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Sunday, March 23, 2014

KK Undercover:
The Haunted Field Trip
Chapter One
Home sweet Home, San Diego, California
       My name is Cassandra but with a K, and only one S. That’s big K, little a, big S, little a-n-d-r-a, get it? If you live in San Diego and you have a kid at Deer Canyon Elementary School you may have heard of me and my team, Winifred, Claire, and Daniel. We got a small write up in "Echoes" our school newspaper when we solved The Cookie Caper and unmasked the Lunchito Bandito. Actually, The Cookie Caper wasn't that newsworthy as the bandito turned out to be Chester the hamster, our class mascot. But hey, it was fun and nobody got hurt. Well, except maybe for poor Daniel who has been teased non-stop for wigging out over a furry and fat oversized rat.
       We didn't make the Union Tribune or get on TV or anything like that, but that's okay, we're supposed to be spies anyways. That's right, I said spies! Me and the team work for S.A.M. which stands for Secret Agents for Moms. It's a government agency that recruits brainy kids like us to sorta keep an eye on things. It's kinda hard to be super secret spies if everyone already knows you're spies, duh. Just because we are spies doesn't mean we're tattle-tales though. We just help to keep little problems from becoming big ones. We help kids find their way to the right adult who can help them fix whatever's wrong. I guess you could say that we're the eyes that moms claim to have in the back of their heads.
       So, to recap, I'm a 4th grader at dear old Deer Canyon Elementary School in sunny San Diego, California. I live with my Mom, my big sister Katrina and my little brother Luc. My Dad went to Heaven when I was three and I miss him a lot. But Mommy raised us to be strong and besides, Father Nick says I'll see him again when I get up there my own self, and that's all I have to say about that.
       Katrina's 12 and goes to the Middle School just around the corner from my school. She'll be going to High School after that, lucky duck! I think she's really pretty and way cool, but I still give her a hard time cause hey, that's what little sisters are supposed to do, am I right? My brother Luc is 6 going on 4, nuff said. I know he's cute and I really do love him, but eaven
he's such a pill sometimes! Anyway, all things considered I think that we're a pretty normal family, even with these yucky cancer cells running around my body right now. Don't freak out though, I don't. I'm not alone ya know, I've got people! I've got my family and friends down here, and God and Daddy up there, so I'm not worried, and you needn't be either. That's all I want to say about that too.
       Well, that's my bio so far, short and sweet like me. Uh oh, I need to scoot, I can hear Mommy calling me from downstairs. My mom believes in saving energy. Why should she run up and down the stairs and get all tuckered out when she has a perfectly good set of lungs and a voice that can break glass!
"KASANDRA!" Mommy hollered from the foot of the stairs.
"Coming Mommy," I holler back (like mother, like daughter), stuffing my homework into my backpack.
"Let's go smalls, you're gonna miss the bus," she added.
       Katrina appeared suddenly at my door and peeked in on me. She grabbed my heavy backpack and handed me my crutches.
"I'll take this down for you slow-poke. Be careful coming down the stairs, okay?"
"Okay, thanks," I said, smiling at her random act of kindness.
       By the time I get downstairs Katrina is already long gone and Luc is sitting at the table whining about having to wear shoes instead of flip-flops. That meant it was exactly 7:46am because Mommy and my brother had the same battle five days a week during the school year.
"ONE MINUTE LUC!" Mommy yells as she stuffs my brother's lunch into his "Lightening McQueen" backpack and zips it shut.
       I hobbled over to the table and picked up the handful of meds Mommy had set out for me. I put them all in my mouth at once and washed them down with a glass of orange juice. My mom watched me out of the corner of her eye like she always does (she thinks I don't notice, but I do). She started to say something but thought better of it; thankfully, I didn't feel like a lecture this morning. I slipped my backpack onto my shoulders and made my way out the front door.
"See ya later Mommy," I said as I walked outside.
"Don't forget I'm picking you up after school today for your appointment with Dr. S, okay," she hollers after me.
"OKAY," I holler back as I reached the end of the driveway.
       I turned right and walked toward the bus stop at the end of our street. I was running late as usual and waddled as fast as I was able. I couldn’t wait to get to school, it's my sanctuary.

Chapter Two

Deer Canyon Bus Stop
It wasn't a long walk really, but when you have only two speeds, slow and slower, it can take a while. I was last to arrive as usual and just as usual, Mr. Beadle our crazy bus driver was waiting for me at the bottom step of the bus. He always waits an extra few minutes for me. He's not supposed to but he does, it's our little secret. Only Cullen Wainwright III ever notices. And unfortunately he never misses the opportunity to point it out to EVERYBODY! One day when I'm better I am gonna give that kid an atomic wedgie!
       Mr. Beadle is so cool, wacky, but cool. He always has a funny comment or two to share. He's never mean to us when he needs to get our attention, even when he probably should be! He's pretty old I think, maybe forty or forty-five. And he's not very tall at all. Winnie is taller than he is. Well, to be fair Winnie is tall for her age, but still, he seems pretty short for an adult. He also plays along with my changing wig colors by painting his very bald head or wearing a matching ball cap. I just love him!
"Hustle up Miss Britches, the clock's ticking," Mr. Beadle said as I reached the bus. He tipped his throw-back Denver Broncos ball cap, the Orange Crush version as he sort of smiled at me.
"Sorry, thanks for waiting, again," I replied huffing and puffing.
"Not a problem child, now, hand me those sticks and climb on board," he replied, taking my crutches.
"Hey, you remembered Mango Monday," I said, tapping my orange-ish wig as I reached the top step and turned down the aisle to take my seat next to Claire.
       Mr. Beadle hopped back into the driver seat and started the engine. The bus made funny spurting sound at first then roared to life and he checked on us in the mirror before pulling away from the curb.
"Hang on children, we're on the road," he said closing the door and shifting gears.
       He waited until I sat down. Claire was already asleep as usual. She rested her head against the window using her balled up sweater for a pillow. Winfred was busy finishing her math homework, as usual as well, and barely looked up when I sat down. 
"Hey KK," she said in a monotone.
"Hey Winnie," I replied.
"Word problem?" I asked.
"Yes. I hate em so much," she muttered.
"Me too," I said.
"Me three," chimed in Claire without opening her eyes. Guess she wasn't sleeping after all.
