Malaya’s Backyard Mystery
This book is dedicated to:
My family: my Mom, Angela Babb, my Dad, Jeff Babb, my Grammie, or “Grams,” Wanda Payne, my Papaw, Jim Payne, my Grandmom, Judy Babb, my Granddad, Wendal Babb, and the rest of my family.
My friends: Gracie Lynn Fried, Emeline Hewett, Madalyne Jones, Emma Logan, Kahlie Logan, Leah Saunders, Savannah Snyder, Brianna Snyder, Delancey Whitlow, Darcey Whitlow, and the rest of my friends.
In Hope Falls, GA, a mystery is brewing. Stuff is different and a little awkward. There’s smoke in the forest in Malaya Knotes’ woods at her house. Something’s up. Malaya was not ready for what she was about to experience.
One night, a bullet shot through their house, breaking the statue that her Mom had given her. The next morning, she goes to collect the eggs from the previous day. They got about five eggs a day. She opened the door to get the eggs out, but there weren’t any eggs to collect. Malaya was processing this, and she thought, “I don’t recall having no eggs a single morning since the chickens have been here.” She thought as she went into the house.
Her Dad was still asleep in the bed, since the night before was so terrifying. So she wrote him a note saying:
“Eggs stolen from coop. No eggs left. Went for ride. Will be back before dinner. See you later.
She milked the cow and brought in the can. She saddled her horse and rode out. As she rode, she thought to herself, “Why do I feel so alone all the time? Why does my Dad never really look at me anymore? Maybe it’s because I look so much like Mom used to.” Soon, she was snatched from her thoughts, as she was where she wanted to be. Without telling her Dad, she had seen an isolated spot in the forest that was smoking, but she couldn’t see a fire.
She got off her horse, went around some trees, and then she started to look around. Sure enough, there was a place where the fire had been, and it was still smoldering! She saw a cast iron pan, a lantern, a shovel, a pistol, and… a broken egg! It was definitely fresh, as the yolk was still wet.
She looked at her watch and new that she had to get to her “crew’s” secret clubhouse, or she would be late, again.
Once there, she knew that she was late.
“We were just about to come looking for you, Laya,” said Sally, playfully. Sally, who goes by “Sal,” was Malaya’s best friend.
“Well, well, well I never thought that I’d see the day when the Hope Falls Secret Club, H.F.S.C., president, would be late,” said Ryan sarcastically. Ryan was the silly, sometimes scared one in the group. Laya told them everything that happened the previous night. When she had told the story from A-Z, Will broke the moment-long silence and said, “Ok. Laya, is this true? Or is this another made-up story, like the one where you said that your Dad was going to put the addition on your house, when he never did?”
Malaya responded immediately, “For your information, that was a misunderstanding, not a made-up story.”
“And, the one about the thing that supposedly happened last night?” he shot back.
“Okay, Will, I’ve told a few made-up stories, but,”
“A few made-up stories?” interjected Ryan.
“Yes, a few made-up stories,” repeated Malaya, in a slightly irritated tone. “But this one is NOT made up! I went to the area that the smoke was coming from.”
“And?” Sal asked in a slightly worried tone.
“And, I saw an old campfire. It had a grate and kettle on top of it, but I didn’t see or touch anything.”
“I vote we move to the ‘old’ campsite,” said Will in a confident tone. But before anyone could second the motion, Ryan asked, “Is it safe?”
“Should be,” answered Malaya.
“I second the motion.” agreed Sal.
“I’ll bring my fingerprint test kit!” said Will.
“I’ll bring my lock pick set!” said Sal.
“I’ll bring my camera.” said Malaya, softly.
“I’ll bring my safety kit and first aid kit!” shouted Ryan.
“Ryan, you can leave those behind.” said Will.
But, when everyone began to head outside, Ryan stuffed the safety and first aid kits in his backpack. “Just in case,” he thought.
At the campsite, everyone pulled on their latex gloves, “Snap!” as to not leave fingerprints.
“So, when did you see the smoke again, Laya?” Will asked.
“Last night, before the bullet.” She replied.
“Hey guys, over here!” shouted Sal.
“What is it?” asked Laya.
“Footprints!” Sal replied. “Twelve inch long footprints! Just like my Dad’s!”
“Right beside the freshly broken egg that I found, too.” Added Laya. “Oh, there’s the shovel! But, wait a minute, it was by the fire this morning.”
