Writer T.L. Brown’s Book Review: Torn Veil

A sequel every bit as good as the first book – possibly even better!

Tracy Brown, Author

It’s difficult to write a sequel worthy of a great first book, but Shari T. Mitchell did just that with the latest installment of the Marnie Reilly Mysteries, Torn Veil.

In this book, the reader is treated to so many layers building a strong plot. How did the author keep track of them all? Luckily for readers Mitchell manages this well, creating an intricate storyline with many moving parts while not losing the reader for a minute.

This time around we join a main character (Marnie Reilly) who is more willing to accept help as her life is turned upside down once again with the discovery of a dead body. She’s still tough, she’s still smart, and she’s definitely confident – but we’re diving into a complex character. Marnie’s not superwoman and she has fears, too. There’s also the matter of a blockage of sorts with her sixth sense. This limitation puts her at risk even more. We also find a Marnie who must work out which players are her friends, and who is the fraud. Author Mitchell does an EXCELLENT job of keeping the reader guessing.

Mitchell is a master of bringing in the bits: Here’s a character – let’s allow her to brush by – this will be important later. Or, here’s a snippet of conversation that will eventually point to a big piece of the puzzle. (Did you catch it, reader?) That’s part of the magic happening when you read a book by Shari T. Mitchell: you develop a habit of noting everything because it just might be important later and you are rewarded with an “aha!” moment. And again, the author delivers it in such a way that you are not lost.

It seems that author Mitchell is building a family for Marnie in Torn Veil – which really feels good. Marnie has been through so much already. This eclectic family-building isn’t just a safe haven for Marnie’s mental well-being, it’s a comfort for the reader as we become further invested in her story. We’re scared for Marnie more than once, and we hold onto the belief that the love surrounding her will provide the much-needed safety net when the time comes.

Returning readers to this series will recognize a favorite cast of supporting characters: the lovable and loyal Detective Tom Keller, and of course, the sexy, strong, and supportive Detective Danny Gregg. It may be getting colder outside, but it’s heating up between Marnie and Danny. This developing relationship is such a nice side story that does not overwhelm the drama and mystery. Other familiar – and new faces – fill in the population of Creekwood. We’re also glad to see Tater, Marnie’s beloved border collie, playing with some new pals.

The paranormal is definitely present in this latest installment, and we get some peeks into a darker side of people who operate in this world. And yet, Mitchell uses her characters to remind us that some evil only has power if you give up yours. How the paranormal is related to the events in the book – or not – is quite clever. There are some solid twists that make so much sense when all is revealed!

Torn Veil is crafted in such a way that you want to try and figure out who is who, and what is really at play. How did I do? I had my ideas, but ultimately Mitchell dished out some big surprises. There were a few things I did not see coming but worked perfectly with the storyline. That’s so much fun for a mystery reader!

Marnie Reilly Mysteries

If you haven’t yet started the Marnie Reilly Mystery Series, don’t wait a second longer. This is the perfect season to get familiar with Mitchell’s bunch! Fatal Vow, the third book in the Marnie Reilly Mysteries, is due out in 2022. I’m on pins and needles waiting for it. I know I’ll definitely be ordering the book as soon as it’s available for pre-sale. I. Can’t. Wait!

T.L. Brown (Writer Tracy Brown) is the author of the Door to Door Paranormal Mystery Series. She was born in snowy Western New York where she developed a love of reading and writing – her mother never denied her request for a book. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pittsburgh in History – Political Science.

After college she moved to Rochester and began to create a story about an average thirty-year-old who was caught between two worlds: the known one and a new, often dangerous place known as the Empire. That character became Emily Swift.

Tracy now lives in the beautiful Finger Lakes of New York State dreaming up new stories and quirky characters that make life all the more interesting. She believes magic still exists, you just need to look in the right places.

Book Review: Divine Guidance grabs you and does not let go!

The author moves the drama from one place to another while keeping the tension high. 

Tracy Brown, Writer


Divine Guidance, by @ShariTMitchell

Divine Guidance grabs you and does not let go!

It’s been a long time since a book kept me up and reading past midnight. I just could not put down Shari T. Mitchell’s “Divine Guidance.”

Let me be frank: Mitchell crafted a story that scared the bejesus out of me – and it wasn’t the paranormal aspects of the story making my heart race! The murders and attempted murders happening around main character Marnie Reilly made me jittery. With ingredients like an abusive ex-boyfriend, a wild ice storm closing the roads, and a stalker-murderer running loose, you certainly have a recipe for a solid creep fest!

But the author doesn’t rely on bumps in the night to create a compelling tale. She’s also written a sound mystery-thriller with a flawed main character, who despite her rough edges, is good and kind at heart. She’s also believable.

We meet Marnie in an off-beat setting right before she tips the apple cart – angering her “peers” while taking the high road. From the get-go we understand that Marnie is not only tough, but also willing to do the hard things. And yet, she’s not this larger-than-life superwoman we can’t imagine as being real. She’s experienced significant loss and struggled with a frightening past (abusive relationship revealed in memories / current discussions). She’s human.

While the paranormal is present in this story, the mundane is what takes center stage. Imagine this: You are trapped at home with a maniac running rampant – but the ice storm prevents help from coming to you. At first the reader thinks: thank goodness police officers are stuck at Marnie’s house, too.

The author moves the drama from one place to another while keeping the tension high. There was literally one scene at Detective Gregg’s house that scared me because the buildup to the scene was so well done that when it came, I was wishing it wasn’t dark outside. (I was also glad I didn’t have an attic!)

Author Mitchell also brought in some complex relationships. Early on Marnie calls another character a charlatan – a “soul-sucking trickster” and the reader would agree. And yet this character displays a completely different side, helping Marnie when she’s in danger. This “relationship” of sorts has many layers, and it was intriguing to sort out what the current status between Marnie and this other really meant. There is a scene in Marnie’s home that involves a pipe (tobacco pipe). These little touches keep the reader wondering who was who and who was friend or foe.

As a reader, I want to know more about The Collective. Marnie has clearly angered this group of psychics and they have some power – but how much of it is real and how much of it depends on the fragility of the mind of their target? This could be why Marnie is wary but not openly fearful of this group. I hope to learn more in the follow-up to “Divine Guidance.”

With all the “normal” drama, there is a paranormal element, of course. For me it wasn’t the biggest part of the plotline but added to it. And a reminder: while it might be useful to learn from the dead (ghosts), it’s not always a happy experience.

Lastly, the supportive cast of characters around Marnie – her lovable dog Tater, the police, the detective, and her friends – certainly round out the story. There are a couple of big surprises at the end that beg the questions: In the circle of family and friends, who can you trust? Who is lying and who is dangerous?

T.L. Brown (Writer Tracy Brown) is the author of the Door to Door Paranormal Mystery Series. She was born in snowy Western New York where she developed a love of reading and writing – her mother never denied her request for a book. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pittsburgh in History – Political Science.

After college she moved to Rochester and began to create a story about an average thirty-year-old who was caught between two worlds: the known one and a new, often dangerous place known as the Empire. That character became Emily Swift.

Tracy now lives in the beautiful Finger Lakes of New York State dreaming up new stories and quirky characters that make life all the more interesting. She believes magic still exists, you just need to look in the right places.

The Island Part 3

The Island – Part 3 – Marnie Reilly Mysteries – The Early Years

“You better let me go!” Marnie cried. “The cops are coming!”

“Will you shut up!” the bad man yelled.

The bad man half-carried and half-dragged Marnie to a shabby cabin on the eastern side of the island. It was a log cabin with a big porch. Cobwebs and trumpet creeper clung to log columns of the porch. A large window at the front of the cabin had a crack running through it, and all of the windows were in serious need of a cleaning.

The bad man backed up the front steps onto the porch, and pushed the door open with his backside. Once inside, he dragged Marnie across the room, and down a small hallway.  He struggled to open a door, and then clumsily hauled her down a set of stairs into the cellar.

 “This is your home for the next coupla hours,” the bad man growled. Still holding Marnie in the crook of his arm, he scanned the cellar for a place to lock Marnie away for a few hours. An old, leather sea chest sat in the far corner. His mouth curled up. Lugging Marnie across the room and into that chest wouldn’t be easy, but he would do it just to shut her up.

“My father is going to be here soon. He’s going to be real mad at you for hurting me,” Marnie said meekly.

The bad man laughed, and taunted her. “Your father ain’t gonna do shit! The cops ain’t gonna do shit! I’m gonna put you in this trunk, go kill your friends, come back here, kill you, and be outta here by the time the cops get here!”

Marnie stomped down hard on the bad man’s foot. Her flip-flops had fallen off while the bad man dragged her through the woods, and her small, bare feet did nothing to phase the bad man.

“Haha! Didn’t hurt!” the bad man said with a laugh.

He bent, and struggled to open the trunk with his left hand – his fingers were so swollen and sore he couldn’t grasp the hasp.

“Open the trunk!” the bad man ordered, leaning closer to the trunk.

“No!” retorted Marnie.

The bad man squeezed Marnie’s neck.  “Open the damn trunk! Now!”

Marnie cried out. “Ow! You’re hurting me!”

The bad man squeezed a bit harder. Marnie reached out and pulled up on the hasp, but it wouldn’t open. The bad man bent, and grabbed the hasp with his left hand. Wincing, he pulled up the lid. There was nothing in the trunk but some old rope and fishing nets. He grabbed Marnie by the back of the neck, and shoved her into the trunk. He dropped the lid quickly, and closed the hasp.

Marnie kicked and screamed. “Let me out! Let me out!”

The bad man kicked the side of the trunk hard. “Shut up! If you don’t shut up, I’m going upstairs to get my gun. I will shoot you! I will kill you right now!”

Marnie lay still. She heard the bad man’s footsteps on the stairs. The slam of the cellar door jiggled the windows. Marnie strained to hear – and then distant footfalls – maybe in the kitchen. She closed her eyes and spoke softly. She knew Papa Jack would hear her – he would tell her what to do.

Tom snuck around the back of the cabin. He peered through a kitchen window, and ducked fast when the bad man walked into the room. Tom squatted behind the scrubby plant that surely had been shrubs or flowers once upon a time. Tom felt the thud of his heart against his chest, and heard it in his ears.  He tried breathing through his nose, but it didn’t work. No matter how hard he tried not to be frightened – he was terrified. Closing his eyes, he counted to ten, and thought of Annie, only this time she didn’t appear.


Tom stiffened at the sound of a door slamming. It was the front door of the cabin. He ducked down even further and tucked himself close the cabin. Uh-oh! Tom winced. The crunch of dirt and old leaves under boots grew louder, and then the bad man appeared at the side of the cabin where Tom was crouched.

Tom held his breath. He counted to 15, and just as a breath nearly burst from his lungs, the bad man walked back toward the front of the cabin. Tom exhaled loudly, and then sucked in air. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the bad man walking toward the far side of the island where Sam’s friends had been swimming and laughing moments before. It seemed like a long time ago to Tom. He stood and wiped dirt and gravel from his hands onto his shorts. Glancing left and then right, he wondered, “Where’s Annie?” Shaking his head, he focused on why he had come to the cabin. Tom peeked through the window again.

“Where are you, Marnie? Where’d the bad man take you?” Tom muttered to himself.

“Papa Jack, are you sure?” Marnie asked. She shuddered in a breath, and then clumsily rolled onto her side and sighed. She opened her eyes and listened. Silence. The bad man had left. The slam she had heard a few moments ago must have been the bad man leaving the cabin.

Ssh!” Marnie whispered.

A door closed quietly. Light footsteps above – someone was moving through the cabin. Marnie thumped with her fist on the side of the trunk. She rolled onto her back and kicked the lid of the trunk, and banged her fists on the sides of the trunk. Then she lay silent. A door opening. Feet on the cellar stairs. Marnie froze. “What if it’s the bad man?” she thought.

Marnie tilted her head – a whisper – she heard someone whisper her name.

“Marnie? Marnie are you down here?” Tom whispered loudly.

Marnie pushed herself up onto an elbow. “Tom! Get me out of this trunk! Open the trunk, Tom!” she shouted.

Tom grabbed a hold of the hasp, and pulled up hard.

“It’s stuck!” Tom yelled. “I’m gonna find somethin’ to open it!”

Tom scanned the musty room. Dust floated in the air.  The windows were dirty and rippled with age, but enough light was coming through that he wasn’t in pitch blackness. Tom spotted a screwdriver on a workbench close to one of the grimy windows. 

“That’ll work,” Tom said – partly to himself, and partly to Marnie.

“Tom!” Marnie cried. “Tom, where are you?”

Tom ran back to the trunk with the screwdriver in his hand. “I’m right here! I’ll get you out, Marnie!”

Pushing the screwdriver between the chest and the hasp, Tom finagled the hasp free. He dropped the screwdriver and threw open the lid of the trunk. Marnie popped up to her feet, scrambled out of the trunk, and wrapped her arms around Tom in a big bear hug.

Tom pushed Marnie away. “Stop it, Marn! We gotta get outta here before the bad man comes back! We gotta go!”

Marnie put her fingers to her lips. “Shh! I’ve got to tell you something,” Marnie whispered.

Tom leaned close – eyebrows raised. “What?” he whispered back.

Marnie leaned closer to Tom, and whispered, “Mr. Barnes has a secret. My Papa Jack told me.”

Tom stepped back and stared at Marnie. “What did your Papa Jack say?” Tom asked.

Marnie glanced around to see if anyone was listening to their conversation. She saw no one – living or dead – hiding in the shadows of the cellar.

“Mr. Barnes killed his wife!” Marnie whispered loudly. “She’s buried under the bridge near an old ice shack.”

Tom crinkled his nose. “An ice shack? What the heck is an ice shack?” Tom asked.

Marnie stuck out her bottom lip and shrugged. “I don’t know. That’s what Papa Jack told me. Papa Jack said there’s a treasure hidden in the coal chute, too.”

Tom quirked up one side of his mouth. “What’s a coal chute?”

Marnie shrugged again. “I don’t know, but I think it’s down here,” she whispered.

Marnie and Tom wandered through the cellar looking for a coal chute. Neither knew what one was, but Marnie was convinced they would know it if they saw it. Tom stumbled over a cardboard box, and fell against Marnie. Marnie lurched headlong into a wooden bin.

“Blah! Blah! Tom! What… I’m all dirty! You pushed me into dirt!” Marnie yelled. She stood up, held her arms out, and looked at the black dust covering her arms.

Tom’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry! I tripped! I didn’t mean to push you!”

Marnie turned in a half circle. “Hey, Tom! It think this is coal dust. I know what coal looks like. Dad told me and Sam that if we didn’t help with chores, Santa was going to leave coal in our stockings. He even brought a piece of coal home to show us what it looks like.” Marnie bent down and picked up a piece of coal from the bin. “See, Tom! This is coal! This is what it looks like!”

“I’ve seen that stuff before. My grandpa puts it in his barbecue!” Tom shouted with pride.

Marnie tipped her head to the side and examined the wall on which the coal bin sat. She took a few steps closer to the wall, and her upper body disappeared into a hole. “Look, Tom! That must be the coal chute! Look! It goes outside! I can see light up there!” Marnie’s words were muffled, but Tom heard everything she said.

Tom climbed into the coal bin, and joined his friend by the chute. Both stood looking up into the chute to daylight at the top.

“Where’s the treasure?” Tom asked.

Marnie pointed up. “There it is! It’s right there!” Marnie reached up and pulled a piece of twine, and an oilcloth sack fell into her arms. “Wow! It’s heavy! I bet it’s a genie lantern!”

“Nah! Genies aren’t real! That’s only in movies! It’s probably a pirate’s treasure! Gold and silver!” Tom shouted.

“Well, a lot of people say ghosts aren’t real – and they are wrong! So maybe genies are real, too!” Marnie argued.

“C’mon, Marn! Let’s open the bag!” Tom suggested, as he climbed out the coal bin.

Marnie handed Tom the bag, and then scrambled over the side onto the dusty cellar floor.

Shaking her head, she said, “No, let’s wait until we get outside. We’ve got to leave now! The bad man is going to come back!”

Tom nodded. “Yeah. Let’s get outta here!”

Tom and Marnie ran up the cellar stairs, and just as they reached the top, the door flew open, and Mr. Barnes stood at the top. His face dark – angry – scary.

