sw in dle d h im , b ut it w as to o la te . C harle sto n w as
b urn in g a n d h e d ie d d efe n din g it . B ut m y g re a t- g ra n dm oth er liv ed ,
a n d s h e k new o f B ea u fo rt’s g u ilt , e v en t h ou gh n o o n e b elie v ed h er.”
“T hat w as l o n g a go— ” A m elia s ta rte d t o s a y.

“F am ily hon or is fa m ily hon or,” L ou is e sn arle d . Slo w ly , sh e
lo w ere d t h e s w ord t o A m elia ’s t h ro at.
Nan cy s p ra n g f o rw ard , h urlin g h erse lf a t L ou is e . L ou is e s ta ggere d
back , le ttin g g o o f A m elia a n d d ro p pin g t h e s w ord . N an cy g ra b bed
th e h ou se k eep er b y t h e w ais t a n d p ulle d h er t o t h e g ro u nd.
Im med ia te ly , B ess w as b esid e N an cy . S he p in ned L ou is e ’s a rm s t o
th e g ro u nd.
Rex r u sh ed u p, a n o p en s h ir t f lu ng o ver h is p aja m as. “ I s a w s o m e
of w hat w as h ap pen in g fr o m th e w in dow ,” h e sa id . “ I c a lle d th e
polic e.”
“G ood ,” s a id N an cy , g ettin g u p o ff L ou is e . B ess le t g o, to o, a n d
Mile s h elp ed h is w if e t o h er f e et.
“L ou is e ’s fa m ily h as b een ob se sse d fo r yea rs w it h fin din g th e
gold ,” M ile s e x pla in ed . H is v oic e s o u nded fla t a n d w ea ry . “ B ut n o
on e i n t h e f a m ily k new w here i t w as b urie d .”
“Is th at w hy th e tw o o f y ou w ork ed o n th e e sta te fo r a ll th ese
yea rs?” a sk ed A m elia , l e a n in g h ea vily o n R ex .
Mile s nod ded . “S he co n vin ced m e w e w ou ld fin d th e gold
so m ed ay, a n d th en w e’d ju st q uie tly le a ve. E very th in g w ou ld h ave
been fin e if y ou h ad n’t sta rte d re se a rc h in g th at b ook . L ou is e sa w
so m e of you r n ote s ab ou t th e C iv il W ar p ro je ct w hile sh e w as
cle a n in g. S he w as c o n vin ced t h at y ou w ere o n t h e t r a il o f t h e g old .
And o n ce y ou f o u nd t h e j o u rn al, w e g ot d esp era te .”
“B ut h ow d id s h e k now I ’d f o u nd i t ?” a sk ed A m elia .
“B eca u se you ta lk in you r sle ep ,” L ou is e sn arle d . “Y ou w ere
asle ep i n a c h air o n e d ay. Y ou s ta rte d r a n tin g a b ou t t h e a w fu l t r u th
in t h e b ook . Y ou m um ble d a b ou t s to le n g old .”
“Y ou d o ta lk in y ou r sle ep ,” sa id B ess g en tly . “ I’v e h ea rd y ou
myse lf .”
“S o y ou w ere d esp era te e n ou gh t o c u t m y a u nt’s b ra k es? A nd d ro p
a c h an delie r o n h er h ea d ?” s a id R ex a n grily . “ Y ou d id n’t e v en c a re i f
you h urt i n nocen t g u ests , t o o?”
Mile s n od ded , l o ok in g a t t h e g ro u nd. “ W e’v e s p en t o u r w hole l iv es
lo ok in g f o r t h at g old ,” h e s a id q uie tly . “ T he t h ou gh t o f l o sin g i t w as
to o m uch .”
The so u nd of polic e sir e n s fille d th e air . A t th e sa m e tim e,
Jere m ia h an d R osly n ra n to w ard th em fr o m th e hou se . In th e

co n fu sio n , L ou is e j e rk ed f r o m h er h usb an d’s g ra sp .