       The bus lurched forward as Mr. Beadle drove away from the curb. My street was the last stop so we would get to school in about twenty or thirty minutes give or take twenty minutes depending on the crazy parent traffic, and how many cars were blocking the driveway dropping off kids when we arrived, sheesh!
"Did you bring your permission slip KK?" asked a familiar voice from the seat in front of me.
"What?" I answered, peering over the seat to see who was quizzing me.
"Your permission slip for the field trip silly," Daniel said, popping up like a jack-in-the-box and startling me.
"Don't do that! You scared the bejeezus outta me," I hollered, scolding him and catching my breath.
"YEAH, knock it off Daniel," Claire added stirring against the window.
"EVERYBODY zip it okay, I'm trying to figure out who gets to St Louis first then back here, train A or train B," complained Winnie.
"Sorry," Daniel muttered, popping back around as quickly as he had popped up. We might have hurt his feelings, poor kid, so touchy, boys, go figure!
"We're going horse-back riding at the stables in Carmel Valley tomorrow, remember," he added meekly.
"Duh, you know my mom. Do you think she would let me out of the house before checking off everything on her white board," I answered annoyed.
"Good point," he replied.
"I'll say," chimed in Winnie, slamming her math book shut!
"Oh yeah, just in case you're wondering, train B got there first," she added, sounding pretty pleased with herself.
"So, did Dr. S or Dr. L say you could ride with us KK?" Winnie asked.
"No, not this time," I answered trying to sound like I didn't care.
"Sorry," she said sincerely.
"Don't be, I'm okay with it. Maybe I'll get to ride this summer, we'll see," I said cheerfully
"Okay, cool beans," replied Daniel.
"Yeah, way cool," added Claire as she stretched. She always woke up ten seconds before the bus arrived, weird!
       Mr. Beadle pulled up to the curb and the bus made its usual squeaking sounds as it jerked to a stop. The doors whooshed open noisily and Mr. Beadle turned in his seat to shout at us.
"Alright munchkins grab your gear and exit here," he bellowed.
"He always says that," Claire said as she put her backpack over her shoulder.
"It's his thing Claire," Winfred answered doing likewise.
"I guess," I added, turning sideways in the seat to let Claire pass.
       She always went ahead of me to grab my crutches and wait for me at the curb while Winifred followed me to help me down the steps. Daniel even jumped up to help clear a path; that was nice of him.
"I had a dream about a ghost," he said out of the blue.
"That's weird, so did I," Winnie said as we walked down the aisle.
"Hmmm, that's really weird cause I did too," I added.
"What if Claire did also?" Daniel mumbled.
"If she did, I don't want to know about it," Winnie said shuddering.
"Hmmmm," I said under my breath. "I wonder?"
Chapter Three

Dear ol' Deer Canyon Elementary
"Alright kids, settle down," Mrs. Ryan said yawning.
       Technically we should have had a new teacher for fifth grade since we had Mrs. Ryan in the fourth grade last year. But I guess she must have taught us real good and got promoted right along with us. That was okay with me though, I like her and besides that means we don't have to break in anybody new, hehehe…
       Mondays are the worst, everybody knows that! No matter how good you sleep on Sunday night you still have to get up early and face Monday, ugh! Oh well, at least we had a field trip we could look forward to tomorrow, that'll shorten up the week a little bit. There were posters all over school advertising the Shetland Stables in Carmel Valley, which was where all the 5th grade classes were going to learn about horses and see some real cowboys on a real ranch. I suppose I would be more excited if I were going to get to ride too but that was gonna have to wait until next year, stupid cancer! Note to self, try not to pout at Dr. S's appointment this afternoon, it's not her fault.
"So, I'm sure everyone is real disappointed that we will have to reschedule the math test tomorrow due to our field trip," Mrs. Ryan said sarcastically.
       The class broke into wild cheers, celebrating for all of ten seconds while Mrs. Ryan walked over to the blackboard. Slowly she raised the map covering what was underneath, ending the celebration suddenly. The woman is ALL TEACHER, and we should have known she had something up her sleeve with that sly teacher grin on her face. The whole class groaned in unison when we saw what was hidden underneath.
"As you can see I've assigned a little extra reading for all of you. And, there's a quiz in the morning that you can take on the bus ride to Shetland Stables," she said, her sly grin turning into a big smile as she was clearly pleased with herself!
"OH MAN," I mumbled as my neighbor Zoë tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a note.
"It's from Winnie," she whispered.
"Thanks," I replied under my breath without turning in my seat.
       I unfolded the note in my lap and glanced down off and on to read it while Mrs. Ryan took the roll. Winnie has perfect penmanship, I hate that! Not really, that was mean; I'm just a little jealous, hehe.

                Claire said she dreamed about ghosts too,                     weird huh? Want to know what's weirder? So did Zoë and Ali?
       Hmmm, that was weird? No, not just weird but freaky weird! Hahaha, we sure say weird a lot, I just noticed that. It’s one thing if my team is having the same dream, but Zoë and Ali too? I glanced over my shoulder at Zoë and she gave me a puzzled look. I'd have to think about why we all were dreaming about ghosts later cause attendance was almost over.
"Connie Zypher," Mrs. Ryan called out finally as she checked off the last name on her list.
"Present," replied Connie cheerfully.
"Alrighty then, let's get to work people," Mrs. Ryan said reaching for her teacher's edition of our Social Studies textbook.
       We all complied, groaning audibly. The sounds of our textbooks hitting our desktops with a thud echoed off the walls, and were quickly followed by the rustling of turning pages. I scribbled a quick reply to Winnie's note and stealthily handed it back to Zoë.
       I listened as it made its way to the last row where Winnie sat and waited for the signal that the message was received. Two seconds later Winifred coughed once and a couple seconds after that Claire sneezed. Perfect, a lunch meeting was now official. We could tell Daniel about it when we got outside, he still hasn't grasped the playbook yet. We'll learn him
Chapter Four

       That was the longest 120 minutes ever! Two hours of mind numbing learning, ugh and double ugh! Don't get me wrong, I love school and all, but why do we need to know anything about Ponce-de-Leon, Magellan, or Genghis Khan anyways? Those guys lived like a jillion years ago! What could they possibly mean to a bunch of 5th graders in 2009 from the US of A, I dunno, weird? Hehehe, there it is again. Weird must be on the top ten list of kid words!