Marnie was one step ahead of Tom. She pointed her finger at Mr. Barnes. “You need to go now! We’re not afraid of you! We know what you did!”

Tom nudged Marnie with his shoulder. “Marn, please don’t make him mad,” he whispered.

Marnie turned head. “He can’t hurt us, Tom. He’s a ghost.”

“I can do more than you think, Marnie Reilly!” Mr. Barnes bellowed – his words echoed through the house. “Put my treasure back where you found it!”

“No!” Marnie shouted. “Get out of our way! We’re going to get the cops!” Marnie took a step up. A cold blast of wind pushed her backward into Tom, and she and Tom tumbled down the stairs to the cold floor beneath.

Tom hit his head hard on the stone foundation wall at the foot of the cellar stairs. Marnie’s landing was a bit softer. She fell on top of Tom, but put her top teeth through her bottom lip when she landed. Stunned and scared, Marnie and Tom looked up the stairs. Mr. Barnes slammed closed the cellar door – both Marnie and Tom heard the latch turn.

“Geez, Marnie! Why’d you go and make him mad?” Tom struggled to sit up.

Marnie rolled off Tom, and stood at the bottom of the stairs. “He was already mad! Papa Jack told me. Mr. Barnes did tell us to leave when we got here, remember?”

Tom nodded. He reached a hand back, and felt a bump growing on his head. He bent over. “Marn, is my head bleeding?”

Marnie inspected Tom’s head where he was pointing. There wasn’t any blood, but there was a huge goose egg.

“Nah! You’re not bleeding. Am I?” Marnie pushed out her bottom lip for Tom to inspect.

Tom nodded. “Yeah! Your lip doesn’t look too good!”

Marnie shrugged. “Another scar. I’ll bet when I’m a grown-up I’ll have better ones. It’s just a little cut, right?”

Tom nodded. “I guess so. Hey! How are we gonna get out of here?”

Marnie glanced around the cellar. The windows were too high for them to reach, but she did have an idea. Tongue poking out the side of her mouth in concentration, Marnie snapped her fingers awkwardly.

“The coal chute!” Marnie yelled. “We’re gonna put the treasure back up there so that Mr. Barnes doesn’t chase us. Then we can crawl up the walls like Santa Claus does when he goes up the chimney. We can come back and get the treasure later. Sam will bring us back.”

“Good idea, Marn!” Tom replied.

Sam frantically paced up and down the forest floor.  He ran his fingers through his hair, and then dragged both of his hands over his face. Staring up at the tree branches overhead, he sighed loudly. “Hey, guys, I’ve gotta go find my sister – and track down Tom. My dad is going to be here soon. If Marnie and Tom aren’t with me, he is going to kick my butt.”

Stephanie strolled to his side, and placed a hand warmly on this arm. “Sam, this isn’t your fault. You didn’t know that there was a madman on the island. How could you have known?”

Sam stared straight ahead – focused on the path where Tom had darted away into the woods. He clenched his jaw. “My sister warned me. If she tells my father that she warned me, well, I’ll be grounded for the rest of the summer.”

“Marnie isn’t a tattletale, Sam,” David Bennett assured.

Sam shook his head, and ran a hand over his face. “Not on purpose, no. She tattles accidentally. She doesn’t get me into trouble on purpose. Marnie blurts things out without even realizing what she’s saying.”

Stephanie wrinkled her forehead, and shot a glance sideways. “What do you mean your sister warned you? How could your sister warn you if you came to the island together?”

Sam sighed, and turned to Stephanie. “My sister sees stuff. She hears stuff. Stuff that the rest of us don’t see and hear. You know – ghosts.” Realizing he had just outed Marnie’s gift to his friends, Sam turned his back on the group.

Stephanie burst out laughing. Two of the other girls shot one another knowing glances and giggled. Two of the girls stared down at their toes. Stuart and David Bennett nodded knowingly in Sam’s direction. The other boys stared blankly – not sure what to make of Sam’s strange admission.

Sam’s face reddened with anger, and he spun around – glaring at the girls. “It’s not funny! Marnie’s been kidnapped by a psycho! What’s funny about that?!”

Stephanie’s shoulders stiffened. “Geez, Sam! We are just teasing, but seriously! Your sister sees ghosts? You were obviously embarrassed that she thinks she can see ghosts! You turned your back on us!” Stephanie giggled, and the other girls joined her.

Furrowing his brow, Sam cocked his head to one side. “I’m not embarrassed that my sister can see ghosts. I’m angry with myself. I broke my promise to her to not to tell anyone about her gift when I told you.” Sam’s frown deepened. “Wow, Stephanie! I didn’t realize that you were one of the mean girls. I thought you were different. Ha! I was going to ask you to the dance next weekend.” Sam shook his head. “I guess I’ll take a girl who doesn’t make fun of my sister – especially when my sister’s life is in danger.”

Stuart and David Bennett, and the other two boys glanced sideways at one another. The girls rallied around Stephanie.

“Sam Reilly, don’t be mean. How dare you say I’m one of the mean girls? I’m not mean! I just think it’s ridiculous that you think your sister can see ghosts! Of course, she can’t! There’s no such thing as ghosts!” Stephanie stomped away from the group. Two of the girls chased after Stephanie. The other two girls remained with Sam and the boys.

Sam, hands on his hips, stared down at the ground. He pushed a spiny pinecone around with his toe, and then announced, “Okay! I gotta go find my sister. Everybody stick together. If that bad man comes back, you don’t want to be wandering off alone.”

“We’ll come with you,” replied Stuart Bennett, pointing a finger between his brother David and himself. “Joe and Alex can stay here with the girls. We don’t think you should go alone.”

Sam nodded reluctantly. “Yeah. That’s a good idea. He has the crowbar. We’ll have to find some big sticks and rocks along the way. He’s injured, but he’s strong.”

Stuart and David agreed with nods of their heads.

“We were going to catch some fish for lunch, so I’ve got my filet knife in my bag. We can bring that,” Stuart suggested.

Sam shook his head. “Hmm. We sure don’t want him to get his hands on that! He’s got Marnie! If he gets it away from you… I don’t know, Stuart. Until we find Marnie, I don’t think it’s a good idea. He’s already taken the crowbar. What if he got a hold of your knife?”

Stuart drew in a long breath, and then exhaled loudly. “Geez, Sam! I hadn’t thought of that! I guess it was kind of stupid.” Stuart dropped his head and his shoulders.

“It wasn’t stupid, Stu. It’s just… well… I don’t know. I just want to make sure Marnie and Tom are safe, that’s all. Let’s find some big sticks and rocks, and leave the knife behind,” replied Sam.

Stuart nodded. “Okay. Let’s go get Marnie and Tom.”

Sam turned to Joe and Alex. “If my dad gets here before we get back, tell him where we went.”

“Yeah, sure, Sam. We’ll stay here. If the bad man comes back, we’ll all yell really loud,” Joe said.

Sam agreed. “Okay! We’ll do the same. If he gets anywhere near us, we’ll all yell as loud as we can!”

Sam glanced over at Stephanie and the other girls. He thought that he should apologize for getting angry, and then quickly changed his mind. She had been mean. She shouldn’t have said what she said. Dang it! I’m not going to apologize. She should apologize to me. Sam nodded in agreement with himself.

“Okay! Let’s go get my sister!” Sam took a confident step forward, and then disappeared into the woods with Stuart and David following close behind him.

“Hey, Marn, maybe we should take the screwdriver with us – you know, we can stab the bad man if he comes after us!” Tom ran back to the sea chest and picked up the screwdriver. He wielded it as a pirate would a sword. “What do you think?”

 “Yeah. I think that’s a good idea,” Marnie agreed. She twisted her mouth in thought. “Umm… What else is down here that we can use to hit the bad man?” Marnie began scouting out possible weapons.

“Hey! Is that a matchstick? That looks like the one my dad used to whack down weeds at the back of our yard!” Tom shouted.

Marnie’s eyes followed Tom’s gaze to a machete. It hung on a peg over Mr. Barnes’s workbench.

“If you boost me up, we can get the matchstick, Tom! That looks scary! I’ll bet the bad man would be afraid of that!” Marnie skipped across the dusty floor, and stood next to the workbench.

Tom got down onto his hands and knees; Marnie stepped up onto his back, and then crawled up onto the workbench. She reached up, grabbed the handle of the machete, and pulled it out and then off the peg. Handing it carefully to Tom, she jumped down off the workbench.

“It’s pretty rusty,” Tom said.

Marnie shrugged. “That’s okay. We can still whack him with it.”

Tom and Marnie walked back to the coal bin, dropped the screwdriver and machete into the bin, and then scuttled over the side.

“How the heck are we gonna get up there?” Tom asked, staring up the coal chute.

“How the heck should I know?” Marnie shrugged, and stared up the shoot with Tom.

Tom and Marnie exchanged quick frightened glances. Footsteps crunching on the leaves and the gravelly road echoed down the chute from outside. Marnie held a finger to her lips.

Sam, Stuart and David crept up to the cabin. They kept low so that the bad man wouldn’t see them should he be at a window looking out.

“Do you think he’s got Marnie in that cabin?” Stuart whispered.

“I don’t know. She has to be here somewhere. We’ve looked everywhere else,” Sam whispered. “We still don’t know where that bad man is.  If he’s in there, and Marnie is in there, we’ll never get her out.”

“Maybe he stashed Marnie, and came for us?” suggested David.

Sam gave a curt nod, and then stared off into the woods. “Yeah, maybe. The only way we’re gonna know if he’s in there is to go look through the windows. You guys stay here. I’ll go look.”

Sam crept to the back windows of the cabin. He stood on his toes, and peeked into the kitchen. He couldn’t see anyone, and so next he crept around to a side window. Again, no one appeared to be home. He turned back to David and Stuart, motioning for them to join him.


Marnie and Tom could hear voices coming from outside. They could also see feet through the one of the grimy windows. It definitely wasn’t the bad man – the feet were wearing flip-flops, and there were three sets of flip-flops.

Marnie grabbed Tom’s arm. “It’s Sam! It’s Sam and his friends, Tom!”

Tom wrapped his arms around Marnie in a huge bear hug, and twirled her around.

“Yell really loud, Tom! Yell really loud!”

Both Marnie and Tom shouted at the top of their lungs. “Sam! Sam! Down here! We’re in the cellar! Sam!”

Sam turned to face the cabin. “Do you guys hear that?” A smile spread across Sam’s face. “That’s Marnie and Tom! They’re here! Listen! They’re in the cellar!”

Colin Reilly tied his boat up to the dock – his face grim. He bent down and took the rifle that his wife, Sophia Reilly, was handing up to him. Sam’s and Marnie’s father was a tall man, wearing khaki cargo shorts, a grey New York Giants T-shirt, and tan boat shoes.  His strawberry blonde hair, freckled nose, and green eyes told anyone who cared to notice that Marnie took after her father. His broad shoulders, lean build, and strong, rough hands told anyone who cared to notice that Colin worked hard. He was a carpenter – probably the best carpenter in Creekwood. Colin Reilly was known about town as the guy who could get anything done, and done right. He was a coach in the town’s Little League program, he sat on the school board, he was a volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club, he was an avid hunter, angler, and he was the pitcher on his softball team.

Sophia Reilly held out her hand to her husband. Colin helped her navigate her way off the boat and onto the rickety dock. Sophia wore cut off denim shorts, a white tank top, and white Keds; and around her waist, she wore a black canvas fanny pack. Her honey blonde ponytail poked neatly out the back of her navy blue, Creekwood PD baseball cap. Sophia Reilly was a force of nature. She ran 5 miles every day. She belonged to the PTA; she coached the girls’ high school volleyball team; and she volunteered at the local animal shelter every weekend. Marnie’s and Sam’s mother had a reputation for speaking her mind – honestly and fairly. She also had a reputation for not suffering fools easily, which was a good thing because Sophie Reilly was Creekwood’s town judge. 

Marcus arrived a few moments after the Reillys.

“Marcus, can you anchor, and swim in? There won’t be room for the police boat if you dock here?” Colin shouted.

Marcus nodded, dropped the anchor, and swam to the Reilly’s boat. Colin helped Marcus aboard, and Sophia handed Marcus a towel.

“What can I do to help?” Marcus asked.

“How about you stay here so that you can wave the police boat in when they get here?” Colin suggested.

“Sure, Mr. Reilly. I’m happy to help any way I can.” Marcus sat back into a seat, and then warily glanced back at the shore.

Sophia noticed the concern on Marcus’s face. She nudged her husband, and directed her gaze in Marcus’s direction.

“You know, Marcus, there’s a flare gun under the captain’s chair. If you have any trouble, send up a flare, and then reload,” Colin advised.

Marcus grinned. “Thanks, Mr. Reilly. I was thinking that the bad man might come this way. He might want to get off the island. I don’t think he would worry about stealing a boat.”

“You’re probably right. We’ll be back as soon as we gather everyone up. You said the Bennett boys are here, two other boys and four girls. Is that right?” Colin Reilly asked.

“Yes, sir. They were all together in a clearing in the middle of the woods,” Marcus replied.

“Don’t worry, Marcus. We’ll find them – Marnie and Tom, too,” Sophia assured him.

Marcus’s eyes grew wide, and a frown spread across his face. “He’s a really big dude! Be careful!”

Colin laughed awkwardly. “Hmm. He took Marnie. He had better be careful. That little girl is a force of nature, just like her mother. Our own little tempest, and if Sam is as angry as you say he is… Well, Sam will be tailing that big dude, and he’ll be sorry he wrangled with the Reilly family.”

Sophia knew that Colin was hoping that his children were exactly as formidable as he was saying. She knew they could both be spirited, and a handful. She just hoped that they were as resourceful as Colin and she believed them to be.

Sam picked up a large rock and smashed in one of the grimy cellar windows. He cleared the glass away, and then stuck his head through the window.

“Man, am I glad to see the two of you!” Sam said.

“Sammy Bear!” Marnie shouted. She hopped from foot to foot, and threw her arms in the air.

Tom stared up at the broken window. “The bad man is gonna be mad!”

“I don’t care if he’s mad. Are you two locked down there? Can you come up through the house?” Sam asked.

Marnie shook her head. “Nah! Mr. Barnes locked the door! He knocked us down the stairs, and then the locked the door! He’s an ass!”

“Marnie! Don’t cuss!” Sam yelled.

Marnie glanced down at the floor, and then up at Sam. “Well, he is an ass. He’s mean!”

Sam nodded, and turned his head to hide a grin. “Okay, Marnie. He’s an ass. Now, c’mon over here. Stuart and David are going to hold my feet, I’m going to stretch my arms down, you’re going to grab a hold of my hands, and then I’ll pull you up.”

“Okay! Tom, you go first. I’ll matchstick the bad man if he comes down here to get me,” Marnie said, holding up the machete like a sword.

“You sure, Marn? I can matchstick the bad man!” Tom offered.

“One of you get over here! We don’t have a lot of time!” Sam shouted.

Tom jumped, surprised by Sam’s tone, and then ran to the window, held onto Sam’s hands, and Sam pulled him up, and through the window.

“C’mon, Marnie! Let’s go!” Sam scooted back through the window, and held out his arms.

Marnie raced to the window, and handed Sam the machete. “Here, take the matchstick! We can whack the bad man with it!”

“It’s called a machete, Marnie,” Sam corrected her, and took the blade carefully. He handed it back to Stuart, and then he reached down for Marnie.

Marnie reached up, and grabbed Sam’s hands. Holding tight, Sam pulled Marnie up and through the window. Sam stood and brushed gravel and dirt from his clothes, and then gave Marnie a tight hug.

“Thank you for getting us out of there, Sam!” Marnie hugged Sam tightly, and then asked, “Do you think the bad man is coming back?”

“I don’t know where he is, Marnie. C’mon! Let’s get back to the others!” Sam grabbed Marnie’s hand.

Sam, Marnie, Tom, Stuart and David rounded the corner of the cabin’s veranda, and stopped dead in their tracks. The bad man stood in front of them with a gun – aimed directly at Marnie.

“You’re not going anywhere!” the bad man growled.

