Here is an excerpt from my latest ebook “Who Do Voodoo?” a mystery intended for middle grade readers, especially 10-12 year olds. I’d like to introduce you to Phil, the main character, as he embarks on his adventure.
CHAPTER 1 –– A SPEEDING HUNK OF STEEL
I’m a Louisiana boy at heart – living in New York City – on my way with my boy, Nestor, riding the Amtrak Crescent to the Big Easy, moving in place and time to the home of my ancestors, to the core of my family, to the soul of my existence. New Orleans.
We left New York City from Penn Station at 2:17 pm on a Saturday but didn’t arrive in New Orleans until the next night. That made 30 hours and 17 minutes on a speeding hunk of steel grabbing the tracks, hugging the curves, loving the power of its syncopated engine. Chhh-chhh-chhh-chhh. Boom-boom. Brushes and skins. Cool.
“Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints? Who dat? Who dat?” I sang out.
Nestor scowled at me. “Where did that come from?”
“That’s the song the Saints’ fans sing when watching a game.”
I got this blank stare from him, but then again, that happens a lot with Nestor.
“Saints, like in heaven?”
“No, Nestor. Saints, like in the name of the Louisiana football team.”
“Okay, Phil, so how was I supposed to know that?”
My mom’s aunt and her husband invited us to visit. My parents had to work but I was on winter recess and had nothing to do. New York City schools are closed for one week in February around Presidents Day. I wasn’t allowed to travel alone so I invited Nestor. He’s a year younger and, even on a good day, he’s nobody’s idea of a chaperone. But he’s my best bud and we’re tight.
“Hey, here’s an outlet to charge our phones.” I’m not even sure if Nestor heard me. He had his mind on other things.
Nestor was in the middle of texting some friends. “Want to know what I’m telling them?” Nestor read the messages. “Phil is dancing around like a fool singing about saints.”
“Holly texted back: ‘Have fun. Tell Phil to text Jasmine. She misses him.’ “
“Kwan Min texted: ‘Cool team. We play basketball when Phil comes home.’ “
I have to hand it to Kwan Min. He’s new to the country but he’s up on things. “Tell them I’ll text them later.”
“Do I look like your secretary?”
“But I’m not in the mood now.”
“You want me to tell them that?”
“If I text them back, that’s exactly what I’ll tell them.”
“I’m ignoring you.”
I decided to check out the rest of the compartment. A private restroom. Not very big, but then again, we were on a train. Reclining seats with footrests and reading lights. Overhead storage bins. Like an airplane. But grounded.
Nestor was busy reading some travel brochures. “Phil, it says they have ghost tours in the French Quarter. Can we go?”
“I don’t believe in ghosts.”
“Well, it says they have a bunch of things going on. Strange sightings. Screams. Moans. Maybe we can see some of that.”
“I told you, I don’t believe in that stuff.”
“Listen to this. In the La Laurie Mansion, the ghost of a little girl can be seen jumping from the back balcony. There are more. The ghost of a sultan stalks an apartment building because he was buried alive when his men were hacked to death. Dogs growl at the ghost of the mad butcher. Ghosts of slaves chained to walls cry out in pain. Ghosts of a whole block of people who died in a fire cry out at night.”
“They’re just stories.”
“How about this one? At the Magnolia Mansion, a girl on the street disappears, then they find small footprints and handprints on the bath mat and tub.”
“They did medical and carnival experiments switching body parts and limbs WITHOUT ANESTHESIA. Did you hear that?”
“Nestor, you’re driving me crazy with this.”
“Okay, just one more thing. People did voodoo curses. There’s even a store called ‘Reverend Zombie’s Voodoo Shop.’ They talk about a vortex spreading to ectoplasm. What d’ya think about that?”
“Leave me alone.”
“Why are you so stubborn?”
“Why are you willing to believe crazy stories?”
“I wish you’d open your mind.”
“And I wish you’d close your mouth.”
I did a group text to Jasmine and Kwan Min: “Good trip so far. Will be in touch.” It was the best I could do.
There’s not a whole lot to do on a train so we mostly ate our way from one car to the other. We went to the Lounge Car for some pizza, then had dinner an hour later in the Dining Car. We went back to the Lounge Car for some chips and soda, played some board games and had sandwiches before we went to sleep.
We pretty much followed the same routine the next day. Ate. Played games. Talked about nothing.
Our train pulled into the station right on schedule at 7:32pm on Sunday night. We
texted our mothers to let them know we were on schedule.
It was already dark when we got off the train. I looked around but no one was there to meet us. Someone from my mom’s family was supposed to pick us up. An hour passed. Still, no one. No calls on my phone. No text messages. I called their house, but no one answered. That was strange.
Little did I know.
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