       Oh well, you can't fight city hall according to Mr. Beadle. He says that whenever he's going on about "the man!" Which man he's talking about I have no idea, seriously, he never actually says? Oh well, it doesn't matter, grown-ups are just wacky. Mommy thinks he was a hippie back in the day. Which day, again, I don't know? She also said that when he's on a rant I should just smile and be nice, smiles sooth the savage beast. By the way, I don't know what a hippie is either, but I do hear a rant here and there, like whenever somebody gets on Mommy's list! That's all I better say about that, hahaha.
       My stomach growled suddenly, loud enough for the whole class to hear. How embarrassing! Mrs. Ryan looked my way from over the top of her glasses.
"Ahem, alright class, sounds like KaSandra's starving. Why don't we break for lunch a little early today," she announced.

      A nanosecond later the room erupted with the sound of scooting desks and chairs as thirty-one students simultaneously raced for the coatroom and their lunches. Mrs. Ryan stopped the jailbreak with a whistle that she kept in her desk drawer. Like I said, a born teacher!
"Freeze!" she hollered, as she stood up, sternly wagging a finger slowly at the room.

"That's better. Now, let's try this again like good little humans and not wild little beasties," she said calmly.
       We slowly filed into the coatroom, one by one, and grabbed what was ours then ever so quietly exited the classroom. Of course once outside the mad rush began all over again. As usual I was last out the door and I heard Mrs. Ryan sigh as she collapsed in her seat, grateful for a moment's peace. Note to self; make something special for her on National Teacher's Day next May, maybe a nice set of ear plugs, hehehe.
       By the time I reached our lunch table Claire had already made a lopsided trade with Daniel for one of his desserts. That girl's sweet tooth is legendary! She had managed to talk Daniel into giving up a Hostess Fruit Pie for a bag of veggies. I suspect she convinced him that boys needed more nutrition in order to be football stars, and he bought it, probably after asking to see his muscles. Boys are so easy! Winnie was grinning at them when I walked up and sat down.
"What'd I miss?" I asked nobody in particular, opening my lunch sack and taking out a tuna sandwich, a bag of veggie chips, and a Fuji apple.
"Nothing much, Claire was just being Claire," Winifred answered.
"Claire thinks I could be a football star," Daniel blurted with a mouthful of celery and carrots, gross! Claire smiled and winked as she noisily peeled the wrapper of the berry pie.
"Nice," I replied, nibbling on my sandwich.
"So, what's up with all this ghost stuff?" I asked.
"I dunno, looks like everybody had a ghost dream is all," Claire mumbled, licking purple berry filling from her thumb.
"Well, that's not too crazy, I mean Halloween is just a week away," I replied.
"Maybe, but let me ask you this first. What was your ghost dream about?" Winifred asked sipping on a juice box.
"Just a regular ghost dream, you know," I answered shrugging my shoulders?
"Was there a nice old lady in a big green house?" asked Daniel.
"Was she wearing a blue and white checkered dress with white apron?" asked Claire.
"Did she give you cold milk and gingerbread to snack on in her kitchen, and were there two scruffy guys eating bacon and eggs at a round table?" asked Winifred.
"Umm, yes."
"Were they cowboys?" Daniel asked meekly.
"Wait a minute, are you telling me that ALL of you dreamed the exact same dream?" I asked puzzled.
"Yes, we all did, and Zoë and Ali too, all of us, and now you too," Winnie added.
       This was weird. I think I may have read a story like this once? Anyway, dreams are just dreams my mom always says, nothing to be scared of. Like the boogey man, no worries, he's only a story. Vampires aren't real either (even if Luc thinks Katrina is one because she reads all those books), and Santa is just a nice guy at the mall. But still, six kids, one dream, I don't know, maybe we should call our boss at S.A.M. and see what he thinks? But, then again maybe not, he might think we're nuts and demote us all back to regular kids! I looked up just then; Winnie must have been reading my mind.
"Maybe we should call the boss?" she whispered.
"Let's not panic people," I said.
"Okay, so what should we do then?" the three of them asked in unison.
"I dunno yet, but like I said, let's not panic yet. Hey, maybe this was just a freak of nature thing, ya know?"
"Wait, I know, how about a cell phone slumber party tonight, after all our parents go to bed? We'll stay up all night and make sure nobody dreams anything. Then tomorrow we can decide if this is anything worth worrying about, what do you think?" I asked the team.
"Really? That's your plan KK?" Winifred asked sarcastically.
"That's all I can think of right now. You know I can't concentrate very well before my check-ups," I replied.
"That's right, sorry," Winnie apologized.
"No worries Winifred, we're friends. Okay, conference call at 11:30pm, remember; my mom's a night owl so don't call in before that," I explained.   
"Remember to turn off your ringers and put your headsets under your pillows, okay?"
"What about Ali and Zoë?" Daniel asked.
"Oh, that's right? Well, Ali's your buddy Daniel. You tell him about tonight, he has a cell right? I will touch base with Zoë, she sits right behind me," I answered as I took the last bite of my tuna sandwich.
       We ate the rest of our lunch in silence trying to save as much chatter as we could for the slumber party later tonight. I watched a bunch of kids playing kickball on field number one. Ali was pitching, well technically he was rolling. He liked to roll that rubber ball hard and deliver his famous bouncy ball pitch. I remember when I could play, last year before getting sick. I was one of the only kids who could kick the bouncy ball pitch. Ali's lucky I'm not playing today…
Chapter Five
Wakie Wakie!
      Memo to self, never schedule a conference call after 8pm, especially on a school night. Oh we were all ready and willing. It was the able part we had a little problem with. Translation, PARENTS! I blame myself; the plan was doomed from the start. Why you ask, well, have you ever heard of any kid who was eager for bedtime? Well, neither did any of our parents. They were on to us from the get go. I'm pretty sure it was Claire's mom who unraveled the plan first based on what I overheard when she called my mom. They're all connected you see, parents I mean.
       In my mind I jumped out of bed, in reality I slowly swung my legs over the edge and reached for my crutches. Katrina peeked into my room on her way downstairs.
"Why do you do that?" she asked in a frustrated tone.
"Do what?"
"You know what! Why do you always wait until Mommy yells before you move?"
"Oh that, I dunno, just lazy I guess," I replied straining to stand up.