Stuart, who was in the lead, quickly hid the machete behind his back. Sam saw the machete, and moved a step closer to Stuart. Marnie darted away from Sam, bent down, and snatched up a handful of gravel. With all of her might, she heaved it at the bad man. As the bad man turned to aim his weapon at Marnie, Tom scooped up a handful of gravel, and threw it at the bad man. David did the same. Sam took the machete from Stuart’s hand, and charged the bad man. Dazed by the commotion, the bad man turned his head left, then right, and then took aim at Sam. Marnie scooped up another handful of gravel, and let it fly at the bad man. Tom, Stuart and David all picked up handfuls of gravel – bombarding the bad man with flying stones and dirt. Sam charged forward, and wildly waved the machete in front of him as he ran. Confused, the bad man backed up, and then took aim at Sam again.

A fist-sized chunk of granite flew through the air from the woods and hit the bad man in on his right shoulder. He waivered and turned abruptly, now aiming his pistol to his right – in the direction of the woods. Shush-shick! Birds scattered and Sam eased back – he knew his father had arrived, and he had brought along his hunting rifle.

“Drop your weapon! Put down the gun, now!” Colin Reilly shouted from his position in the woods.

The bad man turned toward the children, and took aim at Marnie. Chick-chick! The distinct sound of a round being chambered drew the bad man’s attention to his left.

Sophia Reilly, handgun drawn and aimed at the bad man’s chest, emerged from the brush on the opposite side of the cabin.

Sophia quickly scanned the faces of the children, planted her feet, and calmly warned, “Freeze, asshole!”

The bad man met Sophia’s gaze – a slight grin appeared on his face – he was daring her to shoot.

Colin Reilly moved from his position in the woods, directly opposite his wife – his rifle aimed at the bad man’s leg. He shot a stern “don’t move” face at the children.

“Put the gun down. We don’t want to shoot you. Put the gun down, and kick it over here.” Colin Reilly worked hard to hide his fear with his cool, steady tone.

Glancing warily between Sophia and Colin, the bad man considered his options. Marnie scrunched up her nose and poked out her tongue. His decision was easy. He took aim at Marnie once again.

Birds scattered in the woods behind the bad man. He turned his head slightly, and Sam lunged forward with the machete. He whacked the man’s right arm. Shrieking with pain, the bad man dropped the gun, and grabbed his arm. David Bennett ran behind the bad man, knelt down behind him, and then Stuart Bennett rushed forward and drove his shoulder into the bad man’s stomach – forcing him to trip backward over David. Landing hard on a bed of pine needles – the bad man’s left hand continued to cling to his wounded right arm. Another shriek of pain escaped him as Colin Reilly placed his foot on the bad man’s right arm, and pointed the rifle directly at the bad man’s chest.

“Don’t move!” Colin growled.

“Careful, Dad! He’s fast! He got away from us today!” Sam ran to his father’s side, and glowered down at the bad man.

Colin nodded grimly. “Don’t worry, son. If I’m not mistaken, I think I heard the police arrive.”

Sophia put her gun into her fanny pack, and ran to Marnie. She checked Marnie’s arms, legs, and head to make sure she had no broken bones; she hugged her quickly, and then checked Tom, Stuart and David. Once she was certain they were okay, she rejoined her husband, and retrieved her gun from the fanny pack. Sophia stood over the bad man – her gun aimed at his chest.

Sophia glanced up at her son, and then back down at the man wincing beneath her husband’s foot. “Sam, are you okay? Are you hurt? Did he hurt you?”

“I’m okay, Mom,” Sam responded with a shrug.

Sophie glanced up again. “Sam, look at me.”

Sam’s grey eyes met his mother’s soft blue gaze. He looked older to her than when they had left for the island this morning. She knew Sam wasn’t okay. She knew that this had been a terrible ordeal for him – and for his sister – but Sam had had the burden of looking after not just Marnie, but her friend too.

“Thank you, Sam, for taking such good care of your sister,” Sophia said – a warm smile spread across her face, and her eyes teared up.

Frowning, Sam replied, “Yeah! I did a great job. I let my sister be kidnapped.”

“Did you get her back? Did you do everything you could to protect her?” Colin asked – taking his eyes off the bad man for only a moment so that he could see his son’s face.

Sam nodded.

“Well, then you did the best you could, and it’s better than a lot of boys your age could have done. You did well, son. You did well.” Colin looked around the group of children. “You’ve all done well.”

Struggling to hide tears, Sam stared into the woods and shrugged.

Marnie skipped to Sam’s side, and wrapped her arms around his waist.

Two police officers in uniform and a man wearing jeans, a t-shirt, suit jacket, and boots, raced into the clearing.

 “Mr. and Mrs. Reilly, please put down your weapons. We’ll take it from here.”

“Whew! Pete! Lou! Are we glad to see you!” Colin Reilly sighed, lowered his rifle to his side, and stepped away from the bad man.

“Yeah. The cavalries here,” Officer Pete Sterling replied.

“How are the kids doin’?” asked Officer Lou Beaumont, nodding toward the children.

“They’re as well as can be expected. Marnie and Sam have some bumps, cuts and bruises…” Sophia began – only to be interrupted by Marnie.

“Tom has a big, bumpy goose egg on the back of his head!” Marnie yelled out.

“Well, if none of them need care urgently, we’d appreciate it if you could take the kids to the hospital after we’ve had a chance to speak with them. We don’t want them to forget anything,” Officer Sterling advised.

Sophia wrapped an arm around Sam’s shoulders. “Maybe we could take this back to our house. It’s been a difficult day, and we’d like the children to be comfortable when they speak with you.”

Sophia glanced in Tom’s direction, and then back to Officer Sterling. “I’ve tried to reach Tom’s parents, but haven’t been able to get through to them. They’ve been in Saratoga Springs most of the day, and are planning to pick him up at 7:00. I think it’s best we get the children home.”

Marnie poked her head around her mother, and looked up at Officer Sterling. “Yeah! And I’m hungry! We didn’t get to eat our lunch ‘cause that bad man locked me in a trunk!” Marnie put her hands on her hips and glared bravely at the bad man.

The man who was wearing jeans stepped forward. “I think that would be fine. We’ll finish up here, and then meet you at your house. Pete, you know where the Reilly’s house is, right?”

“Yeah. I know where they live.” Officer Sterling nodded.

The jeans-cladded man put his hand out to Sophia. “I’m Lieutenant Mac Gregg. I’m here in Creekwood helping out for a few days while their lieutenant is on vacation. We’ll come over as soon as we’ve finished.”

Sophia shook Lieutenant Gregg’s hand warmly. “Thank you so much. It’s just that the children…”

Lieutenant Gregg shook his head, and waved his hands. “No need to explain. I understand. I would want to get them home, too. I have two myself – just about Marnie’s age.” Lieutenant Gregg reached out a hand and ruffled Marnie’s hair.

Marnie glowered up at the lieutenant. “Hey! How did you know my name?”

Lieutenant Gregg laughed. “She’s a pistol, isn’t she?” The lieutenant knelt down, and smiled. “Well, Marnie, your mom mentioned your name when we first arrived. Why don’t you go home with your mom and dad, have something to eat, and we’ll see you soon.”

Marnie gave the lieutenant a sideways glance – one strawberry blonde eyebrow raised. Sophia recognized the look on Marnie’s face, and before Marnie could blurt out something inappropriate, she agreed wholeheartedly with the lieutenant.

“Yes, I think that is for the best. We’ll get the kids home, feed them, and then they’ll be ready to have a nice long chat with you,” Sophia agreed.

Colin playfully messed up Marnie’s hair and agreed, “Yeah, and maybe Marnie won’t be so grumpy once she’s had something to eat.”

“Don’t bet on it!” Marnie growled.

Colin laughed, and then glanced in the direction of the bad man. “Any idea who this guy is?”

Lieutenant Gregg ran a hand through his thick brown hair, and then pulled a notepad from his pocket. “Yeah. His name is Jethro Barnes. He’s Cy Barnes’s stepson… uh… adopted son. He’s bad news. He’s been in and out of trouble since he was 15. His mother, Ida, married Cy when Jethro was 5. From what I can tell, it wasn’t a happy family. Jethro was released from Bayview two years ago. His parole officer lost him, and we’ve been looking for him in connection to a few armed robberies. Ida Barnes has no known whereabouts. Cy Barnes put in a missing persons on Ida about 6 years ago. We’ve always figured she was fed up, and just took off.”

“When did Cy pass away? I don’t remember it being in the newspaper,” Colin asked.

“A couple of officers went out to the island two years ago to do a welfare check. People in town hadn’t seen him in a while. Anyway, they found him dead in his vegetable garden. They thought it was a stroke, but I’m wondering now,” replied Lieutenant Gregg, glancing over his shoulder at Jethro.

Officers Beaumont and Sterling had helped Barnes sit up. They had his hands secured with handcuffs behind his back.

Marnie walked toward Barnes slowly. She stopped directly in front of him, and narrowed her eyes. She leaned forward slightly, and whispered, “I know you killed Mr. Barnes, and I know he killed Mrs. Barnes. I’m gonna tell the cops when they come to my house tonight. You’re a bad man!”

“If you tell them anything, you are dead,” Barnes growled quietly.

“You’re going to jail. You can’t hurt me,” Marnie whispered.

“Marnie, get away from him! Get over here,” Colin called out.

“Just a sec, Dad! I want to see if his nose still hurts!” Marnie called back, and then turned back to Barnes. “Does your nose still hurt?”

“A little girl like you can’t hurt someone like me,” Barnes replied – an evil grin spreading across his ugly face.

Marnie took one step back, rolled her little hand into a tight fist…

“Marnie! No!” shouted Colin.

Marnie turned to her father for a split-second before turning back to Barnes, and punching him square in the nose.

“Does it hurt now?” Marnie glowered at Barnes.

“Marnie!” Sophia shouted.

Nudging one another gently, the children giggled and quietly celebrated Marnie’s pugilistic effort. The police officers hid their amusement by turning their backs.

Barnes blinked back tears of pain as blood oozed down his anger-reddened face. “I will kill you!”

“You’re going to jail!” Marnie scrunched up her face, poked out her tongue, and then ran to her father’s side. Wrapping her arms around one of his legs, she tipped her head up, and grinned at him.

“Marnie, you don’t punch people!” Colin scolded his daughter. He knelt down in front of her. “We’ve talked about this!”

“He hurt me! He locked me in a trunk, and he hurt Sam, and he shook me real hard, and he killed Mr. Barnes, and…and…” Marnie gasped for a breath, and then burst into tears. She wrapped her arms around her father’s neck and wailed.

Colin hugged his daughter close. Picking her up in his arms, he turned to his wife. “It’s time to get these kids home. She’s exhausted. They all must be.”

The aroma of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, and the sounds of barking dogs, children laughing, silverware clattering and Johnny Cash on the stereo greeted the policemen when they arrived at the Reilly home at just a little past 6:30.

Marnie and two dogs met the policemen at the door. “Hi! Mom and Dad are in the kitchen. This is Murphy and this is Jack.” Marnie pushed open the screen door. The dogs sniffed at the policemen as they entered the house.

Lieutenant Gregg scratched Murphy’s ears, and bent to pat the top of Jack’s head. Officer Sterling walked widely around the dogs, and Officer Beaumont patted Marnie on top of the head.

“C’mon! I’ll take you to my parents!” Marnie grabbed Lieutenant Gregg’s index finger, and pulled him through the living room, dining room, and into the big country kitchen. Murphy, Jack and Officers Pete Sterling and Lou Beaumont followed closely behind.

An old oak trestle table with long bench seats sat in a nook by a bay window that looked out over the backyard. The table held a stack of paper plates, silverware, plastic cups, and napkins. Mustards, ketchup, salad dressings, and relish bottles were placed in the middle of the table with bowls of potato, macaroni and green salad.  Two pitchers of lemonade and two pitchers of ice water sat on a sideboard on the back wall of the kitchen, near the backdoor.

“Mom! The cops are here!” Marnie announced. She pulled out a bench, and sat at the table. Murphy and Jack curled up at her feet under the table. “Can I have a hot dog with sauerkraut and mustard, please?”

Sophia emerged from the pantry with hamburger and hot dog rolls in her hands. “Yes, Marnie. “I’ll check on dinner with your father. Officers, would you like something to eat? We have hamburgers, hot dogs, and three types of salad.”

Officer Beaumont rubbed his hands together. “That would be great! I’ll take a hot dog with everything!”

Officer Sterling sighed deeply. “We’re not here to eat, Lou. We’re here to question the children.”

“I think something to eat would be just fine. Maybe we could sit with the children – get to know them a bit better. It may make them more comfortable,” suggested Lieutenant Gregg. “Uh… where are the other children?”

“They’re outside – except for Tom. Tom is in the den watching TV. He has a headache from that bump on his head. I keep checking on him to make sure he’s awake. Poor thing. I don’t think he has a concussion, but that bump is going to hurt for a few days,” Sophia replied.

Colin pushed open the screen door with the tray of hamburgers he was carrying. Sam came in behind him with a tray of hot dogs. David and Stuart Bennett, Marcus, Stephanie and other children trooped in behind, and hovered over the table waiting their turn for food. Tom wandered into the kitchen a few moments later, and slid onto the bench next to Marnie. David Bennett sat on the other bench, opposite Marnie.

“Dad, is it okay if we go out and sit at the picnic table?” Sam asked.

“Sure. Does everybody have a drink?” Colin replied.

Sam nodded.

“And a napkin? Don’t wipe food on your clothes,” Sophia said. “And don’t forget to put your plates in the garbage can when you’re finished. And bring the silverware into the house – do not throw out my silverware!”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Okay, Mom!”

The screen door slammed, and the teenagers were gone.

Officer Sterling took a seat next to David Bennett. Officer Beaumont took a seat next to Tom. 

Sophia and Colin sat at the small breakfast counter where they could easily here the conversation without intruding.

Lieutenant Gregg stood next to Marnie – who was swinging her legs under the table. “Can I sit next to you, Marnie?” he asked.

Marnie shrugged. “Sure.” She picked up her hot dog and attempted to take a bite. She winced, and set the hot dog down. She put her fingers up to her swollen lip, and scrunched up her nose. “Ow!”

“Your lip looks mighty sore, Marnie. Did Jethro Barnes do that to your lip?” the lieutenant asked.

Shaking her head, Marnie replied, “Nah! Mr. Barnes did. He pushed us down the stairs. That’s how Tom got the goose egg on his head!”

“Mr. Barnes? But Mr. Barnes wasn’t there, Marnie,” the lieutenant responded.

“Yes he was! He pushed us down the stairs! Ask Tom! Tom’ll tell ya!” Marnie shouted.

Tom took a big bite out of his hamburger and nodded. “Yup!”

“Marnie, Mr. Barnes wasn’t there. Mr. Barnes died two years ago,” Officer Sterling commented from across the table.

Lieutenant Gregg narrowed his eyes and shook his head at Officer Sterling.  Sterling purposely did not look in the lieutenant’s direction.

“Pfft! I know that! He killed his wife you know! My Papa Jack told me he killed his wife. She’s buried under the bridge near the ice shack. Mr. Barnes got killed by Jethro!”

“Who is Papa Jack?”

“My grandfather. He talks to me sometimes. He’s a ghost, just like Mr. Barnes – but Papa Jack is a nice ghost. Mr. Barnes is a mean ghost,” Marnie said matter-of-factly, looking to Tom for confirmation.

Tom nodded in agreement.

Officer Sterling smirked, and then laughed. “A ghost? My goodness, you two have active imaginations!”

Marnie frowned, and held up her hands. “I don’t get it. Why are you laughing at us?”

Colin and Sophia exchanged glances. They knew this was going to be a difficult conversation.  

Officer Sterling smugly replied, “Well, Marnie, I’m a grown-up. I don’t believe in ghosts.”

“That’s okay. They don’t believe you in you either,” Marnie replied with a shrug. “That lady behind you called you a nincompoop a few minutes ago. She says you were born grumpy and grew up to be… umm…” Marnie squinted her eyes, and tipped her head to one side. Her aquamarine eyes focused directly over Officer Sterling’s head. “Bombastic! That’s what she said! Bombastic!” Quirking up the corner of her mouth, Marnie shook her head. “I don’t know that word. What does it mean?”

Officer Sterling gasped. “Who told you that?”

“She says she’s your mom. She says you’ve been a pain in the ass your whole life. She says she told you so!” Marnie grinned, and picked up her hot dog. She turned toward her parents. “Dad, can you cut my hot dog for me? It’s ouching my lip.”

The adults contained their laughter to save Officer Sterling’s dignity, but David and Tom giggled.