She t h re w h erse lf o n t h e h ole N an cy a n d B ess h ad d ug a n d b eg an
cla w in g t h e d ir t. “ I’v e f o u nd it !” s h e s o b bed . “ A fte r a ll t h ese y ea rs
I’v e f o u nd t h e g old !”
• • •
“S o w hat’s g oin g t o h ap pen t o L ou is e a n d M ile s?” R osly n a sk ed t h e
nex t m orn in g a t b re a k fa st.
“W e’r e pre ssin g ch arg es, of co u rse ,” Rex an sw ere d . “T hey
co u ld ’v e s e rio u sly h urt s o m eo n e.”
He p ush ed b ack h is c h air , h avin g a lr e a d y w olf e d d ow n h is e g gs
an d baco n . N an cy an d B ess had fix ed a fa re w ell bre a k fa st fo r
ev ery on e.
“I’m h op in g L ou is e w ill re ceiv e so m e h elp ,” A m elia to ld th em .
“H er o b se ssio n to ok o ver h er lif e .” S he s h ook h er h ea d . “ T o th in k
th at a ll t h ese y ea rs I t h ou gh t t h e B re w to n s w ere f a m ily .”
“W it h f a m ily lik e t h at, y ou w ou ld n’t n eed e n em ie s,” B ess s a id . “ I
mea n , th ey w ere th e p erfe ct
te a m . L ou is e , th e h ou se k eep er, a lw ays
knew w ho w as g oin g w here a n d d oin g w hat.”
“T hen sh e h ad M ile s d o th e d ir ty w ork ,” N an cy a d ded . “ L ik e
pre te n din g t o b e t h e c a rria ge d riv er. A nd s a b ota gin g t h e b oat.”
“Y ou w on der h ow L ou is e c o n vin ced M ile s t o g o a lo n g w it h h er,”
Rosly n s a id .
“G re ed an d lo ve, d ea r ch ild , are th e old est m otiv ato rs in th e
world ,” J ere m ia h c h im ed i n , s e ttin g d ow n h is c o ffe e c u p.
“B ut w hy d id t h ey a tta ck y ou g ir ls ?” a sk ed R osly n .
“L ou is e m ust have ea vesd ro p ped eit h er on m y fir st phon e
co n versa tio n w it h A m elia o r fr o m th e se cre t p assa gew ay,” N an cy
ex pla in ed . “ S he f o u nd o u t r ig h t a w ay w e w ere h ere t o h elp A m elia
an d fig u re d so on er o r la te r o n e o f u s w ou ld g et to th e b otto m o f
what w as h ap pen in g a t t h e m an sio n . S he w an te d t o s c a re u s o ff t h e
ca se .”
Bess s h uddere d . “ It n ea rly w ork ed t h e d ay t h e c h an delie r a lm ost
hit u s. I w as r e a d y t o g o h om e.”
Jere m ia h cle a re d h is th ro at. “ I g u ess R osly n a n d I d id n’t h elp
matte rs a n y. O ur d ra m atic t o u ch es t o g et A m elia w rit in g f it te d r ig h t
in w it h t h eir s c h em e.”

Nan cy n od ded . “ B oth y ou a n d R ex h elp ed k eep t h e f o cu s o ff t h em
by b ein g p erfe ct s u sp ects .”
Rex c h uck le d . “ T han k g ood ness t h at’s o ver.”
“I a gre e,” sa id J ere m ia h . “ N ow A m elia c a n g et to
work o n h er
new b ook . I t h in k w e’l l h ave a b ests e lle r o n o u r h an ds.”
“It’s c a lle d
Charle sto n B rid e,”
A m elia to ld th em . “ It’s a ll a b ou t
my g re a t- g ra n dm oth er a n d h er c h ild re n ’s h osp it a l. I ’l l a d d t h e p art
ab ou t m y g re a tg ra n dfa th er’s s m ugglin g t o s p ic e i t u p.”