"Wait, let me help you," Katrina said walking over to steady me.
"Thanks," I said.
"I'm still mad at you ya know. When you guys wind Mommy up, I get it too, that's not fair," she replied, helping me get to the bathroom.
"I'll work on that sis, I promise," I said, really meaning it. She sensed that I did and smiled that big smile of hers. That made me smile too. If we can make Mommy smile too we'll be golden!
       I rushed through my morning routine and got dressed quickly, well, quickly for me anyways. As I waddled down the stairs I heard Mommy laughing with Luc in the kitchen; that was a good sign. I put on a big smile of my own and walked over to the table to take my meds. My mom waived to me from the kitchen where she was rinsing off a cereal bowl.
"Sit down and eat your scrambled eggs KK, I don't want to catch you sneaking out of the house without eating, you got it," my Mom said, pretending to be mad, and winking at me while she finished the dishes.
"Okay Mommy," I said, taking a seat and starting on my breakfast.
"So, are you excited about the field trip today?" she asked.
"Yeah, I guess. I wish I could ride the horses with the other kids though," I whined.
"Next year honey, next year. Doctor S was pretty impressed with your MRI results, so things are looking up," she replied beaming.
       It was nice to see my mom in such a good mood; it had been a while, what with all this medical stuff to deal with. She is such a great mom, and I love her so much. I don't know what we would do without her. I watched her out of the corner of my eye while I ate. She was softly singing a song to herself, it sounded like "Amazing Grace," one of her favorites.
"Okay, I can wait until then Mommy. All done, I have to scoot or I'll miss the bus," I said getting up to leave as she came to take my plate.
"Let me give you a ride this morning honey," she said.
"No, I want to take the bus, I need the practice walking. Besides, everyone will wonder what happened to me if I don't show up like usual," I replied, pulling on my backpack. My mom sighed and opened the front door for me.
"Alright, be careful then. I love you," she said, waiving.
"I love you more," I replied as I walked out the door and across the driveway to the sidewalk.
   I made it to the bus stop in record time surprising everyone. Mr. Beadle was still in the driver's seat when he saw me waddling up to the steps. He jumped up and trotted down the steps to help me.
"Well look who we have here. What happened sugar, did your bed catch fire this morning," he teased.
"No, I just didn't want to be late for the field trip today is all," I answered smiling.
"Alright then, let's get you on board and get on down the road," he said as he took my crutches and helped me climb onto the bus.
       When I reached my seat Claire, Winifred and Daniel were waiting for me, wide awake. Ali and Zoë were there as well. I wondered if we were going to have a repeat of yesterday, another dream co-winkie-dink?

"Okay I know what you're thinking, KK dropped the ball, right," I said. They shook their heads no.
"Alright, what's with the silent treatment? So we missed the call, I think we all know why, right Claire," I said shooting Claire the look.
"Hey, it wasn't me! Daniel called my house and asked my mom what time I usually went to bed," Claire replied defending herself.
"Are you serious? Daniel what were you thinking?" Winnie asked in disbelief.
"Well, I forgot what time to call, and Ali lost his cell phone privileges so he spent the night at my house, and I called Winifred first but her Grandpa answered and I don't understand Chinese! He just kept saying 'wei' and I just kept saying 'what'," Daniel rambled!
"OMG Daniel, I don't even know what to say to that," I said scolding him, instantly sorry for sounding mean.
"Never mind Daniel, forget about it, no harm done, right? So, did anyone dream last night?" I asked, changing the subject.
       Everyone shook their heads no, interesting? Really, nobody, I wondered? I debated with myself for a second whether or not I should share my dream. They all looked so relieved, no news was good news, right? Heck, I didn't want to jinx the field trip. But my mom always says that honesty is the best policy. She's usually right 99% of the time. IN FACT she finishes most sentences with "am I right!"
"That's funny because I dreamed a lot last night," I said finally. That opened the flood gates and they all started talking at once.
"So did I KK, I just didn't want to be the first one to say so," admitted Claire, sighing with relief.
"Yeah, me too," Daniel said chiming in.
"Me three," said Winifred joining in.
"I guess me and Ali make four and five then," added Zoë, grinning. Ali didn't say anything, which was unusual for him, he just nodded and blushed, I wonder why?

"The same little old Grandma?" I asked. They all nodded yes.
"The same two cowboys too?" I continued. They all nodded yes.
"Cookies and gingerbread, bacon and eggs?" I asked.This time they all shook their heads no.
"Good, that was a test," I explained.
"Lemonade?" I asked. They all nodded yes. Weird…
       Now we were more than just curious, we were a little bit scared, at least I was. Looks like the Boogeyman theory was being put to the test. The bus suddenly lurched as we turned off the highway and onto a long dirt road. We had been so busy wondering what was what that we didn't notice that we had been driving all along. I looked out the window as we drove under a big wooden arch that read "SHETLAND STABLES," we were there already.
       Most of the kids had wandered over to our side of the bus and were chattering about the cows and horses they could see as we drove up to a huge barn and corral. The yellow school bus kicked up a lot of dust as we came to a stop beside the corral and we quickly slid the windows up, closing them before the dust cloud came into bus.
       Daniel was the only kid still on the other side of the bus. I was about to call him when he turned, white as a sheet and pointed out the window he was looking through. Winnie and I stood up and looked his way to see what had frightened him. We gasped as we saw what he saw. There, about half a football field away from where we were parked was a big old fashioned green house, with one of those porches that wrapped around the whole place.
       On the porch, rocking in an old white chair was a little old lady in a gingham (checkered) blue dress with a white apron. And while I couldn't swear to it because she was pretty far away, resting on the table beside her appeared to be a pitcher of ice cold something or other, lemonade maybe?
Chapter Six

We ain't afraid of no ghosts!
       Before I could say anything Mrs. Ryan blew her trusty whistle. All the kids started making their way down the aisle while I sat in my seat and waited for the crowd to thin. Winnie and Claire waited with me while the Daniel, Zoë, and Ali went along with the others.
"Meet you at the table," Daniel said, still a little shaky from the shock of maybe seeing his dream come true.
"Take this for me," I said, tossing him the FLIP camera that Mrs. Ryan gave me to film the event.