“Haha! Marnie, you said a swear word,” Tom giggled.

Marnie turned to Tom, and then pointed toward Officer Sterling. “No! His mom said a swear word. She told me to say it.”

Colin and Sophia stood, but before either could say anything, the lieutenant spoke.

“Hey, Pete, how about you go out back and get statements from the other kids. Beau, how about you go with him. You can divide the kids up, and we can finish this quicker so that the Reillys can get on with their night.” Lieutenant Gregg stood, and walked out the back door with Officers Sterling and Beaumont.

“Mom, what does that word mean? Bombastic! It’s fun to say! Bombastic! What does it mean?” Marnie’s wide-eyed innocence of naively insulting Officer Sterling made her father smile.

“Well, Marnie, how about we talk about that later. We’ll get out the dictionary and look it up once everyone has gone home. How does that sound?” Sophia offered.

Marnie frowned. “Okay. Is bombastic a naughty word, Mom?”

Sophia stood over Marnie while she cut up the hot dog. She shook her head. “No, it’s not a naughty word, but you shouldn’t use it to describe people. It could hurt their feelings.”

Marnie glanced sideways in thought. “Mom, is Officer Sterling bombastic?”

Colin burst out laughing. He turned his back, and then stepped outside so that Marnie wouldn’t be encouraged to continue with her line of questioning. Marnie did love an audience.

Sophia nodded curtly. “Perhaps just a little bit, Marnie.”

Marnie picked up a bit of the hot dog. Before popping it into her mouth, she replied, “Okay. It means he’s annoying.”

Sophia turned her face away so that she wouldn’t be caught smiling, and was saved by the lieutenant’s return.

Lieutenant Gregg returned to the kitchen. “Okay, Marnie, can we have chat?”

“Sure!” Marnie grinned up at him, and popped another bit of hot dog into her mouth.

Marnie told the lieutenant about everything that had happened on the island, with Tom and David adding to the story.  He left the table twice – once when Marnie told him about Mrs. Barnes’s body being near the ice shack under the bridge; and again to hide his amusement when Marnie asked him if he thought that Officer Sterling was bombastic.

Lieutenant Gregg stood up from the table. “Thank you, Marnie, Tom and David for helping me. You did very well. I’m going to go back to the station, write my reports, and I’ll let you know if I have any more questions. Do you have any questions for me?”

Tom sat forward, leaning his arms on the table. “Do you always carry your gun?”

“I carry it everywhere, but at home. At home, I lock it in a cupboard,” Lieutenant Gregg responded.

“Have ya ever shot anyone?” David asked.

“Yes, but not in a very long time,” the lieutenant answered. He glanced away, picked up his notebook and pen, and tucked them in his pocket.

Marnie put up a hand – her eyes filled with tears. “Stop asking him about that! It makes him sad!” She wiped tears from her eyes.

A knock at the front door, and the squeak of the screen door opening, interrupted the children’s questions.

“Hello! We’re back! It’s Abigeal and Declan! Sorry we’re a little late. We had a flat tire on the way home!” Tom’s mother called out from the front hallway.

Tom hopped up from his seat and ran to the door. “Mom! Dad! We went to the island today, and I got a bump on my head, and Marnie got locked in a trunk, and…”

“Whoa! What did you say? You bumped your head?” Abigeal Keller pulled her son to her – she checked his head for the bump. “Oh my goodness, that is a big bump. Are you feeling okay? Tom, look at me. Are you feeling okay?”

“I’m okay! C’mon in the kitchen. We’re talkin’ to the cops!” Tom turned and raced back to the kitchen.

Abigeal and Declan Keller exchanged bemused glances.

Abigeal shook her head and chuckled. “We better go find out what mischief Tom and Marnie have gotten into this time.”

A call came through for Lieutenant Gregg while the Reillys were giving the Kellers a rundown of the day’s events. The lieutenant excused himself and stepped outside.

When he returned to the kitchen, he studied Marnie for a moment. How could this little girl have known where to find Ida Barnes’s body? Is it possible that she really did see ghosts? Is it possible that she really does speak with ghosts? His own son talked about ghosts quite often, but the lieutenant had thought it was simply the overactive imagination of a child. His wife Carol had disagreed. She told him it was common for children to see spirits. She also told him that her mother, Margaret, was quite “gifted” in the area of the paranormal. He had thought it was nonsense – until perhaps now.

Colin Reilly offered a cup of coffee to the lieutenant. “Coffee? Hey, are you okay?”

Lieutenant Gregg took the cup. “Ah, thanks. Mr. Reilly? Does Marnie really see ghosts? I’m asking because Ida Barnes was exactly where Marnie said she was. She couldn’t have known that. The officers found nothing in the house that would have indicated where Ida Barnes’s body was buried.”

Colin laughed. “She tells us things all of the time. Things she would have no way of knowing, unless she was “conferring with spirits” – as her mother calls it. She’s been doing that since she could talk – and before she could talk she would smile or frown or cry or laugh at things we couldn’t see. I don’t know. I guess I do believe she does speak to them because she is never wrong when she tells us stuff.”

The lieutenant furrowed his brow. “Huh. My son tells me that he sees ghosts. I may have to start taking it seriously. Thanks, Mr. Reilly.”

“Call me Colin, please. Are you all set? Do you need any more information from the kids?”

“We’re all set. I’m heading back up North in a few days, but I’ll be back for the trial – – if it gets that far. Pete and Lou will take it from here,” replied Lieutenant Gregg.

“Hey, mister! Are you leaving?” Marnie stood in front of the lieutenant – a chocolate Fudgesicle smile on her face.

“Yes, Marnie, I’m going back to the office. It was very nice meeting you,” the lieutenant replied.

Marnie took his hand and pulled him toward her. The lieutenant bent down so that his eyes met Marnie’s eyes. Marnie kissed him on the cheek – leaving an imprint of chocolate lips on his face.

“Thanks for getting the bad man, sir,” Marnie said with an impish grin.

“You’re very welcome. Thank you for helping us get the bad man, Marnie,” the lieutenant replied.

Marnie giggled. “No sweat! See ya!” Marnie raced off to join Tom and David in the backyard. It was a perfect night to catch fireflies.

Sam appeared in Marnie’s bedroom doorway with his sleeping bag and a pillow in his arms.

“Hey, Squirt, do you mind if I crash in here with you tonight?”

Marnie sat up and patted the side of her bed, inviting Sam into her room. “Are you scared, Sam?”

“Nope. Are you? Is it okay if I sleep on your floor?” Sam asked.

“Sure! We can have a slumber party! No, Sam, I’m not scared. You won’t let anything get me, will you, Sam?”

“I’ll always protect you, Marnie. Always!” Sam replied.

“Cross your heart?” Marnie asked.

“And hope to die,” replied Sam.

-The End-

bad man has Marnie

The Island, Part 2 – Marnie Reilly Mysteries – The Early Years

The Island, Part 2

The man’s face was dark – menacing. Marnie frowned while she studied his features. The man was taller than Marnie’s dad. He had black hair, a broad, flat forehead, bushy eyebrows, black eyes, and a huge mouth. Marnie decided that the man had fat lips. His earlobes were fat, too, but the man was thin – wiry was what her mother would say. As she studied the man, Marnie became agitated – sad – angry. She saw something evil in him. She also felt sorry for him. She sensed a terrible pain in her right knee. Her head began to ache, and her left ear buzzed. When her vision grew fuzzy, and her stomach started to turn, she knew that these were the man’s symptoms – not her own.

Marnie knew that she was an empath. Her mother told her she was. Her mother also told her that if she was ever to experience what she was now experiencing, she needed to focus on something positive – something nice – focus on anything but the person causing her to feel bad. Marnie glanced in Tom’s direction. His eyes met hers. Marnie felt panicked – terrified. She turned her attention to the pond – calm washed over her, and her courage returned. She took a step forward, crossed her arms, and scowled.

“Hey! What are doing on Mr. Barnes’s island? Did you hurt Mr. Barnes?” Marnie asked. She held her head high, straightened her shoulders and planted her feet firmly.

The man stared down at her – eyes empty.

“Can you talk?” Marnie asked. She studied the man – her scowl slowly disappearing. “Hey! Why are you so grumpy? You know, you should get some aspirin for your knee and your head. It must hurt an awful lot. You might not be grumpy if you had aspirin. Maybe Mr. Barnes has some at his house. Maybe you should go check.”

Tom nudged Marnie. “I don’t think he wants to talk to us. Maybe we should go find Sam.”

Marnie nodded. “Yeah. Let’s go find Sam.”

As Marnie turned to walk away, the man grabbed her hair and pulled her back. Marnie screeched.

“Ow! Ow! Let me go! Tom! Run! Run! Find Sam!” Marnie screamed, and swung her arms wildly. “Let me go! Let me go! Ow!”

Tom faltered, stared wide-eyed at his friend, and then raced off in the direction of Sam’s friends on the other side of the island.

The man grabbed Marnie’s arms, and then tightly clasped a hand over her mouth. Marnie twisted to free herself, and stomped down hard on the man’s foot. He held tighter. Marnie kicked back, and connected with the man’s knee. He yelled out in pain.

“Argh! You little bitch! I’m going to kill you!” he shouted, his grip on Marnie tightening.

Marnie turned her head sharply, freeing her mouth from the man’s rough and grimy hand. She sucked in a deep breath, threw her head back into the man’s nose, and then bit down hard on his thumb. The man threw Marnie roughly to ground, and as Marnie scrambled to get to her feet, he slapped her hard across the face. Marnie saw stars – her ears buzzed, and she fell backward into the reeds.

Sam stopped on a cedar-covered path. The humidity had crept up. He tugged his t-shirt away from his damp skin, lifted the hem and wiped sweat from his face. The soft breeze from earlier in the day had faded, and the buzz of mosquitos and flies filled the sticky air.  He wished that he hadn’t taken a short cut through the woods, but had rather walked the pebbled shore of the pond. Swatting a mosquito away from his ear, he narrowed his eyes, and turned his head from side to side. Sam was certain he had just heard Marnie screech. Cupping his hands to mouth like a megaphone, he called out to his sister.

“Marnie! Marnie, are you okay? I’ll be right there!”

Marnie didn’t answer. He called out again.


Tom stopped running along the pebbly path, and turned in the direction of Sam’s voice.

“Sam! Over here! Sam!” Tom shouted – desperation in his voice.

“Tom? Tom, is Marnie with you?” Sam shouted, panic rising in his voice.

“The bad man has her! The bad man grabbed her hair! She sent me to get you!” Tom screeched. His fearful shout sent chills up Sam’s spine.

Sam raced in the direction of Tom’s shouts. Running as fast as his legs would carry him, Tom ran toward the sound of Sam’s voice.

“Sam! Where are you?” Tom puffed out his words.

“I’m here, Tom!” Sam shouted in reply. Sam could see the top of Tom’s head bobbing and weaving through the thickets and brambles of the overgrown woods – and then he didn’t.

Tom took a sharp turn around a boulder, heard Marnie screech, turned in the direction of her cries, and collided with Sam.

Marnie kicked and pushed the bad man away from her. She scrambled back through the reeds, and into the pond. She held her breath and dunked herself under the water, hoping to escape the bad man. Marnie awkwardly swam in circles, before coming up for air. The bad man grabbed her hair and pulled her up out of the water. Swinging her around until she was huddled on his hip and under his arm. Marnie twisted violently. She screeched, kicked and punched as she thrashed.

“My brother is going to hurt you! My father is going to kill you!” She cried.

The bad man swung Marnie around and held her under her arms until they were nose to nose. He glared into Marnie’s face – and Marnie glared back. She narrowed her eyes, and scrunched up her nose.

“You stink! You smell like you haven’t brushed your teeth!” Marnie yelled.

The bad man’s expression didn’t change. Marnie looked into his eyes – and they seemed to be as dead as Mr. Barnes’s eyes, but Marnie was certain this man wasn’t a ghost. A ghost wouldn’t be able to pick her up or slap her. She was sure of it. Marnie’s eyes widened. She saw something in this man – and it wasn’t good. Marnie saw evil. Pure evil! A cold chill inched up her spine, and goosebumps popped out on her arms and legs. The top of her head began to tingle, a sure sign something bad was going to happen. Marnie twisted so that the bad man would release his grip. His grip tightened, and a menacing sneer appeared on his unshaven face. The bad man’s fingers were like the vise grips her father used to twist off the top of an old wood glue bottle. Marnie winced with pain.

“I’m going to have fun killing you, little one. I’m going to bite off your fingers one by one, and then I’ll bite off your toes, and then your ears, and then your nose. ” Licking his lips, the bad man pulled Marnie closer. Their noses were barely touching. Marnie could see the evil growing within him. She knew he would do exactly what he was telling her he would do.

Marnie summoned as much courage as her fear would allow. “You better put me down!” Marnie shrieked, and then kicked out hard, connecting with the bad man’s stomach.

The bad man shook her, throwing Marnie’s head back violently. When her head snapped forward, her forehead smashed into the bridge of the bad man’s nose. Marnie heard the bones crunch, and twisted to free herself – again. Blinded by pain, the bad man dropped Marnie, and put his hands up to his nose. Marnie pulled herself up, and knelt on the pine needle carpet of the woods. She watched with morbid fascination as the bad man growled with pain – then he put two fingers along either side of his nose and pushed his nose back into place. Blood dripped from his nose to the ground. Eyes wide and mouth agape, Marnie read the man’s thoughts. She scrambled to her feet, and just as she was turning to flee, the bad man lunged forward.

“I’m going to kill you!” he wailed.

“No you are not!” Sam Reilly roared, as he swung Tom’s rusty crowbar at the bad man’s head.

Tom raced to Marnie’s side, and pulled her out of the way of the bad man’s grasp. The bad man hit the ground with a dull thud – a loud groan escaping from his throat.

Sam Reilly stood over the bad man, the crow bar raised over his head.  “I swear I will kill you if you get up! Don’t you move! Don’t move! I’ll smash you again!”

Sam glanced up. “Tom, I want you to run to the other side of the island and get my friends. Run as fast as you can!”

Tom simply nodded and ran.

“Marnie, open your bag. Let’s see what we have to tie him up.”

The bad man groaned, rolled over, and reached for Sam’s leg. Sam smashed the crow bar down on the bad man’s hand.

Hearing the crack of the crow bar, Marnie’s head popped up from inspecting the contents of her bag. Her eyes welled with tears – partly from fear – partly from frustration. She could find nothing in her bag with which to tie up the bad man.

“I can’t find anything!” Marnie whined. She stood and tipped everything out of her bag, and sat on the ground to sift through the contents. “I don’t have anything in here…”

The bad man grunted, and lurched forward – reaching for Sam’s ankle.

“Sam! Look out!” Marnie shrieked.

Sam swung the crow bar down hard, hitting the bad man’s forearm. The crack that followed the hit was sickening. Falling back in pain, the bad man lolled his head to one side and glared at Marnie.

Marnie rolled her nose, and put up her fists. “I’ll take a swing at you next! You’re a bad man! You’re evil! My brother’ll whack your other arm if you keep moving around and trying to grab him!”

The sound of thundering feet, breaking branches and rustling leaves turned their attention toward the woods. A moment later, Sam’s friends skidded to a halt in the clearing. Tom, red-faced and winded, trailed behind them. Marcus, a young man of about 13, stepped into the clearing first. His dark brown hair was flat to his head – either from sweat or from swimming. His wet, navy blue swimming trunks suggested the latter, but the redness of his cheeks suggested both. His hazel eyes widened when he saw the bad man sprawled on the ground groaning under the threat of the raised crow bar in Sam Reilly’s right hand.

“What the hell! Sam, what happened?” Marcus asked, disbelief and confusion clouding his features.

Marnie hopped to her feet, pointed the man sprawled on the ground, and yelled, “That bad man was trying to kill me!”

Marcus glanced in Marnie’s direction, and then back to Sam.

Sam’s other friends, 2 tall, lanky boys; 1 short, skinny boy; 2 stocky, medium height boys; 1 tall, willowy girl; and 3 petite girls, stepped into the clearing and stared down at the bad man. Their ages ranged from 11-14. The disgust on their faces ranged from “Holy crap! Sam really messed this guy up!” to “Oh my god! This man is grotesque!”