While still deep in thought, Will shouted “Laya, come on. We’re going back to the clubhouse.” But she didn’t hear him. “Laya, come on!” Will shouted again, but she still didn’t hear him.
Distracted by her thoughts, a man sneaked up behind her and grabbed her. Obviously startled, and without thinking, she grabbed the shovel and hit him in the head with it.
As soon as his grip was gone, she got up, stood there for a minute processing everything that had just happened, ran back to her horse and raced back to the clubhouse. Everyone was there already, discussing the fingerprints and things that they had found.
When Laya burst in, rapidly panting, everyone was startled.
“Glad you made it back.” said Will, playfully. Laya, ignoring Will, sat on the floor in between Sal and Will. Malaya secretly had a crush on Will.
“Where were you? What took you so long? What happened?” Sal and Will asked.
“The mysterious camper grabbed me. I got away okay, but I didn’t see his face. He…”
“He what?” interjected Will.
“He had on a silly mask.”
“Mask?” interjected Ryan, scratching his head.
“Yes, a silly, shark mask, like, one used for a play.” said Laya.
After that was said, Malaya glanced at the clock and said, “Oh, I have to get home! See you Monday!” “Okay!” everyone else replied.
Once she was home, Malaya put up her horse, went into the house, put on an apron and got to cooking. Her father had been really sad here lately, since it was the slow season at the Stables and Stalls Law Office where he worked.
“I know! I’ll make his favorite dish! Cheese Ravioli with Spinach Artichoke Dip and chips, sweet tea, and for dessert, Snicker-Doodle Brownies!” Malaya thought.
As she worked, she began to hum.
“What’s for dinner?” a stern but sad voice said as he sat down at the dining room table.
“Your favorite dish, Father.” said Malaya, nervously.
An hour later, Malaya put supper on the table, said the blessing, and as soon as she had said “Amen,” her father dug in.
“This is very good, Malaya. Just as good, if not better than… Scilica? Is that you?”
“No, Father, it’s Malaya, your daughter.”
“Oh.” He said. “I’m not very hungry. It was good, Malaya. I’ll be out in the barn.” When he said that, he had already gotten up from the table and had almost completely disappeared through the kitchen door.
“Okay. Love you.” She responded, but there was no reply. Malaya was left alone to clean up from dinner.
As Malaya put the food in the cabinet and washed the dishes, she began to cry. “It’s not fair!” She shouted. Just then, the phone rang. She walked over to the phone, trying to calm down from the stress she just went through, and she picked up the phone. “Knotes Residence. What can I do for you?” she said in a somber tone.
“Hi. This is Pastor Michael Colts. Is this Malaya Knotes?”
“Yes it is. What can I do for you?” She said in a sad, not-interested tone. Then, she sniffed.
“Are you okay, my dear?” He asked in a sympathetic, caring tone.
“Yes, well, it’s been kind of hard around here.”
“What do you mean? Is it something that I can help you with?”
“Can you talk to my Father?” she asked. “Tomorrow, after Church?”
“Can you come to Church, Miss? He asked gently”
“I won’t go without Father, and he won’t go.”
“Oh. I see. Yes, I could come out there tomorrow, then. Say, two o’clock?”
“See you at two.” She said in a happier, more cheerful voice. But then she quickly added, “Oh, Pastor Colts? Uh, could we keep this a secret until tomorrow?”
“Yes, we most certainly can,” he said.
“Ok. Thank you.”
Malaya put the phone down and began to pray. “Please Lord, help my Father, and please help me to be strong. Amen.”
Malaya woke up at eight o’clock the next morning. She looked at her calendar and realized that it was Sunday. She also remembered that Pastor Colts was coming today. Once out of bed and dressed, she went outside and did her daily tasks. When she came back inside, she realized that she had only two eggs this morning. So she decided to make fried eggs, toast, and bacon.
When she went to wake her Father up, she was surprised to see him already out of bed and dressed. Then she realized that he was looking at her mother’s picture.
“Breakfast is ready.” She chimed in a soft, gentle voice.
“What is it?” he said in a very sad tone.
“Come see.” She replied. “It’s a surprise.” She tried to make it sound soft, gentle, and a bit nicer. Plus, she knew that her Father loved surprises.
“A surprise?” he repeated. “Yes.” She answered politely.
They ate in total and complete silence.