       I think she felt sorry for me, and she wanted to make sure I had something to do beside stand around and watch everyone else having fun. Sometimes that sort of bothers me. I know that people mean well; and that they don't pity me, but love me, at least most of the time anyways. It's just that I'm tired of being different and I can't wait to be normal again! Mrs. Ryan was pretty cool when she told the class about me filming them though, made like it was no big deal.  
"Okay people listen up," she had said.
"KaSandra is going to be our official videographer today, so make sure you smile big and smile often for her," she announced.
"Marvelous," I mumbled.
"Alright," Daniel replied, taking the FLIP and stuffing the camera into his back pocket.
"HEY, be careful with that, you think I'm a millionaire," I hollered after him.
       He waived without looking back and disappeared out the door. Claire and Winifred were chattering about the old lady on the porch. I waited for a lull in the conversation before chiming in. The kids were stalled in the aisle waiting for everyone to exit single file while an adult checked their name off on a list. We always travelled with parent volunteers, sometimes my mom is one of them, when she can get away from work that is.
       Zoë's Dad was one of the parents with us today. But he was sorta working, taking pictures for the school paper, "Echoes"; he's a real photographer! You could tell that on account of the way he carries around ten different cameras in big chunky bags that hang from every limb of his body. It sorta made him look like a Christmas tree full of shiny ornaments! Anyway, I know Mrs. Ryan is just keeping me busy, I'm okay with that. I'll have all kinds of fun adding captions later when I edit the video on Mommy's computer. Maybe Katrina can help me; she's a wiz on the computer! 
"So what do you think KK? That old lady is exactly how I dreamed her both nights," Winnie said, concerned.
"Me too KK, she's the same, right down to her shoes," Claire added, chiming in.
"I know. She's what I saw too. We gotta figure out a way to get over to that house and check her out," I said.
"No we don't," Claire said suddenly.
"What are you talking about Claire," I asked annoyed.
"Look, she's coming this way," exclaimed Winnie.
       We all stood and watched as the old woman in the blue gingham dress walked right up to the bus. She disappeared as she went around the front and reappeared on the other side next to Mrs. Ryan. The two of them chatted for a moment and then Mrs. Ryan turned to look our way and pointed at the bus. What was she doing? What were they saying? Claire walked down the aisle as it cleared, Winnie and me following. When we reached the steps Mrs. Ryan was waiting for us.
"Girls, this is Mrs. Dexter. She and her husband own this ranch," Mrs. Ryan said, introducing us to our host.
"Hello young ladies," said Mrs. Dexter sweetly.
"Hello ma'am," we replied together.
"My, such polite children," commented our host with a smile that didn't match the look in her eyes.
       Curious, something wasn't right, but I'll be darned if I know what? We stepped down off of the bus and walked over to join the others by the corral. Daniel walked up and handed me the FLIP, pointing at Mrs. Ryan and Mrs. Dexter.
"Who is she KK?"
"That's Mrs. Dexter," Claire said, answering for me.
"She's the lady in my dream," Daniel said still pointing.
"Daniel! Don't you know it's not polite to point you Neanderthal," I hollered, scolding him.
"Sorry," he said meekly, retreating a few steps to stand behind Zoë.
"She's the lady in all our dreams," I whispered.
"Did you notice the way she looked at us," Winnie asked?
"Like she already knew us?" I asked, speculating.
"SHUT UP!" exclaimed Claire.
"Shhhhh! We've got a mystery to solve people. Why her I wonder? We need to figure out how were going to find out what's what, without Mrs. Ryan catching on that is," I whispered.
"Alright kids listen up. We'll be getting a tour of a real working ranch today. You're going to drive around on that hay wagon attached to the big green tractor over there," Mrs. Ryan explained, pointed toward the big red barn.
"Hey, how come she gets to point," Daniel asked pouting.
"Shhhhh," said Winnie and I together, shushing him.
       The tractor fired up and belched a small puff of black smoke from an exhaust pipe sticking up in the air from the engine. And, in the driver's seat was none other than dream cowboy number one. He shifted the big machine into gear and it jerked and rolled forward, the two giant wheels in back pushing it forward on the two tiny wheels up front, weird! An old grandpa cowboy walked out of the barn and shouted at the tractor.
"Pull the rig up by the corral Hank and we'll see if we can't get these kids loaded on board and show em around the place," hollered grandpa cowboy.
       That must be Mr. Dexter I figured, and then, adding two and two figured that dream cowboy 1 and 2 were his grandsons. We'd made contact! Claire, Winnie and I started walking with the other kids toward the bale wagon when Mrs. Ryan stopped us.
"Hold on a minute girls, Mrs. Dexter asked if you three wouldn't mind helping her to prepare lunch for us up at the house," said our teacher.
       We looked at one another and gulped. I don't know what Winnie and Claire were thinking but as for me all I could think of was that old "Hansel and Gretel" story, and everyone knows how that turned out! Well, we'd been wondering how we were going to find out what was what anyways, I guess that now the wondering was over. The three of us stared at Mrs. Dexter, waiting for her to say something, and she did.
"I'd be tickled if you children could follow me yonder to the house. I'm not as spry as I used to be and a few extra hands would really be helpful," she said even more sweetly than before, maybe too sweetly?
       None of us could seem to find a voice and she had to settle for a three way head nod. Mrs. Dexter smiled but Mrs. Ryan gave us a stern look and fought the urge to wag a finger at us.
"Now girls, don't be rude, and answer our guest properly," she insisted. We did instantly.
"Ah, yes ma'am, we'd love to help," I said, answering for all three of us.
"Hey wait a minute, I wanted t…," Claire started to complain.
"Claire wanted to tell you how much she loves cooking," Winnie said, jumping in quickly.
"That's wonderful. Why don't you girls follow me down this path then, alright," Mrs. Dexter said. She paused before starting for the old ranch house.
"Sweetheart will you be able to make it on those things?" she asked me pointing at my crutches.
"You know I can get Clay-boy over there to put you in a quad and drive you on up to the house," she offered, pointing at dream cowboy number two standing by the string of horses that all the kids were waiting to ride. The expression on her face seemed to change from strange to compassionate all of a sudden, but I wasn't feeling it?
"Who's Clay-boy? Oh never mind, that's okay, my friends can help me. They've had lots of practice helping me get around from point A to point B," I replied politely, making a mental note, dream cowboy number two's name is Clay.