The bad man’s right arm had a huge goose egg and a nasty bruise rising up on the forearm, and his left hand seeped blood, and from the looks of it, it was broken. His nose was a slightly askew and bulbous, and dribbles of dried blood splotched just beneath his nose, on his lips and chin. His light grey T-shirt and jeans were grubby with specks of dried blood dotting the fabrics.

Sam relaxed his stance – but just a bit. He kept the crow bar raised – his eyes laser focused on the man lying in the dirt just a few inches away.

“Marcus, can you please go to my house, and ask my parents to call the cops? Can someone go get my father, and bring him here with some rope?” Sam asked – no emotion in his voice. “The cops are going to take forever getting out to the island.  My dad can help. We can tie this guy up, and then wait for the cops to arrive. Oh, you might want to tell to send paramedics, too.”

Still staring down at the bad man, Marcus nodded blankly. “Yeah. I can go. I have my father’s boat tied up on the other side of the island.” Marcus turned to run back to his boat, snapped his fingers and turned back. “You know! I’ve got some tow rope in my boat. We can use that to tie up this guy.”

Sam glanced up. He clenched his jaw, and nodded. “Thanks, Marcus.” Sam turned to the tall, willowy girl. “Stephanie, can you please go to the boat with Marcus, and then bring back the rope? I want to get this guy tied up sooner rather than later. I don’t trust him.”

Stephanie smiled. “Sure, Sam. I’ll do that for you, Sam.” She blushed, and then she and Marcus raced through the woods to Marcus’s boat.

Distracted by Stephanie’s smile, Sam relaxed and lowered the crow bar to his side. He really liked Stephanie. He had been planning to ask her to accompany him to the Creekwood Summer Festival Dance that was coming up next weekend.

“Sam! Look out!” Marnie screeched.

The bad man kicked Sam’s legs from beneath him, and then he weakly grabbed the crow bar with his mangled left hand. Marnie scrambled to get to her brother, but she stumbled on another tree root. The bad man scooted across the ground on his backside, and wrapped his right arm around Marnie’s throat, while still gripping the crow bar in his left hand as tightly as he could.

“Don’t move! Any of you! I’ll break her neck! I will squeeze the life out of her! One squeeze of my arm, and I will break her neck!” the bad man rasped out.

“Let me go!” Marnie screeched. She kicked and punched, and the bad man squeezed her neck tighter.

“Don’t fight me! I will kill you! I’m going to kill you anyway, but I’ll kill you quicker if you fight!” the bad man threatened.

The bad man scooted in his backside across the mossy ground until his back was against a large cedar tree. He planted the edge of his boots into the ground, and using the tree as leverage, he pushed himself up onto his feet. Marnie’s neck still firmly trapped in the crook of his right arm, he stood and weakly took a few backward steps away from Sam and his group of friends.

Tom sank down, and sat on the ground. He closed his eyes, and covered his face with his hands. He whispered, “Annie, please help my friend. Please help her.”

Sam took a threatening step forward.

The bad man grinned and squeezed Marnie’s neck.

“Argh! You’re hurting me!” Marnie squeaked out. Tears ran down her crinkled and frightened face.

Sam took another step forward.

“Not one more step!” the bad man growled. “I will snap her neck like a twig! Not one more step!”

The roar of a boat engine echoed as it rounded the island. Sam hoped that it was Marcus racing toward the Reilly’s dock.

Sam scanned his group of friends. Stuart and David Bennett were both glancing back and forth between Sam and Marnie. Stuart was Sam’s age. David was just a year older than Marnie. Stuart put his hands out flat to the ground as a sign for Sam to stand down. Sam nodded, and then retreated a step.

“Good boy!” rasped out the bad man. He walked backward into the woods dragging Marnie with him. Tears streamed down Marnie’s face. Her mouth was moving, but they couldn’t hear what she was saying.

Sam turned around searching for Tom. Tom was creeping through the woods.

“Tom!” Sam shouted. “Tom! Get back here!”

Tom stopped for a moment. He turned, made eye contact with Sam, shook his head firmly, and then darted off into the woods – trailing the bad man and his friend

…to be continued

The Island

The Island, Part 1 – Marnie Reilly Mysteries – The Early Years

The Island – Part 1

“C’mon, Sam! We want to go swimming! Can we take the boat to the island? Do you want to go to the island, Sam?” Dressed in white shorts, and a navy blue bikini top, and red flip-flops, Marnie stood impatiently on the dock waiting for her brother. She held a navy New York Mets T-shirt in her hand.

“You’re being bossy again,” Tom scolded, tipping his head to the side and squinting his eyes against the mid-morning sun.

Marnie wrinkled her forehead. “No, I’m not! I’m not being bossy. I’m being a pest. There’s a difference.” Marnie stuck her head in the air, crossed her arms, and stared up the hill at Sam.

Sam loped down the hill. He was wearing light blue swimming trunks, a gray New York Mets T-shirt, a New York Mets ball cap, and flip-flops.  He carried a backpack, and a navy and white striped beach bag.

“Mom said you have to put on sunscreen, Marnie. She said you can’t go swimming until you do,” Sam called down the hill.

Marnie danced impatiently from one foot to the other. “Argh! I don’t like sunscreen! It makes me itch! It makes me itch all over!”

Sam stopped walking, and pointed with his thumb back toward the house. “Well, you can argue with Mom about that. I’m not letting you go in the water until you put it on,” Sam chided with a shrug and quirk of his mouth.

Marnie threw her hands up. “Fine! I’ll wear the dang sunscreen.”

“Good! Now come get your bag. You forgot your towel, and your lunch.” Sam held the beach bag out for Marnie to retrieve.

“Can’t you bring it to me? You’re comin’ down here anyway!” Marnie huffed.

“Nope! Mom and Dad told me to stop babying you. Come get your bag,” Sam said, standing his ground.

“Fine!” Marnie rolled her eyes, and stomped up the hill, swinging her arms back and forth dramatically.

When Marnie reached her brother, she took her bag, set it on the ground, and pulled on Sam’s hand so that he would bend to meet her.

“Thank you, Sam. Thanks for taking me and Tom swimming,” Marnie said. She kissed her brother on the cheek, and then blew raspberries.

Sam dropped his backpack, scooped his sister up in his arms and blew raspberries on her tummy. Marnie giggled and squirmed.

“Sam! Stop it!” Marnie said between giggles.

Sam set her down on the grass, and messed up her hair. She wasn’t wearing her baseball cap today. Today her strawberry blonde hair hung loose – all the way to the middle of her back.

“C’mon, Marnie! I’ll race you to the dock!” Sam took off running.

“Oh! I’ll never catch you! You’re too fast!” Marnie raced after him, and only caught him when he slowed down enough to let her.

“C’mon, Squirt! Get in the boat. We’ll row over to the island, and have lunch. Sound good?” Sam picked up Marnie, and swung her into the rowboat.

Marnie nodded emphatically. “Sounds good! C’mon, Tom!”

Tom stared down at his toes for a moment. He lifted his chin, and a flush of embarrassment rose in his tanned face. “Um… I don’t swim too good. My mother told me I have to wear armbands.”

Marnie giggled. “Aw, Tom! Don’t be silly. It’s okay! I’ll wear mine, too. Mom packed mine so that I could swim out real far – that way if I get tired, I can just float. I like wearing my armbands sometimes.”

Sam ruffled Tom’s hair. “How about if I teach you swim, Tom? I taught Marnie how to swim, and she’s a pretty good swimmer. Would you like that? Would you like me to teach you?”

Tom tipped his head, and looked up at Sam. “Really? You’d teach me to swim?” Tom’s face showed a bit of confusion – and excitement.

Sam nodded. “Yeah. Sure. I’ll teach you to swim. You’re not afraid of the water, are you?”

Tom held his head up high, pulled his shoulders back, and puffed out his chest. “Nah! I’m not afraid of the water!” Tom held Sam’s gaze.

Sam smiled, and nodded again. “Good! Let’s get you into a life jacket, and then we’ll head over to the island. Marnie, put your life jacket on, please. I don’t need Mom yelling at me.”

Sam reached into the boatshed and pulled out three life jackets, and handed the jackets to Marnie. Next, he grabbed a nearly deflated inner tube and a hand pump. He set the inner tube and the pump on the floor of the rowboat, untied the boat from its cleats, dropped the stern rope into the back, threw the bow rope to Marnie, who neatly placed it at Tom’s feet.  Sam stepped into the boat, and settled onto the middle seat. It wobbled just a bit. Tom sucked in a breath and grabbed Marnie’s arm.

Marnie patted his hand. “We’re okay. Even if we tip, the water is real shallow here. You could stand up okay.”

Tom took a deep breath, and then finished putting on his life jacket.

“Ready to go?” Sam asked.

“Hang on!” Marnie shouted. She scrambled around Sam to the front of the rowboat, knelt down, then turned and flashed a smile in Sam’s direction. Tom, sitting wearily in the back of the boat, simply nodded.

The water was calm and clear. It was a perfect day. The sun was shining. There was a soft summer breeze. There was not a cloud in the sky, and the tree toads were calling for heat. Marnie leaned over the side and watched fish scurry beneath the boat – she could see clear to the bottom of the pond.

Marnie turned around, and pointed over the side of the boat. “Tom, look over the side. Look at the fish swimming under us!”

Tom hesitantly leaned to side, and watched the fish. “What kind of fish are those?”

“If the fish are big, probably bass, sunfish or bullhead. If the fish are small, probably minnows. Minnows make great bait,” Sam replied.

“Do you guys go fishin’?” Tom asked. He turned in his seat and watched Sam row the boat.

Sam nodded. “Yeah. Sure. We go with Dad sometimes. Sometimes Marnie and I go – just the two of us.”

“Marn, do you like to fish?” Tom asked.

Marnie didn’t answer. She was staring straight ahead in the direction of the island.

Tom tried again. “Hey, Marn! Do you like to fish?” he shouted.

Marnie didn’t answer. Sam dipped an oar into the water and splashed water onto his sister. Marnie spun around, and wiped water off her face with her arm.

“Hey! What’d you do that for?” Marnie yelled – her brow crinkled with anger.

“Tom was speaking to you. What are you looking at?” Sam replied, squinting his eyes to see what had Marnie’s attention.

Marnie nodded her head toward the island, and then pointed. “There’s an old guy on the island. I’m trying to figure if he’s real or not real,” Marnie replied.

Sam looked in the direction his sister was pointing, and then shrugged. “Not real. I don’t see anyone. Tom, do you see anyone on the island?”

Tom peeked around Sam, narrowed his eyes, and stared fiercely in the direction Marnie was pointing. He shrugged, and shook his head.

“Nah! I don’t see an old man,” Tom replied.

Marnie tipped her head to the right, and then she gingerly stood up in the small bow of the boat. She tipped her head to left, and continued to focus on the island.

Tom, while not at all cold on this beautiful summer’s day, shivered and hugged himself against the chill rising up his back to his neck.

Sam continued to row. The closer they got to the island, the more certain he was that Marnie was seeing a ghost.

“Marnie, I don’t see anyone on the island. Some of my friends are probably on the other side swimming, but I don’t see anyone on this side of the island,” Sam informed his sister.

Marnie shrugged, turned slightly, and then knelt down again, resting her arms on the bow. Under her breath, she muttered, “Well, I can see him, and he looks angry.”

Marnie turned around. “Sam, do you want me to help you row? Are you getting tired?”

“Do you think you can get back here without tipping over the boat? I don’t want you to tip the boat over?” Sam teased.

Marnie nodded, and gently made her way to the middle of the boat, rocking the boat only a bit.

“How was that? Was that okay, Sam?” Marnie asked.

“That was pretty good, Squirt! Now, sit here with me. You can help me row,” Sam replied.

Marnie sat on the seat in between Sam’s legs, and then leaned her back against his chest. She planted her feet firmly on the floor, and grabbed ahold of the oars.  A soft breeze blew Marnie’s hair up into Sam’s face, and it tickled his nose and chin.

“Geez, Marnie! Your hair is in my face! Where’s your cap?” Sam asked.

Marnie tipped her head up so that she could see Sam. “It’s in my bag. I think it’s in my bag, anyway.”

Sam sighed. “Okay. Well, we’re almost there. Help me row, and we’ll get there faster.”

Marnie held tight to the oars, even though hands weren’t big enough to wrap all the way around. Sam, of course, did most of the work, but Marnie liked to help. She always wanted to help.

“Sam, look! We’re nearly there!” Marnie screeched. “The man is standing right there! He’s on the dock! Can you see him?”

Sam rolled his eyes. His frustration with his sister’s gift was often hard to control. He knew she could see ghosts – it was just irksome sometimes.

“Marnie, you know I can’t see him. Tom, can you see him?” Sam asked with a hint of annoyance in his voice.

Tom shrugged, and then shook his head. “Nah! I don’t see anything.” Tom dared himself to look up at the dock, but he didn’t. He sat behind Marnie and Sam – eyes tightly closed.

“Well, he still looks angry about something. He’s got a cranky face, and his clothes are wet and dirty, and he looks…famil…famil…” Marnie furrowed her brow, searching her words and studying the man on the dock. She was sure she knew him.

“Familiar?” Sam asked.

Marnie awkwardly snapped her fingers, and nodded emphatically. “Yeah! Familiar!”

Sam nodded, and then frowned. Who was this man his sister could see on the dock? No one had lived on this island in years. The bridge to the island had collapsed 3 years ago. Marnie couldn’t remember that. He barely remembered it. Sam gave the oars one last pull, propelling the boat to the dock. He set the oars into the boat, grabbed ahold of the dock, and loosely tied off the back of the boat onto a cleat.

“Okay, Marnie! Hop off and tie the front! Tom, can you please hand Marnie that rope? It’s right there by your feet.” Sam instructed.

Tom glanced down at the bottom of the boat, spotted the rope, scooped it up and held it out, waiting for Marnie to take it from him.

Marnie scrambled onto the dock, rocking the little boat as she went. Tom sucked in a breath, grabbed ahold of his seat with one hand, but continued to hold the rope out to Marnie. Marnie reached out and took the rope from Tom, and then skipped to the cleat positioned at the bow. She planted one foot against a pylon, and tugged on the rope – with an exaggerated grunt, she brought the boat closer the dock.  She expertly crisscrossed the rope around the cleat, and then stood back and beamed.

Sam smiled. Marnie had come a long way since last summer. Last year she could barely get out of the boat without help, and now she was pulling the boat to the dock.

“Well done, Squirt!” Sam lauded. “Next year you’ll be able to row me out to the island.”

Marnie’s eyebrows shot up and her face lit up with a smile. “Do you really think so, Sam? Do you think so?”

Sam smirked. “Well, maybe not all of the way to the island, but some of the way.”

Deflated, Marnie dropped her shoulders – but just for a moment.

“Hey, Tom! Come on! Hop up on the dock!” Marnie danced back and forth, encouraging Tom to join her.

“Is that cranky man still there?” Tom asked warily, as he took off his life jacket.

Marnie glanced around, shrugged, and then shook her head. “Nope. He’s not here right now. I don’t know where he went. Maybe he went swimming on the other side of the island.” Marnie shrugged again, and held out her hands.

Marnie took off her life jacket, and dropped it into the bow. She lay on her tummy, and reached for her bag, but she couldn’t quite reach it. Sam leaned forward, grabbed her bag, and held it out to her.

“You better put some sunscreen on before you forget. Mom will kick my butt if you get a sunburn, again,” Sam advised.

Marnie threw her head back and rolled her eyes. “Argh! I hate sunscreen! It makes me itch!”

Sam helped Tom up onto the dock, and then stepped onto the dock himself.

Sam, hands on his hips, stared down at his sister. Marnie glanced up at his stern face, sat on the dock, and took a bottle of sunscreen out of her bag. She held the bottle out to her brother.

“Can you put it on my back, please?” Marnie asked – a pouting scowl on her face.

Tom giggled. “You’re gonna trip over that lip and fall in the water, Marnie Reilly.”

Marnie glared at Tom, and wrinkled her nose up at him.

Sam laughed. “Marnie, your face is going to freeze that way.”

Sam put sunscreen on Marnie’s back and shoulders, and then handed the bottle back to her. “Don’t forget to put it on your face this time, Marnie.”

“I won’t forget. Does Tom need sunscreen?” Marnie glanced at her brother, and then over at Tom.

Tom shook his head. “My mom put sunscreen on me before I left home. I’ll be okay.”

Sam dug into Marnie’s bag, and found her baseball cap. “Here, Marnie. Put your cap on, ‘cause if you don’t, your head will burn.”