When the meal was over, and the dishes washed and put away, Malaya looked through the cupboard and fridge. All she found was some sandwich supplies. She sighed. “Sandwiches it is.” She thought to herself. So, she began to prepare lunch. She also made a pineapple upside-down cake.
When the clock struck two, she heard a knock on the door. When she had walked over and opened the door, Pastor Michael Colts greeted her politely.
“Good Afternoon. Are you Miss Malaya Knotes?”
“Yes I am.”
“I am Pastor Michael Colts. We spoke on the phone yesterday.”
“Yes. Please, do come in.”
“Thank you,” he said simply.
“I made some lunch. All I have are some sandwiches, tea, and pineapple upside down cake for dessert.”
“Well, that sounds mighty fine to me.” He replied with a smile. Malaya felt a little awkward. She searched for something to say. “Have a seat and make yourself at home.” she said as she poured a glass of tea. “Here you are.” She said as she set the tea down on the table. “I’ll go get Father.”
“Thank you.” He said.
He looked around the home and was in awe. “Such a beautiful home.” he thought to himself.
“Pastor Colts,” Mr. Knotes greeted, politely.
“Mr. Knotes, such a pleasure to see you again. And, please, call me Mike.”
“Ok, but only if you call me Joe.”
“Sure thing, ‘Joe’.”
“I’ll set lunch on the table.” said Malaya.
“Thank you.” Pastor Mike said.
Once lunch was over, Malaya started to clear the table; and Pastor Mike said, “Thank you, Miss Knotes, lunch was quite delicious.”
“You’re welcome.” She replied in a nervous but cheery voice.
After the dishes were washed and had been put away, Pastor Mike said, “Miss Knotes, maybe it would be best if your father and I talk in private, if you don’t mind.” Malaya nodded slightly and went to her room.
As soon as Pastor Colts heard the door shut, he began to talk to Mr. Knotes.
“Mr. Knotes, please let me get straight to the point of why I’m here.” He said in a much more serious tone.
“O…Okay.” He replied. “But, please call me Joe.”
“Of course. Now, Joe, your daughter picked the phone up yesterday when I called. She…She was crying.”
“Crying?” he asked in a serious but surprised tone. “Crying about what?” he said in a more severe tone.
“She was crying because…, well, she said that things were kind of hard around here, and, well, I think, and when I say this, I mean no disrespect, but I think that she has been doing most of the work around here. And…”
“Most of the work!” Joe fumed. “I have been helping out.”
“Ok. Let me ask you a couple of questions and after each one please answer me. Who has been cooking?”
“Malaya.” He answered in a realizing tone.
“Who has been cleaning up before, after, and in between meals?”
“Who has been milking the cow and collecting the eggs diligently every morning since Mrs. Knotes passed away?”
“Who has been handling the bills, computer work, and phone calls?”
There was a pause that lasted several moments. Finally, Pastor Colts asked, “What would the next question be that would be answered with your daughter’s name?”
Joe thought for a minute. “Wh…, Who has been strong for her father through all of this.” Joe replied behind tears.
“You have a very special daughter; but not for the reasons that you probably think,” the pastor said calmly.
“Wh…What do you mean?”
“What do you think that the next question would be that would end with your daughter’s name?”
“I…” Joe started.
“Here is the answer,” the preacher said.
“What?” Joe asked in a disbelieving tone.
“The next question would be, who asked me to come here today, to talk to her Father.”
Joe was speechless.
So the preacher pressed ahead. “What do you want to tell her, now that you know all this, what do you want to tell your daughter?”
“That I’m sorry. That I love her, and I’m here for her. And that I’ll help out and take on more responsibilities.”
“Well, then by all means, tell her everything that you just said, as soon as possible.”
Joe Knotes did not sleep a wink that night. He was planning something very, very special.
The next morning, Malaya woke up and smelled something good. She looked at the clock and saw that it was eight o’clock. She got up and started to get dressed. As she was getting ready, she wondered to herself, “Who’s cooking?”
As she went into the dining room, she saw a huge breakfast and candles that were lit, and the flames were dancing. She also found her father, sitting and smiling at her. “Good morning, Malaya.”
“G…Good morning.” She stuttered.
“Sit.” He pulled out a chair, and she sat. “May I say the blessing this morning?” asked Joe.
“Y…yes. Certainly.” she answered while stuttering.
“Thank you for this food. And Lord, thank you for my sweet daughter, Malaya. Amen.”