"Alright sweetie, suit yourself," she replied turning to lead the way up to the big green house.

"Well then, I'm going to catch up with the rest of the class. You girls behave and mind what Mrs. Dexter says, okay," Mrs. Ryan instructed as she turned toward the corral.

"We will," we replied together.
       Claire helped me adjust my crutches then took my backpack from me. She handed it to Winnie who slung it over her shoulder and the three of us followed Mrs. Dexter. The old lady was faster than she looked so we had to scoot. The house got bigger and older as we got closer and we could see that it could use a paint job pretty badly. The windows were odd like the mirrors at a carnival funhouse. I was starting to feel weird again and judging by the look on my friends faces, so were they. When we finally reached the front porch Mrs. Dexter was waiting at the top step. She gestured at a small table next to a white rocking chair.
"Would you like some lemonade before we start?" she asked with a suspiciously sweet smile.
"Did she say lemonade?" Claire whispered.
"Yep," I answered.
"Freaky," sighed Winnie.
Chapter Seven

Beware sweet old ladies!
       We passed on the lemonade offer and followed Mrs. Dexter into the old house. The floors inside creaked even more than the rickety old steps out front, spooky! The living room was huge and furnished with a bunch of really old stuff, like in a movie or something? There were two over-stuffed chairs with lace thingies draped over each arm, and a plump sofa and a high back with the same thingies on the arms. The wood floor was covered by odd shaped rugs that didn't match and at the far end of the room was a long dining table set like it was Thanksgiving?
       Claire's face was a question mark and I gave her the hush up look before she blurted anything out. To be fair, we all had questions, and we would ask them soon enough. Question number one might go something like this: exactly how many ghosts are around here anyways? Well, that would be question number one if Claire asked it. Before I could think any more about that, we entered the kitchen. It was as old looking as the living room and was almost as big. In the center of the room was a large butcher block island like the one at my Auntie's house. It was for prepping food, like cutting and chopping vegetables for soup and stuff. Mrs. Dexter stopped at the island and picked up an apron that was folded neatly on top. She put it on quickly and turned to face us.
"Well, have any of you ever cooked with your mothers at home," she asked, her hands on her hips?
"I've made Christmas cookies with my Mom," Claire offered with a big smile.
"Me too, cookies," added Winifred, a little less enthusiastically.
"Um, my Mom doesn't bake, I meekly replied.
"I see, well, come on over here and we'll get started with lunch. First things first, go over to that sink yonder and wash up. Never touch food without washing up first," she explained.
       That made sense; my Mom always says that too. The three of us went over to the sink to wash but stopped short when we couldn't find the faucet? We were about to ask when Mrs. Dexter suddenly appeared behind us. Winnie jumped, faintly shrieking! The old grandma smiled and excusing herself stepped past us. She reached for a big lever on what looked like a skinny fire hydrant. When she pulled down on the lever water rushed out of a spout and splashed into the sink. Claire giggled and walked up to wash her hands. Winnie and I looked at each other puzzled and then followed her lead.
"It's an old house child, and we've kept some of the old ways as well. Don't worry though, we have running water in the bathrooms, and as you can see we have electricity," Mrs. Dexter explained, giggling as she walked back to the chopping table.
       We finished washing and rejoined her. While we were washing up she had laid out several loaves of bread, some lunchmeat (ham, turkey, and roast beef), lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, mustard and mayo. Looked like we were making sandwiches, a LOT of them! We didn't need much instruction and in no time we had a little assembly line going.
       Claire had bread detail, alternating mustard and mayo with each wave of the butter knife as she spread the condiments. Mrs. Dexter portioned out the meats on one slice of bread while Winnie stacked the veggies on another. I was at the end of the line putting the two slices together and stabbing them with a long toothpick to hold it all together, simple right? We were getting into a rhythm when the old grandma surprised us.
"You know, I dreamed of you girls the last two nights," she said without stopping her work.
"You're exactly how I pictured you too, except there was a boy as well," she added nonchalantly.
       The assembly line grinded to a stop as Claire gasped and tore through a piece of Wonder Bread with her butter knife. Winnie shrieked as a blob of yellow mustard from Claire's knife landed in her hair. And I yelped, stabbing myself with a long toothpick! We passed from curious to scared in a single heartbeat.
"You have a classmate, blonde, clumsy, and a silly heart?" she asked.
"Yeah, that's Daniel," answered Claire immediately.
"What about Zoë and Ali," whispered Winifred, too frightened to speak out loud.
"I'm afraid I don't know who those people are dear," replied Mrs. Dexter, wiping her hands clean with a dishcloth.
"Why not, they dreamed about you too. We all dreamed about you," Claire insisted.
"I know you did sweetie," the old grandma said, softly stroking Claire's blond hair.
"How?" Winnie whispered, moving close enough to me to share the same shoes.
"Because we're still dreaming," I blurted.
"What are you talking about!" Claire exclaimed.
"Think about it, Zoë and Ali aren't on the team and Daniel is too new. That's why they aren't in the house with us right now," I explained, my brain struggling to sort out the rest.
"KK's right! And here's another clue. Aren't those the same clothes you were wearing yesterday Claire?" Winnie asked.
"I know it is because this is the exact same outfit I wore yesterday! And what about KK's wig?" Winnie said excitedly.
"What about it?" asked Claire.
"It's her Mango Monday wig! If we were really on the field trip it would be Turquoise Tuesday, right?" observed Winnie.
"I thought Tuesday's were purple?" Claire asked puzzled.
"That was so last year Claire! Don't you remember when we all picked Turquoise at the "Cat-in-the-Hat" store in the North Hills Mall when our moms took us shopping for school clothes together," Winnie replied, agitated.
"Oh yeah, I forgot," said Claire.
"WAIT! OMG, we're still asleep!" Claire shouted.
"Yes, I suppose you are child," offered Mrs. Dexter.
"And I think I know why," she added.
"I know why," I whispered, suddenly recognizing Mrs. Dexter.
       The old grandma had given me the willies from the very beginning but I couldn't figure out why. She seemed sweet enough but there as something dark about her, like a shadow. Wait a minute! That was it! My mind raced backward, replaying every moment with Mrs. Dexter, from the time we first saw her rocking on the front porch to this very moment. It was obvious now; I didn't understand why I didn't see it from the first.