Marnie snatched her hat, jammed it onto her head, and stood up. “Can we go swimming now?”

“Yeah. Help me grab the stuff out of the boat,” Sam said. He stepped into the rowboat, and handed Marnie the inner tube, the armbands and the air pump. “Let me pump these up here so that I can leave the pump in the boat. It’ll just take a minute.”

Marnie turned around with a loud huff, and then set off toward the shoreline. Tom stayed to help Sam. When they heard Marnie talking to someone, both glanced up. Marnie stood at the end of the dock chatting with someone they could not see. She was quite animated, and then she started yelling.

“No! You can’t tell us we can’t come here! We can swim here any time we want! You’re a ghost! You can’t…” Marnie stopped yelling abruptly, and listened.

Tom and Sam watched as Marnie had a conversation with someone neither of them could see or hear. Marnie nodded, and then turned and ran toward her brother.

“Hey, Sam! That man… umm… Mr. Barnes! He said we can’t swim here! He told me to tell you that there’s a bad man on the island! He said the bad man is living in Mr. Barnes’s old cabin! Mr. Barnes said that the bad man killed him, and that he would kill us if we find him!” Marnie stopped running, turned, and pointed to the eastern end of the island. She took a deep breath, and then sat on the dock.

Sam cocked his head to the side, and squinted up at his sister. “Marnie, are you making up stories to scare us? Is that make-believe or is that true?”

“Swear to God, Sammy, I’m not playing make-believe! It’s true! I swear on my life it’s true!” Marnie replied – her eyes wide, not with fear, but with determination. “You’ve got to believe me, Sammy! It’s true!” Marnie reached, grabbed Sam’s hand, and pulled on him until he bent close to her. “He’s going to hurt someone. We have to stop him,” Marnie whispered loudly.

Tom slunk closer to Sam and sat down on the dock. He pulled his knees up to his chin and his hugged his legs tight to his chest. He watched Sam closely, and then turned to Marnie who was dancing from foot to foot. Her face flushed red, and her aquamarine eyes were wide. Her little fists were white-knuckled – she looked like a fighter getting ready to take a swing.

 “Don’t you think we should tell our parents and call the police?” Tom squeaked out.

“No! We’ve gotta warn Sam’s friends! They’re swimming on the other side of the island where the bad man is! We have to tell them to go home!” Marnie continued to bob back and forth. She glanced over her shoulder, and abruptly stopped dancing. “Something bad is going to happen,” she whispered loudly.

Sam nodded, set down the air pump, and rubbed his chin. His friends were on the other side of the island waiting for them. Should he warn them? Should he go tell his friends that his sister, who sees ghosts, just spoke to a ghost who told her to leave the island? Should he just get Marnie and Tom back into the boat and leave – now? He glanced in the direction of home. Maybe he should go get his father. His father would know what to do. Yes. They would get back in the boat, go home, and tell their father what Marnie had seen and heard.  Sam stood and dropped the air pump and inner tube into the boat. Just as he turned to share his plan with Marnie and Tom, a bloodcurdling scream ripped through the woods.

“What the heck!” Sam shouted.

“We gotta go home. We gotta go get out parents!” Tom cried.

“We can’t get home fast enough. We can’t row that fast! We gotta go help Sam’s friends. Come on!” Marnie grabbed Sam’s hand and began pulling in the direction of the scream.

“No, Marnie, you and Tom need to stay here! You could get hurt. I’ll go. You stay here!” Sam said firmly.

“Nuh uh! I’m coming with you!” Marnie shouted.

Sam scanned the dock, looking for a place where Marnie and Tom would be safe. He saw the old generator shed. It had a hasp lock with a metal pin on the outside. If I can just get Marnie into that shed, she’ll be safe, he thought.

“Well, we’re going to have to find weapons, Marnie. We can’t fight a bad man without weapons. Let’s check that shed over there,” Sam said, pointing to the generator shed.

Marnie ran ahead of him, as he had hoped she would do.

“Tom, can you help Marnie? Can you see if you can find something to hit the bad man?” Sam asked, waving his hands toward Marnie so that Tom would run to the shed with her.

Tom hopped up from his seat on the dock, and raced toward Marnie and the shed. “I’ll help her!” he called over his shoulder as he went.

Marnie reached the door, and pulled on it. It wouldn’t open. She glanced up and saw the lock. She grasped the pin and pulled up, but she was too small to pull the pin high enough. She hit the door out of frustration.

“Dang door! Dang lock!” Marnie shouted.

When Tom reached her, he stood on his tiptoes and tried too. The pin wouldn’t budge.

“Tom, you’re shorter than me. We need Sam,” Marnie said with a roll of her eyes. “Sam, we can’t open the door!”

“Hang on! I’ll get it,” Sam replied.

Sam reached out, pulled up on the pin, but it wouldn’t move.

“It must be rusted,” Sam informed them. He pulled harder, but it still wouldn’t move.

Sam thought for a second, searching for an alternative – but knew he had to take them with him. They would be safer with him, than left here on their own.

“Okay, we’ll all go, but you two stay behind me. You understand, Marnie? You don’t run ahead! If you run ahead of me, I’ll tell Mom and Dad that you didn’t listen to me,” Sam warned.

“Okay! I won’t run ahead of you!” Marnie growled, and rolled her eyes. “Let’s get big sticks and rocks! We can hit the bad man if he tries to get us!” Marnie said, stomping off toward the other side of the island. “Oh! Look, Sam! You could hit somebody really hard with this stick!” Marnie struggled to pick up a large piece of driftwood.

“Marnie! What did I say?! I said stay behind me!” Sam scolded, his face red with anger. “Don’t run ahead!”

Marnie skidded to an abrupt stop, dropped the piece of driftwood, and turned toward Sam – bewilderment showing on her freckled face. She wasn’t used to Sam getting angry with her. Annoyed, yes. Angry, no.  She waited for Sam and Tom to catch up, and then she took Sam’s hand.

“I’ll stay behind you, Sam. I’m sorry,” Marnie replied, dropping her gaze to the ground.

“Make sure you do!” Sam replied with a frown.

Marnie simply nodded her head – not daring to lift her gaze to meet Sam’s. Sam bent over and picked up the piece of driftwood. He nodded with approval.

Sam squeezed Marnie’s hand. “Thanks, Marnie. This will make a decent club. I hope I don’t need to use it.”

Marnie finally lifted her head and eyes up to meet Sam’s gaze. He winked at her, gently tugged on the brim of her cap, and she grinned up at him. Sam glanced around to see where Tom was. Tom stood directly behind Sam – his face white as sheet, as he uneasily twisted and pulled on the hem of his t-shirt.

“C’mon, Tom. Everything is going to be okay. You, and Marnie and I will go hunt down the bad man, huh?” Sam spoke quietly.

Sam was unsure whether the bad man would be the hunted – or if they would be, but he had to do something. His friends were on the other side of the island, and someone had just screamed. Sam rationalized – he had Marnie’s gift to lead him in the right direction. Marnie would tell him if there was danger. She would know. Sam glanced down his sister. She was holding onto his index finger with her small hand. Sensing that Sam was looking at her, Marnie glance up.

“It’s okay, Sam. We’re okay,” Marnie reassured.

“Which way should we go, Squirt?” Sam asked. His gaze turning to the shoreline, and then back to the woods.

Marnie closed her eyes, and whispered. Tom tipped his head, and strained to listen to what Marnie was saying. Sam knew Marnie was speaking with her grandfather. Papa Jack always answered when Marnie called him.

“Papa says the water. He says the water is the way,” Marnie said with assurance.

Sam nodded.

“Marnie, you hold the back of my shirt with one hand, and hold Tom’s hand with the other, okay?” Sam said.

Marnie nodded, and grabbed ahold of the back of Sam’s shirt. She turned, and held out her other hand to Tom. Tom glanced at her hand, took a step back, and stared into Marnie’s green eyes.

“C’mon, Tom,” Marnie coaxed. “We’re okay. My Papa Jack is watching over us, and I’ll bet if you ask her, Annie will too.”

Tom closed his eyes, just as Marnie had done a few moments ago. He thought about Annie. She appeared to him, and she smiled. Tom’s mouth lifted into a small grin. He opened his eyes, and grabbed ahold of Marnie’s hand with confidence.

They set off to catch a bad man – Sam leading the way, and holding tightly to the driftwood club Marnie had found. Marnie held tight to the back of Sam’s shirt, and Tom, with all of his might, gripped tightly to Marnie’s other hand.

Sam, Marnie and Tom kept low, and moved quickly along the reedy and pebbled shoreline of the pond. Mosquitos buzzed around their ears, and dragonfly wings glinted iridescent blue and green in the bright sunlight.

Marnie stumbled over a tree root, lost her grip on Sam’s shirt, and toppled into the shallow pond with a small splash. Tom, still gripping Marnie’s hand, stumbled sideways, clumsily reached for a seedling with his free hand, and saved himself from following Marnie into the water.

“Stupid tree!” Marnie hissed.

“Ow!” shouted Tom, as he scrambled to his feet.

“Shhh!” Sam held a finger to his lips, and then offered his hand to Marnie to help her up.

As Marnie and Tom collected themselves, another scream from the other side of the island made them all jump. Sam turned in the direction of the scream, and then to Marnie and Tom.

“You two stay here! I’m going to help. You stay crouched down here. Don’t move! I’ll come back to get you. If anyone comes near you, throw pebbles at them. Throw the pebbles really hard!” Sam darted off in the direction of the scream, leaving Marnie and Tom alone at the edge of the pond.

Frowning, Marnie rang out the water from her hair.

“I’m not staying here. I’m going to help,” Marnie said with determination.

Tom scowled. “Sam told us to stay here! We gotta stay here! He’ll get mad at us if we follow him.”

Marnie quirked her mouth, shook her head, bent down and started picking up pebbles. “Nah! He’ll be happy to see us. We’re gonna take these pebbles and chuck them real hard at the bad man,” Marnie replied. “Come on, Tom! Fill your pockets with pebbles!”

Tom threw up his hands. “Marnie, Sam said for us to stay here!”

Marnie stuck pebbles into her pocket, twitched up the corner of her mouth in thought, and glanced sideways at Tom. “Okay. You stay here. Mr. Barnes will keep you company. I’m going to help Sam!”

Tom’s violet eyes grew as large as saucers. “Mr. Barnes is here?” Tom asked, pointing a finger to the ground. “Mr. Barnes is here? Right now?”

Marnie shrugged. “Can’t you see him?”

Tom’s eyes darted left, then right. He turned in a circle, and then back to Marnie. “Nah! I don’t see anybody! You’re just tryin’ to scare me!”

Marnie quirked up the right corner of her mouth, held out her arms and shrugged. “Okay. You can stay here. I’m going to help my brother.”

Marnie waited. Tom stuck out his bottom lip as he thought about his options. Stay here with Mr. Barnes – the dead guy, or go with Marnie, get yelled at by Sam, and run into a bad man. Tom glanced from left to right, his furrowed brow relaxed slightly when he spied a rusty crow bar leaning against a tree. Tom bent to pick up the crow bar just as another scream echoed. Tom’s face clouded with anger. He picked up the crow bar, swung it onto his shoulder, and stomped toward Marnie. He grabbed her hand, and pulled her along the pebbly path.

“C’mon, Marn! We’re gonna get that bad man! Making girls scream – that’s… that’s… Well, I’m gonna whack him!”

Marnie grinned just a little. “Okay! Let’s get him, Tom! Let’s beat up that bad man!”

Marnie and Tom marched around the edge of the pond, holding tightly to each other’s hand. As they drew closer to the sounds of splashing and murmured conversations, they slowed their pace, and crouched down a bit. Peeking through the long grass, they could see Sam speaking with a group of kids about his age. He turned in their direction, but he didn’t see them.

“Okay! I’ll be back in a sec. I’ve gotta go back and get my sister and her friend. If I had known about that tree swing over the pond, I wouldn’t have thought someone was hurt. Why do girls always have to scream?” Sam laughed, and then turned in the direction of Marnie and Tom.

Marnie and Tom exchanged glances.

“We better go back to where Sam told us to stay,” Tom whispered.

Marnie nodded, and turned to race back to where her brother had left them before Sam caught them lurking in the reeds. Marnie and Tom stopped dead in the tracks. A man stood in front of them – he was huge – bigger than any one Marnie had ever seen in her life. Mr. Barnes stood to the side of the man – he was motioning for Marnie and Tom to turn and run, but both Marnie and Tom froze.

…to be continued

Torn Veil
Christmas is coming, and so is a killer. Will the psychic psychologist save Christmas and herself?

My BCs

The Inspiration(s) for Tater the Border Collie

When I began writing Divine Guidance, my heroine, Marnie Reilly, needed a side-kick. It couldn’t be just any side-kick, though. This side-kick had to had to be loyal, intelligent, funny and loveable. It didn’t take long for me to write the character of Tater – Marnie Reilly’s devoted Border Collie, and her loyal, intelligent, funny and loveable canine side-kick. Tater was one of the easiest characters to create because, well, I love Border Collies.

I have been blessed with four Border Collies in my life – Murphy, Finnegan, Dougal and Callee.  The breed is unlike any other. I do believe in my heart that once a person has been the proud slave to a BC, no other breed will ever quite add up.  I know! I have and have had other dog breeds in my world – there’s just something about a Border Collie. All dogs are special. Border Collies are exceptional – outstanding – remarkable. Their intelligence, capacity for reasoning, cheekiness, and intensity is unmatched, and when a Border Collie flashes one of their trademark smiles, it melts my heart – every single time. Each Border Collie has taught me something important about life. They are funny characters.

Border Collies
Murphy, Finnegan, Dougal and Callee

Tater, Marnie Reilly’s faithful Border Collie, is bits of each of my Border Collie family – mostly Murph and Finnegan, but bits of Dougal and Callee appear in his character in Torn Veil.

Tater from Marnie Reilly Mysteries Torn Veil and Divine Guidance


Murphy was my first BC. Oddly enough, Murphy means sea warrior in Irish. I didn’t know that when I named him, but Murphy did love the ocean.  My happiest times with Murph were the lazy Saturdays and Sundays we would spend at the beach playing fetch and running in the sand. He was my faithful co-pilot, and happily jumped into the passenger seat of my Jeep when I jingled my keys. He was always ready for an adventure.  

Murph, Murphenstein and Murphymeister were just a few of his nicknames. He answered to all.  My mild tempered boy rarely barked – unless something was amiss. He was calm, steady and loyal. Murphy crossed the Rainbow Bridge far too young. A snake bit Murph, and he died several hours later. The vet couldn’t help him. I consider myself blessed to have shared 5 wonderful years with Murph. His friendship kept me sane at a time when I needed a best buddy.

Murph’s memory lives on in Divine Guidance. Do you remember the bit in Chapter 26 where Danny asks him to shake, and Tater literally shakes like he’s shaking water from his coat? Yup. Murph did that.

What did I learn from Murphy? It is okay to take the day off, go to the beach and play in the sand. Oh… only bark when necessary.

About two weeks after Murphy died, a good friend called to tell me that there was a farmer near her giving away Border Collie pups. They had 8 pups, and didn’t want them because the mother was a champion working dog, and the father was a champion show dog. You see, the pups’ parents were never meant to breed, but, well, they did. The owner of the mother and the owner of the father didn’t want the pups – the father’s owner only wanted pups of show breeding, and the mother’s owners only wanted pups of working dog breeding.

Of course, I was more than happy to take one of the pups off their hands.

Enter Finnegan!



 Finnegan means fair-haired in Irish. His face was mostly white, so his name was perfect for him. Like Murph, Finnegan had many nicknames – Finn – Finnie – Finnster – Little Man – Boomba Boy. Finnegan was handful. He was high energy, stubborn, incredibly vocal, and whip-smart.

One afternoon I watched Finnegan trying to bring a huge stick up onto our back deck. The “stick” was actually a tree branch that had fallen in a storm. He kept catching the branch on the step railings. Each time the stick would catch on the railings, Finnegan would take a step back, put the stick down, and try another strategy. After his third attempt, Finnegan picked the stick, set it vertically on the first and second steps, he walked up the third step, and pulled the stick up vertically. He then pulled the stick to where I was sitting, and barked at me to throw it.  Clever boy! 