“Y ou d on ’t c a re i f i t t a rn is h es y ou r f a m ily ’s h is to ry ?” a sk ed B ess.
“I’v e le a rn ed o n e th in g fr o m a ll th is ,” s a id A m elia . “ T he p ast is
th e p ast. I d on ’t w an t to e n d u p o b se sse d w it h it lik e p oor L ou is e .
Besid es, I ’v e d on ate d t h e c o in s t o t h e h is to ric a l s o cie ty . T hat s h ou ld
in su re m y s ta n din g i n C harle sto n s o cie ty .”
“A unt A m elia , y ou d id n’t !” c rie d R ex .
“D on ’t w orry , d ea r b oy.” A m elia l a u gh ed . “ I k ep t e n ou gh a sid e t o
sp ru ce th is p la ce u p a n d p ay th e b ills — wit h ou t th e sa le o f fiv e
acre s.”
Rex sm ile d b ro ad ly . “ T hat’s th e fir st g ood n ew s I’v e h ea rd in a
lo n g t im e.”
Jere m ia h r a is e d h is g la ss o f o ra n ge ju ic e. “ L et’s d rin k a to ast to
Am elia ’s n ew b ook .”
They c lin ked g la sse s. “ T o b e d ed ic a te d to N an cy D re w a n d B ess
Marv in ,” A m elia a d ded .
When th ey ’d fin is h ed th eir ju ic e, R ex sto od u p. “ A re y ou tw o
pack ed f o r t h e a ir p ort?” h e a sk ed N an cy a n d B ess.
“Y es. B ut th at re m in ds m e,” sa id B ess. “I ca n ’t fin d m y n ew
lip stic k . I t w as i n m y m ak eu p c a se .”
Nan cy g rin ned m is c h ie v ou sly . “ I b elie v e I sa w
Rex ru m magin g
th ro u gh y ou r c a se j u st t h e o th er d ay. M ayb e h e h as i t .”
Rex g ro an ed lo u dly . “ I c a n ’t w in w it h y ou tw o. D on ’t y ou e v er
giv e u p?”
Nan cy s h ook h er h ea d , t h en g rin ned w id ely . “ N ev er.”

T his b ook i s a w ork o f f ic tio n . N am es, c h ara cte rs, p la ces a n d i n cid en ts a re e it h er t h e
p ro d uct o f t h e a u th or’s i m agin atio n o r a re u se d f ic tit io u sly . A ny r e se m bla n ce t o a ctu al
e v en ts o r l o ca le s o r p erso n s, l iv in g o r d ea d , i s e n tir e ly c o in cid en ta l.
A M IN STR EL P A PE RBA CK
ORIG IN AL
A M in str e l B ook , p ublis h ed b y
P O CK ET B O OK S, a d iv is io n o f S im on & S ch uste r I n c.
1 230 A ven ue o f t h e A m eric a s, N ew Y ork , N Y 1 0020
w ww.S im on an dS ch uste r.c o m
C op yrig h t © 1 990 b y S im on & S ch uste r I n c.
C over a rt c o p yrig h t © 1 990 A le ta J en ks
P ro d uced b y M eg a-B ook s o f N ew Y ork , I n c.
A ll r ig h ts r e se rv ed , i n clu din g t h e r ig h t t o r e p ro d uce t h is b ook o r p ortio n s t h ere o f i n a n y
f o rm w hats o ev er. F or i n fo rm atio n a d dre ss P ock et B ook s, 1 230 A ven ue o f t h e A m eric a s,
N ew Y ork , N Y 1 0020
I S B N : 0 -6 71-6 9282-8
I S B N -1 3: 9 78-1 -4 814-0 195-1 ( e B ook )
F ir st M in str e l B ook s p rin tin g O cto b er 1 990
N AN CY D REW , N AN CY D REW M YSTE RY S TO RIE S, A M IN STR EL B O OK a n d c o lo p hon
a re r e g is te re d t r a d em ark s o f S im on & S ch uste r I n c.
X