       She cast no shadow, even now in this big kitchen with all this sunlight streaming in from the huge window across from us. She cast no shadow. I looked behind me; none of us had a shadow. Everything else in the room cast long shadows that ran along the floor and up the wall on the other side of the room. We didn't because we were dreaming. She didn't because she was dead!
"I saw you at the hospital, didn't I Mrs. Dexter?"
"No child, it was not I."
"Yes I did, you were getting chemo too, weren't you?"
"No dear, I was not."
"I'm sure it was you, I remember your husband. His name is Walter isn't it?"
"No dear, I have no husband."
"He was nice to me."
"Who was sweetie?"
"Never mind then. You died that day didn't you?"
"No child, I did not."
"Wait a second, am I the only one dreaming right now?"
"Yes dear, I'm afraid so."
"Oh man! I don't get any of this! Why are you in my head? What do you want from me?"
"That poor old man, he works much too hard to notice the grandsons plotting to take his ranch away from him," she explained.
"Do you mean the two cowboys in this dream?"
"Yes of course silly. I never had kids of my own you see. These two boys, they aren't very nice," she said without really looking at me.
"Beware the grandsons, they're a tricky pair. Heed them not lest your dreams disappear," she said as if in a trance.
"What the heck does heed mean? What dreams, you mean the ranch? Are they going to steal it, how?"
"Come upstairs with me child, there's something I want to show you," Mrs. Dexter said, passing me on her way to the living room.
       When I turned to follow her I noticed that Claire and Winnie weren't in the kitchen anymore. They never had been. I hesitated for a couple of heartbeats before following the old grandma out of the room.  I wasn't exactly sure that I even wanted to see whatever it was she was going to show me. But I was sure that I wanted to wake up. I sensed myself straining to open my eyes as I followed her. But I had to know, I had to help Walter or whoever; that much I was sure of!
       In the morning I was going to have to live this day all over again, and convince the team that I'm not bonkers! We were going to need to pull together to out smart those cruddy cowboys! 
Chapter Eight
Time to hatch the plan…
       The clock screamed at me again, reminding everyone that it was 6:30am and time for school. This time it was really today, Turquoise Tuesday, and not a dream-peat Monday. I rolled over, untangled myself from the cocoon I'd made in my sleep of my blankets and swatted off the alarm. The house was quiet except for the sound of the heater coming on, and a warm breeze washed over me. I lay there a moment and stared at the dream catcher hanging the ceiling above my bed. Mommy would be up in couple of minutes, and I could hear Katrina in the shower.  Lucas would need the usual persuasion to get him up and ready for school.
       My sister Katrina is always first one out of bed on school days. She loves school. But on weekends she usually hibernates until noon, unless Mommy plans a shopping trip of course. If you ask me though I think she gets up early to beat Luc to the bathroom. She knows better than to let him get there first to do his business, but we won't go there! Mommy will be surprised to see me awake already.
       Getting up out of my warm bed I wobbled over to my closet and picked out today's outfit. First I grabbed my Turquoise Tuesday wig, then a pair of jeans, a red and black checkered shirt and my unmentionables and made my way to the bathroom to get ready for school. Katrina opened the door as I was about to knock, and nearly ran me over. She gasped, startled to see me so early.
"What are you doing up already?" she teased.
"Today's my field trip, remember, I told you about it," I answered.
"That's right I forgot. I went to that ranch when I was in 5th grade too. It was fun, you'll like it," she said, as she passed me and went into her room to finish dressing.
       It was my turn so I went inside to shower and stuff. While I bathed I replayed my dream in my brain, then again as I brushed my teeth and gargled with yucky mouthwash. By the time I was finished I had pretty much figured out what we needed to do next. It won't be easy convincing everyone that I'd had a conversation with a ghost, but I would, I had to!
"KaSandra, quit playing around and let your brother in there, he really has to go honey," Mommy pleaded, rapping on the door.
"OKAY," I hollered over the running water as I put the cap back on the tube of toothpaste and opened the door. Mommy was standing there with her hands on her hips waiting for me. I think she was curious what had got me out of bed so early.
"Is there something you want to tell me?" she asked. My Mom is always suspicious of everything and everyone. Finding me up so early was setting off alarms in her Mommy brain.
"Did you finish all your homework last night? Is there a note or something from school that you forgot to give me? Wait, is it Report Card time again?"
"No, no, and no Mommy," I said, answering all three of her rapid fire questions.
"Today is the field trip, remember," I said pretending to be hurt by her suspicious nature.
"Oh, that's right. Well good for you honey, thanks for being so responsible," she said ignoring my pouty face.
"LUC! Get out of that bed right now mister, you're gong to be late! Honestly, why do we have to have this scene every morning," hollered my Mother, turning back toward me and winking.
"Get your things and come downstairs, I'll have breakfast ready in two shakes of a lamb's tail," she added, as she jogged down the stairs to the kitchen.
"Okay," I replied as I went back into my room.
       My brother was sitting up in his racecar bed and staring out the window. He ignored me as I went over to make my bed. Well I didn't actually make the bed, just sort of re-spread the comforter over the rumpled sheets. It was as close as any of us got to making our beds. Bed making wasn't one of Mommy's top priorities. I heard Luc get up and leave the room. A second later the bathroom door slammed. That was my cue to slip on my socks and scoot downstairs.
       I made down in time to eat breakfast with Katrina which was a treat as she's usually gone by the time I make it downstairs. She's getting older and doesn't go to my school anymore. We don't get as much sister time as we used to, I miss that. I guess that's pretty normal. Still, I miss goofing off and being silly together.
"Well, I gotta get going," Katrina said picking up her plate and busing the table.
"Do you want me to walk you to the bus stop KK?" she asked.
"Sure, thanks! Hey, are you going to be 'Hello Kitty' for Halloween," I asked?
"Yea, Mommy is making my costume this weekend. Alright, let's get going speedy," she said teasing me.
"Alright," I replied, handing my dish over the counter to Mommy who was busy making Lucas some scrambled eggs.
"You girls be careful," she said as Katrina and I walked out the front door.
"WE WILL," we replied together, giggling as we scurried down the drive.
       Claire and Winifred were about to climb on board the bus when they noticed me clippity-clopping down the sidewalk toward the stop. Daniel poked his head out of a window near the back and hollered.