Finnegan was 6 weeks old when he rescued me. He was 17 when he crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. I miss him – and I miss Murph, too. I think of them both every day. Whenever Tater flashes his smile or stares intently at something, I see Finnie’s face, and it makes me smile.

What did Finnegan teach me? He taught me that persistence is the key to success.

When Finnegan died, we missed his huge personality and his cheeky smile. Losing Finnegan left a huge hole in our hearts and our home, and it wasn’t long before I decided that we couldn’t go another day without a Border Collie in our lives. We could never replace Finnegan, but we could welcome another Border Collie into our home. I found a beautiful Border Collie puppy named Calabash on Best Friends Animal Sanctuary’s website. I filled out adoption paperwork, and waited… and waited.

Finally, about a week later, I received a call confirming that we could adopt Calabash. I ran into my other half’s office, and informed him that we would be driving to Utah on Friday. He asked why, and I thrust a picture into his hands, and said, “To pick up this puppy!”  He said, “Okay. Let’s go!” 

Enter Dougal!



“Dark stranger” is the Irish meaning of Dougal’s name. It is quite apt because Dougal’s is main color is glossy black with bits of white and sable. “Stranger” does fit if we are speaking of extremes of strange – which he is – in a good way. Dougal is stealthy – one minute he isn’t there, and then suddenly he is.  It freaks me out daily. Punctuality and order are of extreme importance to Dougal. Yup. He has OCD. There is no denying it, but that’s all just fine because Dougal is all love. I don’t know how else to explain my boy. He gives hugs – he actually asks for hugs. He is also incredibly smart, athletic and lightning fast – especially when chasing his archenemies, the squirrels.

Dougal, like our other pups, has a few nicknames – Dougally, Doogie, Dougal boy, Little Man, Baby Boy, and Boofhead, to name just a few. 

Anytime Tater places a paw on Marnie’s leg or when he shows sympathy for another character, that’s all Dougal. That’s my boy!

What have I learned from Dougal? Give and receive hugs often.

When Dougal came to live with us, we already had three other pups – Pip, Midget and Mags. Pip (Pippy Lou) crossed the Rainbow Bridge about 8 months later when she was 17. She was a wonderful girl – a Jack Russell/Kelpie cross – and Finnegan’s best friend. When we lost Pip it left a huge void. I know! We had three other dogs!

Midget and Mags were rescued together – they are sisters, and were found in a cardboard box on an old dirt road in the middle of Palm Desert. They are crazy, playful Parson Jack Russell cross something or other.  Problem was, they didn’t like to play with Dougal. They excluded him from their shenanigans.

Enter Callee!



We rescued Callee from Carolina Border Collie Rescue. Her name was originally Lilly. The original owner’s daughter surrendered her to Carolina Border Collie Rescue because the original owner had been abusive. Her foster mother named her Carly. We didn’t want to change her name too much, and so we named her Callee – which in Irish means “from the forest” – which is perfect because we live at the edge of a forest.

Callee, also know as Psycho Bullet, Crazy Callee, Cal Cal, Calster, Daddy’s Girl, and Baby Girl, is our funny, lovely, silly, LOUD, beautiful, snuggle monster. She is also Dougal’s best friend, and Midget’s and Mag’s archenemy.

Callee is quite boisterous and bossy. She yells at us when we don’t do as she wants, she “sings” when she’s happy, she speaks her own crazy language, and she warms our hearts with her silly antics.   

When Tater rolls on his back and sleeps with his legs in the air in Torn Veil, that’s all Callee. All Border Collies do this, but Callee does it more than most.

What have I learned from Callee? It’s okay to be crazy because others will join in, and everyone will have fun being silly for a while.

You may have noticed that all of my Border Collies have Irish names. That’s an homage to my maternal grandmother. Her family was originally from Ireland before they settled in Canada. Plus, their names suit them, and that is all that matters.

Every Border Collie has their own unique personality, but every BC I’ve been lucky to know have a few things in common – a high degree of intelligence, cheekiness, compassion and agility. If you ever do have the chance to be owned by a Border Collie, don’t pass it up. A BC will change your life for the better. ❤️🐾🐾❤️


Border Collie Facts

Here are few facts about Border Collies with some help from the American Kennel Club.

The Border Collie is one of the most talented and hardworking dogs there is. A BC will impress you with their intelligence and win you over with their eagerness to please. Here are 10 fun facts about Border Collies:

They Are Extremely Smart Dogs

We cannot talk about the Border Collie without talking about his/her intelligence. Dog experts widely agree that the Border Collie is an intelligent workaholic. They are capable of learning a remarkable number of words and commands, and they are happiest when they are put to work every day.

Dougal and Callee both have jobs. Dougal’s job is keeping his sisters, Callee, Midget and Mags, under control.  He herds them and watches over them. Dougal is also in charge of keeping Callee quiet. When she gets too loud, Dougal scolds her. It works – she usually stops barking when her big brother tells her to do so. Callee’s job is to keep Dougal busy. Together, Callee and Dougal patrol the yard to ensure squirrels are not eating out of the bird feeders.  Callee also entertains the cardinals. She plays chase with them for as long as they are willing to flit from tree to tree.

Each time we leave home, we tell Dougal he’s in charge. He’s never failed us – he keeps the others in line brilliantly.

Their Name Comes From Their Home Region

The Border Collie was originally developed in Scotland and thrived in the region on the border of Scotland and England. The word “collie” is a Scotch word used to describe sheepdogs. Because this breed flourished in the border region, it was christened the “Border Collie.”

They Are Champion Herders

Border Collies were originally bred to herd sheep. They excel at the task because of their strength, stamina, intelligence, and work ethic. Border Collies are famous for using “the eye”— staring intensely at members of the flock to intimidate them. When the earliest recorded sheepdog trial took place at Bala, Wales, in 1873, the crowd was astonished that the Border Collies were able to herd sheep into a small pen, guided only by hand signals and whistles from their owners.

Dougal and Callee both have the intense stare for which Border Collies are famous. That intense stare is used most often on their humans when they want a treat. It works 90% of the time.

Callee has a slinking posture when she has her sights set on the object she intends to herd – like a squirrel, or Midget and Mags. Dougal is more of stalker – he stands tall, watches and waits. This is typical of an Aussie Shepherd – have I mentioned that Dougal is BC/Aussie Shepherd mix? That’s why he’s a bit more muscular than my other BCs.

Auld Hemp

Auld Hemp was a stud dog considered to be the progenitor to the Border Collie breed. He was owned by Adam Telfer, and was used as a working dog to herd sheep. His style was different from that commonly seen during his era, as he worked far more quietly than the other sheepdogs of the time.

Auld Hemp
Old Hemp

Queen Victoria Loved Them

Queen Victoria was a true dog lover who took a liking to many breeds, but in the early 1860s she became an active Border Collie enthusiast. At this time, the Border Collie began to separate and become distinguished from the modern Collie.

One Was Featured in Scottish Poetry

The famous Scottish poet Robert Burns (If you don’t know him, think: “The best laid schemes of mice and men . . .”) owned a Border Collie named Luath that he loved dearly. Luath’s tragic death inspired one of Burns’ best poems, “The Twa Dogs,” which captured the special bond between dog and man. Multiple statues of Robert Burns include Luath right by his side.

They’ve Broken All Kinds of Records

A Border Collie named Chaser has been widely recognized as the world’s most intelligent dog; she knows the names of more than 1,000 objects. Another Border Collie, named Jumpy, holds a Guinness World Record for dog skateboarding: 100 meters in less than 20 seconds. Striker, a Border Collie from Quebéc City, set the canine record for rolling down a manual car window. In 2008, a Border Collie-mix named Sweet Pea set a record for dog balancing; she balanced a can on her head and walked 100 meters in only 2 minutes and 55 seconds.

They Make Great Actors

Border Collies have been cast in many films and TV shows. The film “Babe” — about a little pig that defies the odds and becomes a sheepherder — features Border Collies, as actors and as herders. Border Collies have also been cast in the movies “Animal Farm” and “Snow Dogs,” and in the hit ’90s television series, “Mad About You. Remember Murray?”

They Also Make Great Search and Rescue Dogs

In addition to herding, another common job for Border Collies is search and rescue. A Border Collie named Blitz recently saved a 51-year-old woman’s life in England. The woman had been missing for more than one day when Jess Ellsmore, a volunteer search and rescue handler, brought her dog Blitz in to search the area. Blitz found the missing woman under some thick foliage, where she wouldn’t have been visible to human searchers alone.

Border Collies Can Be Official Goose Masters

Border Collies have all kinds of jobs, but one career you probably haven’t heard of is “goose master.” One Florida company trains Border Collies to keep geese off people’s property. The University of North Florida hired a Border Collie named Bee to be the goose master for their campus. Bee keeps geese away from high-traffic areas.

Border Collies Talk

That’s right. They use varying tones of barking, whining, trilling and whimpering pending what they are trying to convey.  While it may sound silly, I carried on conversations with Murph and Finnegan, and my other half and I carry on conversations with Dougal and Callee – and yes, they do respond. We don’t bother spelling words like park, or walk, or truck – they know exactly what we are talking about when we spell. Border Collie’s are just too smart to be fooled by a little thing like spelling.

Shepherd’s Lantern

The white tip on the tail of most Border Collies is called a shepherd’s lantern. It allows shepherds to follow their BC home at night in the dark. The long fur around their necks is often white, too. It’s referred to as a shawl.

I hope you enjoyed this little blog about the inspiration(s) for Tater, and the fun facts about Border Collies. Yes, I am a crazy dog lady – but I’m okay with that. Callee told me it’s okay to be crazy.

Interested in learning more about Border Collies? Click the link below.

Border Collie Dog Breed: Facts, Temperament and Care Info

You can read more about the characters in Divine Guidance and Torn Veil here: https://sharitmitchell.com/come-meet-the-marnie-reilly-mysteries-characters-from-divine-guidance-and-torn-veil/

More useful links are below:


Torn Veil – Read the first 7 chapters

Torn Veil – View on Amazon.com

Torn Veil – View on Amazon.ca

Torn Veil – View on Amazon.co.uk

Torn Veil – View on Amazon.com.au

Torn Veil – View on Barnes and Noble

Divine Guidance – Read the first 7 chapters

Divine Guidance – View on Amazon.com

Marnie and Sam (and Tom) – the early years…

The screen door off the kitchen slammed shut. A tall lanky boy loped through the door, sweat dripping from his brow – his short dirty blonde hair sticking up in spots – his cheeks smudged with dirt – grass clippings clinging to his perspiring legs.

“Samuel, you weren’t wearing shorts to mow the lawn again, were you?” asked a tall woman with flour on her hands. She was wearing a pair of white Bermuda shorts, a bright blue t-shirt, and no shoes. Her honey blonde hair fell in soft waves around her face. Her mouth quirked up slightly on one side, and her soft blue eyes revealed that she already knew the answer to her question.

The boy responded with a roll of his grey eyes. “Yeah. Dad asked me to cut the lawn before he would give me an old tire from his workshop. I promised to put a swing up for Marnie. I was going to change, but…”

“But… you got distracted and forgot the promise you made to me.”

“Yes, ma’am. I forgot. I’m sorry.  I just wanted to get it finished so that I could put the swing up.” Sam’s head hung for just a moment – then he heard the freezer door open, a bit of rustling and then the door closed. His head shot up, and he stared into his mother’s face. She was smiling, and handing him an orange Popsicle – his favorite.

“Off with you! Your sister and her new friend are eating Popsicles out on the veranda,” Sophie Reilly said with a wave of her hand and a grin. “Remember to put your jeans on the next time. A rock is going to kick back at you and rip your leg open one day. Between you and your sister… our emergency room visits are getting expensive.”

“Thanks, Mom! I’ll remember!” Sam called out as he walked through the house to the veranda.

“Don’t slam…” Sophie Reilly called out just as the front screen door slammed shut. “…the door! The two of them will be the death of me.” Sophie shook her head, smiled, and went back to making piecrust.

“Hey, Squirt! Who’s this?” Sam pointed his Popsicle at Tom.

Marnie hopped up and danced from foot to foot – excited to share the news of her new friend with her brother. “This is my new friend Tom. Tom Keller. He and his family just moved here, and he helped me get the rope up over the branch!”

Sam nodded. “Hi, Tom…”

Marnie cut him off. Her face beamed with pride. “Tom this is my big brother, Sam. He’s the biggest kid in the whole neighborhood. He’s 12! He’s real strong, and he plays baseball, and football, and he runs really fast! And he’s funny, too. And he gives me piggyback rides, and he reads to me, and he’s really, really smart. He’s smarter than just about anyone – except my mom and dad…” Marnie stopped and took a deep breath.

“Breathe, Marnie! You’ve got Popsicle all over your face!” Sam laughed, pulled the hem of his t-shirt out of the waistband of his shorts, and wiped Marnie’s face with it.

“Yuck! That’s all sweaty and dirty!” Marnie pushed Sam away and spit on the deck of the veranda. “Blah! That’s gross! Blah!”

Sam laughed and pulled the visor down on Marnie’s cap.

Sam stuck out his hand to Tom. “Hi, Tom. I’m Sam – Marnie’s brother. You wanna help us put the swing up?”

Tom hopped up and shook Sam’s hand. “Yeah! I wanna help! I don’t have a big brother!” Tom turned to Marnie. “You are so lucky to have a big brother!”

Marnie grinned. “I know! I have the best brother in the world.” Marnie threw her arms around Sam’s legs and hugged him tight.

Tom’s eyes danced. “Geez, Marn! You have two dogs and a big brother! You’re the coolest girl I know!”

“I know! I’m real lucky!” Marnie grinned. She grabbed Tom’s hand and raced down the steps, and across the front lawn to the big old oak tree. “C’mon, Sam! Let’s make a swing!”

Sam loped off the veranda steps, and walked around the side of the house. “I’m coming! Let me get the tire. It’s leaning on the fence.”

Marnie hopped up and down. “Look, Sam! Tom and me… Tom and I got the rope over the branch! We tied it around a rock, and threw it real high! Look, Sam! Look!”

“That’s really good, Squirt! Did Tom come up with that idea?” Sam asked, as he rolled the tire across the lawn.

Tom nodded.

Marnie nodded, too.  “He sure did! He’s pretty smart, huh?”

“Okay. Can you two hold the tire up while I tie the rope around it?” Sam asked.

Tom grabbed the tire and tried to pick it up. “Whoa! This is heavy!”

Marnie pushed her way around Sam. “Here, Tom! Let me help. I’m 5. I can pick up that tire!” Marnie curled her arms and flexed her muscles.

Sam put a hand on Marnie’s shoulder. “Marnie, what did Mom and Dad tell you about pushing people? You’re not supposed to push people!” Sam scolded.

“Dang it, Sam! I didn’t push you. I just nudged you a little, that’s all.” Marnie crossed her arms and stuck out her bottom lip.

“Marnie, you know darn well you pushed me. You gotta slow down, Squirt.  You don’t always have to be in a hurry,” Sam said, frowning down at his sister.

Marnie threw her arms in the air and tossed back her head. “I know! I’m just excited about the swing. We’ve been talking it about for years!” Marnie stomped her foot, and looked up at her brother with frustration.

“We’ve been talking about it since breakfast,” Sam said, smirking down at Marnie.

Marnie sighed a big frustrated breath. “Fine! Since breakfast!”

“Hey, Marn! Look at this caterpillar!” Tom shouted.

“Where!” Marnie pushed past Sam again and ran to Tom’s side.

“It’s right here! Look at it! It’s blue!” Tom was squatting in the grass watching a caterpillar squirm across a fallen oak leaf.

Marnie squatted next to him. “That is so cool! We should get a bottle and keep him!”

“Leave the caterpillar alone! He’ll die if you put him in a bottle,” Sam said.

Marnie wrinkled her nose up at her brother. “How do you know it’s a boy caterpillar? It could be a girl!”

Tom wrinkled up his nose, too. “It’s probably a boy. It’s blue!”

Marnie rolled her eyes. “Pfft! So! My shorts are blue, and I’m not a boy! Mom’s shirt is blue, and she’s not a boy!”

Sam rolled his eyes, too. He put his hands under Marnie’s armpits. He swung her up over his head, and onto his shoulders. “Okay! Enough with the caterpillar. Let’s put up this swing!”

Marnie threw her arms above her head. “I’m the king of the castle, and you’re both dirty rascals!” She giggled, and messed up Sam’s hair.