She waited for a long moment, trying to figure out what was going on. “What in the world is going on? Is my Dad going crazy?”
“You’d better eat.”
Malaya was jerked from her thoughts.
“What are your plans for today?” he asked.
“Uh, I’m going to school. And after school, I’m going to meet my crew.
“Yeah,” she mumbled. ‘Dad?”
“Are you feeling okay?”
“Yes, Malaya. I’m feeling better than I have in weeks.”
There was silence for a moment. “Malaya?”
“Y…yes Father?” she stammered.
“I need to talk to you.”
“Malaya, I’ve been slacking. I have been slacking in my responsibilities. My chores, my farm, and my life as a Father.”
“Dad…” Malaya whispered in a tone that was full of awe and wonder.
“But no more.” Joe smiled behind tears. “As of now, I promise to help out more, and take on more responsibilities. I’m here for you, and, I love you. Nothing can change that. You are a sweet, beautiful young girl. You have plenty of worth. You deserve a better father than I have been. Would you be willing to give me a second chance to try to become the Father that you deserve most?”
“I love you too, Dad. And, you’re the only Dad that I want to call Father. Even though you don’t need a second chance, I’ll give you one.”
Now, they were both sobbing. They hugged.
At school, the crew waited for the bell to ring.
“Hey, Sal, how’s your dad doing?” Malaya asked.
“Good. He’s still trying to, you know, let Mom go. Even though it’s been six months.”
“Yeah, I know how you feel.”
“So, how’s your dad doing?”
“I don’t know how to explain it.” Laya said slowly.
“What do you mean?”
“This morning was… magical. He made a big breakfast, and he promised to do better. To be better. It was amazing.” Sal and Malaya smiled. “How’re…”
Ding! Ding! Ding! The bell called out. “All right, children, time for school.” VP Cindy called out.
“Oh. I’ll talk to you at lunch.”
A man in the bushes spied on the children as each one went inside. Suddenly, he spotted the girl he was after.
“Girl, you’re mine!” he thought to himself. “All mine.” He whispered to himself. And as he did, a smile came across his face.
School was long. First was Math, then History. Second was Science and Chemistry. Third was art appreciation, and fourth was Language and Grammar.
After school, Malaya said to her crew, “Let’s head to the clubhouse.”
“Hey, I’ve got an idea.”
“What Sal?” inquired Will.
“Why don’t we go by Hope Springs. It’s on our way.”
“Ok.” Laya agreed. “Sure.”
“Why not?” Will and Ryan agreed.
The falls were breathtaking, and the sound was like the sea. The day seemed perfect. But that feeling was soon going to end.
At the clubhouse, it was Malaya’s turn to call the meeting to order. “Meeting come to order. Looks like everyone’s here, so we’ll get on to business.”
“Will, did you find anything interesting on the fingerprint that you collected?”
“No. Whoever was camping had leather or latex gloves on before he touched anything.” He said disappointedly.
“Okay. Sal, did you have to pick any locks?”
“Yes. Just a box that I found under the kettle.”
“Okay. I grabbed the pictures. Let’s take a look.”
Sal opened the box, and Malaya said, “Gold?”
“No. Iron pyrite. Also known as ‘Fool’s Gold’.”
“Well, in this photo a flower is planted. Maybe the shooter likes pretty things.” Malaya suggested.
“Just like my Dad.” related Sal.
“Apparently he or she does, but we all know that we’re still missing something.” Will mused.
“Hey! Let’s sleep at the campsite and ‘camp out’!” Sal suggested.
“Ok!” Will and Malaya shouted in agreement, but Ryan didn’t. “Ryan?” Ryan hesitated. “Ok, ok, I’ll go.”
“All right. It’s settled. Meet say, seven o’clock?” “Ok.” Everyone agreed. So, everyone went home.
“All right, Dad. Going to meet the crew in the woods.” Malaya said in a cheery, excited voice.
“Are you sure that it’s safe?” her Father asked in a worrisome voice.
“Yes, Dad, very safe. I have my phone, so if something comes up, I can and will call you if I need anything. I promise. Oh, I’ve got to go. See you tomorrow. Love you.”
“I love you too, Kiddo. Be careful.” Laya was bursting with a smile. That was the first time she had heard that since her Mother’s funeral. “Oh, dinner’s on the stove. All you’ve got to do is heat it up.” With that being said, she went outside the door.