Sam reached up and tickled Marnie. She giggled, squirmed and fell backward off Sam’s shoulders onto the lawn with a sickening thud.

Sam whirled around and knelt on the lawn next to his sister. “Oh, my gosh! Marnie, are you okay? Marnie, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to drop you!”

Tom – mouth open and eyes wide – stared down at his new friend. Her eyes were closed, and she wasn’t moving. “Is she dead?” he asked in a small voice.

Sam shook his head. “No, she’s not dead. She’s just knocked out. She’ll be okay. She falls down all the time.”  Worry spread across Sam’s face. He closed his eyes and said a quick prayer.

Tom knelt down on the lawn next to Marnie. “Marn! Hey, Marn! Wake up! Please don’t be dead.” Tears welled up in Tom’s eyes.

Marnie opened one eye, and then the other. “Sam?” she squeaked out in a tiny voice.

Tom clapped his hands together lightly and produced a smiled. “She’s not dead!”

Sam pulled her up into his arms. Marnie wrapped her arms around her brother, and snuggled into his neck.

“I’m sorry I squirmed,” Marnie cried.

“That’s okay, Squirt. You’re okay. I promise I won’t ever hurt you again. You scared me. I’m sorry. Is your head okay?” Sam pulled off Marnie’s cap and ran his hand over the back of her head.

Marnie turned to Tom – her eyes wide. She put a finger to her lips. “Shh…don’t tell my mom. She’ll get mad at Sam. He’s not sposed to put me on his shoulders.”

Tom gave a quick nod, and put a hand gently on Marnie’s shoulder and rubbed comfortingly. “I won’t tell. I promise. I won’t tell.”

Sam set Marnie gently on her feet, and stood up. “Wanna finish this swing?”

Marnie and Tom hopped up and sprang across the lawn to the tire.

“Yay!” Marnie shrieked.

“We can hold the tire for you, Sam!” Tom shouted with excitement.

Marnie grabbed one side of the tire, wrapped her arms through the middle, and held tightly to the tire. Tom did the same, and together, he and Marnie heaved the tire up into the air between them. They struggled to hold it up while Sam put the rope through the middle of the tire and tied a knot at the top.

“There you go. You can let it go,” Sam said. “What do you think?” Sam stood back, and admired his work.

“That is so awesome!” Marnie yelled.

“Yeah! Awesome!” Tom shouted.

“Can I try it?” Marnie asked.

“Sure. Be careful though. I don’t want you to fall again,” Sam said, as he helped Marnie into the middle of the tire.

Marnie, legs dangling, turned to her brother. “Push me, Sam! Push me!”

Sam pushed the tire, and Marnie giggled as she swung back and forth on the tire swing.

Tom hopped up and down next to them. “Can I try? Can I have a try?”

“Sure!” Marnie said.

Sam stopped the swing, and helped Marnie down from the tire. Tom grabbed hold of the top of the tire with both hands, and swung himself through the hole. His legs dangled. He couldn’t reach the ground to push himself, so Sam pushed him, too.

“You want to try it, Sam?” Marnie asked.

“Nah! I’ve gotta go get my glove and bat. I’ve gotta go to baseball practice,” Sam said.

“Ah!” Marnie cried. “Will you be home soon? I wanted to show Tom the pond, but I can’t if you’re not with us!”

“I’ll be home for dinner. You two play on the swing, and I’ll be back in couple of hours,” Sam called back to his sister.

Marnie ran across the yard to Sam. She pulled his hand so that he would bend down in front of her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a huge hug.

“I love you, Sammy bear!” Marnie squished up her nose.

“I love you, too, Squirt.” Sam squished up his nose, and hugged her back before going into the house to get his glove and bat.

Marnie turned, sprang across the lawn, scooped up her cap and shoved it onto her head. She grabbed Tom’s hand, and pulled him forward as she ran toward the sidewalk.

“C’mon, Tom! I’ll show you the bridle trail! It’s really cool! There are heaps of grass snakes, and frogs, and rabbits, and bugs!”

“Cool!” Tom ran alongside his new friend – excited to explore the bridle trail down the street from Marnie’s house.

Marnie and Tom - the early years...

Marnie and Tom – the day they met…

“Dang rope! C’mon! Get over that branch!” A little girl wearing a baseball cap with a strawberry blonde ponytail poking through the back of it, threw a scraggly old rope in the air aiming for a large branch on an old oak tree.

“Whatcha doin?” asked a boy with dark wavy hair and violet eyes.

The little girl turned around, squinted into the sun, adjusted her cap, and saw the boy standing on the sidewalk, his bicycle resting against his legs. The little girl threw the rope on the ground in frustration.

“My brother went looking for an old tire in my dad’s workshop. He told me to get that dang rope over that branch up there, and he would make me a tire swing.” The little girl scowled, pointed at the offending rope, put her hands on her hips in disgust, and looked up at the long, knobby oak branch.

“I can help!” called out the little boy, laying his bicycle on the sidewalk.

The little girl squinted in his direction, and asked, “What’s your name?”

“Tommy. Tommy Keller,” said the boy.

“Tommy?” the girl giggled. “That’s a silly name for a boy. Can I call you Tom? My mom’s cat is called Tommy, and I don’t think you look like a cat.” The girl giggled again, and kicked an acorn across the yard.

“Sure! You can call me Tom. I like it better than Tommy, anyhow. Hey! What’s your name?”

“Marnie Reilly,” she answered. “Well, c’mon. Let’s get this rope over that branch.” Marnie planted her feet, adjusted her cap, and stared up at the branch.

Tom raised his eyes up to the branch, twisted his mouth to the side, and then ran his eyes across the front lawn of Marnie Reilly’s home.

“How ‘bout we tie a rock to the rope so that it goes up high, and over the branch?” Tom suggested, assessing the situation.

Marnie snapped her little fingers awkwardly, a smile spreading across her freckled face. “Hey! That’s a great idea. Thanks, Tom!”

Marnie and Tom wandered around the lawn, searching for the perfect rock to tie to the scraggly rope.

Marnie held up a rock about the size of baseball. “How ‘bout this one?”

Tom crossed the lawn, examined the rock and shrugged.  “We can try. Do you know how to tie a knot?”

Marnie shrugged. “Yeah! I can tie the laces on my sneakers.”

Marnie squatted on the grass underneath the big oak tree.  “Careful! Don’t sit in the grass. There are bitey ants in the grass. They’ll crawl up your shorts and bite your bum.”

Tom frowned. “Okay. I’ll be careful. I got stung by a bee a couple weeks ago. I had to go to the hospital and everything.”

Marnie’s aquamarine eyes grew as big as saucers. “You got stung by a bee? Wow! I’ve never been stung by a bee. Are you lergic?”

Tom nodded. “Yeah. I’m lergic. Mom made me breathe into a lunch bag all the way to the doctor. She said I was… umm… I can’t remember the word. It was a big one. She was real scared. She called my dad at work, and told him she was taking me to the doctor.”

“Did you die?” Marnie asked, eyes wide.

Tom burst out laughing. “No! If I died I wouldn’t be here.” Tom rolled into the grass and laughed.

Marnie stood quickly and scowled at Tom. “Yeah, you could be! You could be here if you died! Stop laughing! Stop laughing at me!” Marnie balled her hands into fists. “Stop it! It’s not funny!”

Tom stopped laughing, pushed himself up onto his knees and looked up at his new friend. His face grew serious, and his eyes became teary. “I’m sorry, Marn. My sister died. She got hit by a car. That’s why we live here now. Mom and Dad didn’t like our old house no more – not without my sister.”

Marnie put a hand gently on Tom’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Tom. Is your sister’s name Annie?”

Tom stood, swallowed hard, and nodded. Eyes wide, he asked, “How did you know that?”

Marnie shrugged, pointed to the sidewalk and gave a curt nod of her head. “She’s right there, silly. Don’t you see her? She’s been watching us look for a rock.”

Tom looked sideways to the place Marnie was pointing. “I don’t see her.”

“Right there! She’s standing right there! She has black hair and blue eyes and a blue dress and white sneakers. She’s right there!” Marnie continued to point. “You can see her. I know you can!”

“No, she’s not there!  She’s in heaven! She’s not here!” Tom demanded – his face red – eyes watery.

Marnie threw up her hands. “She just told me that you won’t believe me. She’s been trying to talk to you, but you won’t listen. She told me that Mr. Kramer hit her with his big car, and that it wasn’t his fault. She said that she ran in front of his car to get her doll’s head – it fell off and rolled into the street. She said he didn’t see her. She said Mr. Kramer is in big trouble, and she’s sad about him being in big trouble.” Marnie took a deep breath. “She said she shouldn’t have been outside because it was getting dark.” Marnie stopped talking, put her hands on hips and glared at Tom. “You can hear her, can’t you?”

Tom stared down at his sneakers. Kicking an acorn, he shrugged. “Sometimes. I think so.”

“Well, I can see her, and she wants you to tell your mom and dad it’s not Mr. Kramer’s fault,” Marnie replied. She put a hand on Tom’s shoulder, and stared into his face. “You have to tell your mom and dad. Annie wants you to tell your mom and dad.”

Tom nodded reluctantly. “Okay. I’ll tell them tonight. They’re just gonna tell me I’m making it up, but I’ll tell them.” Tom took a deep breath, and then glanced up at the branch. “Let’s get this rope up into the tree so we can swing.”

Marnie nodded. “Okay.”

Tom glanced over his shoulder to the sidewalk. “Is she still there?”

Marnie shook her head. “Nope. She’s gone. She said what she needed to say.”

Tom visibly shuddered.

Marnie frowned. “Are you afraid of ghosts, Tom?”

Tom held a hand out in front of him. “I don’t want to see them. I don’t want to hear them, and I don’t want them in my room at night.”

Marnie shrugged. “You watch too much T.V. Ghosts can’t hurt you.”

Tom glanced sideways at his new friend. “How do you know?”

Marnie rolled her eyes. “Pfft! I see them and talk to them all the time!”

Tom’s eyes widened. “You do? You see ghosts all the time?!”

Marnie stuck out her bottom lip, nodded and shrugged. “Yeah! C’mon, let’s get that rope over the branch. My brother is gonna be back with the tire soon.”

Tom and Marnie squatted down under the oak tree. Marnie tied a perfect bow around the rock; Tom threw the rock as hard as he could, and the rock and rope sailed over the large oak branch.

Marnie jumped up and down, and clapped her hands. “Yay! You did it! You got the rope over the branch!”

Tom beamed, and looked up at the rock dangling from the scraggly old rope, which hung over the branch.

“Hey, Marn?” he asked.

“Yeah?” Marnie answered.

“If you do see a ghost, will you let me know?” Tom asked.

Marnie nudged her cap up just a bit so that she could see Tom’s face. “Hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you. You might get scared.”

Tom nodded in agreement. “Okay. Maybe that’s a good idea. Pinky swear? If you see a ghost, you won’t tell me.” Tom held out his hand and extended his pinky.

Marnie wrapped her pinky around Tom’s. “Pinky swear! If I see a ghost, I won’t tell you –unless I have to.”

Tom frowned. “Why would you have to?”

“Well, what if it’s a good ghost and it can help us?” Marnie asked.

Tom nodded. “Okay. Only if it’s a good ghost.”

Marnie twisted her mouth. “What if it’s a bad ghost, and we need to run. Can I tell you then?”

Tom thought about it for just a moment, and then he nodded. “Okay. If we need to run, you gotta tell me!”

“I swear on my dogs’ life!” Marnie replied.

Tom’s eyes dance and he said, “Wow! You’ve got a dog?” Tom asked.

“I’ve got two dogs,” Marnie replied. “C’mon! You can meet them! They’re inside with my mom.”

“First, we gotta pinky swear on the ghosts! You see a good one, you tell me. You see a bad one, and we gotta run, you tell me. Deal?” Tom stuck out his pinky.

“Deal!” Marnie stuck out her pinky and they sealed the deal, wrapping their pinkies around each others.

Pinkies still wrapped together, they wandered up the path into Marnie’s house to get a red Popsicle.

Kathy Review banner

Where do those stories come from?

Where do I come up with the ideas for my stories? Hmm… That is a very good question, and I have a simple answer: life. That’s it. Life – my family, the people I have met, the places I have been, my career, the books I have read; a funny thing my dog did yesterday; a funny thing my other half did yesterday; memories – good or bad… Everything that has occurred in my life has given me more than enough fodder for the stories I write.

Michele review

When people tell me that they have a story in them, and then they don’t sit down and write it, I wonder for just a moment what they are waiting for – and why aren’t they doing it. Well, that’s also a good question, and there is a simple answer: life.

Finding inspiration isn’t the hard part for me. Ideas pop into my head all of the time. I have conversations with my characters – and I write their dialogue in my head when I’m doing housework, falling asleep, walking through the grocery store – my brain does not stop. I dream about Creekwood and my characters often. It’s carving out the time – undistracted time when work, dogs, Big Dawg, laundry, gardening, and other commitments aren’t clouding the creative space in my brain. Plus, keeping a social media presence alive takes a considerable about of time. Creating content and finding content to post every day to Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms is a time intensive exercise. It’s fun – but it takes time out from writing.

KM Amazon Review
“Torn Veil won’t disappoint! A fantastic follow up to Shari T Mitchell’s debut novel, Divine Guidance.

Once I do sit down, and settle into writing, time disappears. Hours pass – words turn into sentences – sentences turn into paragraphs – paragraphs turn into chapters – chapters turn into a terrible first draft. That terrible first though… That terrible first draft is then molded into a second draft, and then a final draft. What many people don’t understand is that before a book hits the shelves, thousands of hours of research, writing, proofreading, editing, and design have been spent getting the story onto the shelves.

“Fantastic! This book is amazing! I love the characters-I’m glad we saw more of Gram! There were twists and turns, horrible bad guys, wonderful good guys!

When I do sit down and write – when I do carve out time for my favorite creative endeavor – I create a whole new world for readers to explore. That’s also part of the inspiration – writing stories that people love makes it worthwhile. Knowing that someone has picked up my book, and that they have appreciated my words, and the world I have created – well, that’s inspiration in itself.

If you’ve read Divine Guidance or Torn Veil, drop a review on my website. I would love to your hear from you.



Happy New Year

Happy New Year! Happy Friday!

TGIF! Thank goodness we’ve gotten through the first week of 2021.

As I continue writing Fatal Vow, the third book in the Marnie Reilly Mystery series, and as I await new reviews of Torn Veil (yes, that is a hint), ideas pop into my head for videos and marketing support items for Divine Guidance and Torn Veil. One of the latest things to hit the publishing industry is book trailers. So… we have put together a trailer that promotes the first two books in the Marnie Reilly Mysteries series – Divine Guidance and Torn Veil, and we’ve put together the first book trailer for Fatal Vow – the third in the series.

Marnie Reilly Mysteries Trailers

Marnie Reilly Mysteries
Fatal Vow Trailer #1

Divine Guidance and Torn Veil are set it late autumn and winter. Snow, sleet and frigid temps set the scene. Fatal Vow drops Marnie into the beginning of a hot, humid summer in Creekwood, NY. Pretty sure there will be a few crazy thunder and lightning storms for our heroine to contend with on her most dangerous journey thus far.

As I write Fatal Vow, I conjure up the sounds of summer in my memory – crickets, tree toads and birds calling for rain, mosquitos buzzing my ear as I fall asleep, and the sound of rain on the roof just outside my bedroom window. I also remember the humidity – the hot and sticky days of summer, when the only relief came from a breeze off of the river. The sights and sounds of my childhood summers will all be present in Fatal Vow – the train whistle from across the river in Canada, lightning bugs blinking in the distance, a thunderstorm brewing, the Big Dipper sparkling in the night sky, the sound of ships chugging up and down the St. Lawrence, and the lap of ship waves slapping the shore.

Divine Guidance began just before Thanksgiving – Torn Veil just before Christmas. I’ve got a theme going with holidays, and as such, Fatal Vow brings us to Independence Day – fireworks and all. This is going to be fun!

Thanks so much to everyone who has been kind enough to post a review of Divine Guidance or Torn Veil. Every review helps lift my book(s) in the rankings, and it also gets the book(s) in front of more people. So, if you haven’t written a review yet, I would be grateful if you could find a few moments to do so.

I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas and New Year. Cheers to a brilliant 2021!