Once at the campsite, Malaya realized that she was early, so she began to set up camp. When everyone was there, Malaya went over an ideal plan.
“Ok. The shooter/thief should be back tonight. So, let’s hide in some trees, surrounding the campfire. When he, or she, is at the campfire, we’ll surround them from all sides. Will, where are we stationed?”
“Ok. Laya, you go over behind that tree. Ryan, you go by that Maple. I’ll take the Pine. Sal, you’re behind the cedar, and, here’s a phone. When we have them tied up so that they can’t get away, you call nine-one-one. Tell them that we need a police vehicle and where we are. Otherwise, stay behind the tree.” Will instructed. Sal just nodded in response.
Three hours later, a branch cracked.
“Someone’s coming.” Malaya whispered in a panicky voice.
Will started the command. “Ready, aim… now!” Suddenly everyone came out and lunged at the shooter.
He tried to escape, but his efforts failed. Less than two minutes later, he was tied up. “Call nine-one-one!” shouted Malaya.
“Oh!” whispered Sal.
“Nine One One, what’s you’re emergency?” the lady on the other line said.
“This is Sally Anders. I am at one seven five Hope Springs Drive. We need the Police right away. We, my friends and I, caught a dangerous person.”
“Is this your house?”
“No ma’am. It’s my friend, Malaya Knotes’ house.”
“Okay, I’m sending someone out right now. They’ll be there in about fifteen minutes.”
“Ok. Thank you, ma’am.”
Malaya came up after Sal had hung up. “Hey. What did they say?”
“They’re sending the Police out right away.”
“Ok. We’ve got the guy tied up.”
“Know who he is?”
“No…Dad! I’ve got to call Dad.” She had her father on the phone in a few minutes. “Dad?” Malaya almost shouted into the phone.
“Yes, Malaya, is everything okay?”
“Yes. I just need you to do me a favor.”
“Ok, what do you need?”
“I need you to put a note on the door. Here’s what it should say: ‘We’re in the woods. Head straight back until you see a campfire. When you do, you’ll find us.’ Then, after you’ve put the note on the door, head to where it says. I’ll explain when you get here. Oh, could you also bring some matches, flashlights, and batteries please?”
“Uh, sure thing. Be there in a minute.” Click!
When her Dad was there, she explained everything that had happened.
“Well,” he said as he hugged her, “I’m just glad that you’re all okay.”
Just then, the cops came and took the man away. In a few minutes, the head Officer came back and asked, “Where’s Malaya Knotes, Sally Anders, Ryan Wells, and William Seets?”
“We’re all here.” Malaya answered.
“To all of you, good job. You caught a very dangerous criminal tonight. As your reward, no school until it starts in the Fall.”
“Wahoo!” everyone cheered.
“Yes Sir?” “I do not have very good news for you. There’s no easy way to say this, and I also want to tell you that this is the worst part of my job. The criminal is Nathaniel Anders, your Father.”
Sal fell to her knees, and began to cry. “What?” she cried in disbelief. Malaya tried to comfort her, but Sal shouldered her away. Malaya thought about how she could help. Then, an idea came into her mind.
“Officer, could you excuse my Dad and I for a moment?”
“Certainly.” He agreed. The rest of the gang was silent for respect of Sal.
Malaya and her dad were back in a few minutes. Joe asked the Officer, “Officer? Can Sal stay with us, until her Dad is out of jail? I assure you that she will be taken care of.”
The Officer thought on this for a moment. Finally, he said, “Yes. She can stay with you and your daughter, but only if she wants to. Do you want to stay with them?”
“Yes.” Sal answered behind tears. A few minutes later, after the Police Officers took Will and Ryan home, Malaya said, “Sal, come on. Let’s go home,” in a very gentle voice.
“Okay.” Sal replied in a somber voice.
I hope that you enjoyed this book. I hope that it has inspired you to become better Fathers, Mothers, Sons, and Daughters. I am working on another book, “Sal’s Jail Mystery,” that is a sequel to this book. I hope to make this a series.
Coming soon: Part two in the series, Sal’s Jail Mystery”
Sal’s Dad has just gone missing from the Hope Springs Jail. His trial was on Monday, and he was found guilty of all charges. Could this be one of the missing links to solve this mystery? Go on another adventure with Malaya Knotes, Sally Anders, William Seets, and Ryan Wells. Enjoy!