"Hey, check it out, KK is like fifteen minutes early," he bellowed, loud enough to wake up the whole darn neighborhood.
       Mr. Beadle appeared at the door holding the sports page in his hand and shaking his head. He could hardly believe his eyes.
"Well look who we have here. What happened sugar, did your bed catch fire this morning," he teased.
       I stopped in my tracks and gasped slightly. That was exactly what he said in my dream? I noticed that Claire and Winnie had already got on the bus and were in our usual seats. I looked hard at the bus and sure enough, they were all bunched together waiting for me, just like my dream? This was a little freaky?
"Come on now Miss Britches, hand me those sticks and get on board," Mr. Beadle said cheerfully, pointing at his sort of turquoise baseball cap.
       Actually it was a teal colored Florida Marlin's cap but it was close and it was the effort that counted. I smiled at him as I handed him my crutches and got on the bus. A moment later I was in my seat facing the team, showtime!
"What's up KK, you've never made the bus early before?" Winifred asked.
"Yeah, what's up?" chimed in Claire.
"Do you guys believe in ghosts?" I asked, deciding to cut to the chase.
"Um, no," Winifred answered, puzzled by the question.
"Nope," said Claire tossing in her two cents.
"You mean like Casper?" Daniel asked.
"Casper's a cartoon Daniel," I quipped.
"I know that, I was just teasing," he replied.
"I'm serious guys! Does anyone believe in ghosts?"
       The team looked around at one another, wondering if I was crazy or what! I waited for an uncomfortable minute for a reply, and was about to ask again when Ali spoke up all of a sudden.
"When my Nana died last year I thought I saw her in my room after the funeral," he said meekly, not looking at anyone in particular. Nobody said anything for a second.
"Once when I was four, I thought I saw my cat Whiskers in the window even though she died a week before," Daniel whispered, looking at each of us one at a time.
"Were you scared?" asked Claire looking at Ali and then Daniel.
"No," answered Daniel.
"Yes," answered Ali.
"Why do you want to know KK? That's such a strange question," said Winnie.
       On that note I told them about everything, from beginning to end. From my strange dream and how they were all in it, to Mrs. Dexter and Walter and the rotten grandkids. They listened patiently and politely, never interrupting or making fun of me. When I was through they all sat there quietly as the bus arrived at Deer Canyon. And while the rest of the kids were scrambling down the aisle they asked together.
"What's the plan then KK?" 
Chapter Nine
Real cowboys are kinda nice
       We arrived at SHETLAND STABLES at nine o'clock, as Mr. Beadle drove the big yellow bus slowly up the long drive. It was a really long driveway and all of the kids had moved over to one side to ooh and ahh at several horses tethered to a big white fence surrounding the corral. Not everyone was looking at the horses though. Me and Winifred were on the opposite side of the bus checking out a big green house that looked like it had seen better days. It was pretty old and sorta scary looking. Maybe it was because Halloween was just around the corner, who knows. But maybe not, that old house would be scary looking anytime of year.
"Is that her?" Winnie asked pointing at an old woman rocking in a chair on the porch.
"Could be? Wait a minute can you see her too," I asked puzzled.
"Well yeah, she's kinda hard to miss KK, don't ya think?" Winnie answered sarcastically.
"No, I didn't mean can you see her, I meant how can you see her," I replied, confusing even myself.
"She means how can you see someone from a dream you didn't have," explained Zoë, chiming in from left field.
"Don't do that! You scared me to death Zoë," I exclaimed.
"Sorry KK," apologized Zoë.
"That's okay, you didn't mean to," I replied smiling.
       Zoë's a sweet kid and didn't deserve to be snapped at. I felt bad about that and flashed her an extra big smile to make up for it. She smiled back and we both felt better.
"Are you saying the old lady on the porch isn't really there?" Winnie asked Zoë.
"No, I see her too. It's just weird is all I'm saying. I mean look at her, she's exactly how KK described her and this is the first time any of us have laid eyes on her. Pretty weird, right," said Zoë?
       She was right, it was strange but there wasn't time to wonder about it, we had work to do. Mrs. Ryan came back onto the bus and tweeted on her whistle to settle us down. The bus got quiet quick and everyone sat down with eyes front. She had us trained pretty good. Like I said, the woman was all teacher!
"Alright kids listen up. When we get off the bus I want you all to line up next to the fence with your travel buddy. As soon as Mrs. Dennis and I finish counting noses we'll meet Mr. and Mrs. Dexter and begin our day at their lovely ranch," Mrs. Ryan said, filling us in on what to expect.
       She thanked Mr. Beadle for getting us here safely and asked the class to give him a round of applause which we did enthusiastically, everybody liked Mr. Beadle! He tipped his turquoise Marlin's cap and winked at me knowingly as the kids started down the aisle, following Mrs. Ryan off the bus.
"Okay team, time to buddy up," I said to Winifred, Claire, and Daniel, as well as Zoë, and Ali. Looks like the team grew by two today. Note to self, call the boss tonight and let him know about that, the man hates surprises!
       The plan was simple. Well, of course it was, we're just kids after all. We needed to get Mr. Dexter, Walter, alone and pick his brain. We had no idea what the grandsons had up their sleeve, but the only way to find out was to be as nosey as only a cute kid can be. That's where Zoë came in. Adults can't resist squeaky clean kids like her. Buddy her up with a poor handicapped kid (like yours truly) and we'd have Walter singing a tune in no time!
       The tricky part was going to be keeping Clay-boy and Hank occupied. I was pretty sure Daniel and Ali could ask enough crazy boy questions to drive those two cowboys bonkers by lunch. Claire's job was keeping Mrs. Ryan busy. She was our official lookout, partly because she could talk a blue streak, a Mrs. Ryan term (translation…a LOT), and partly because she could whistle loud enough to crack glass!
       All we needed now was a little bit of luck to get the ball rolling. We were going to use plan X where I pretend to be nauseous, not a big stretch given my condition, and ask Walter if Zoë can sit with me up on porch of the big green house while I get some air. If we played it right Mr. and Mrs. Dexter would take us up to the house while Clay and Hank tended to the rest of the class. Then Zoë and I would get to the heart of the matter. We had to know what was what before we could figure out how to help Walter keep his ranch, and as for whether or not Mrs. Dexter was an actual ghost or not, that question was about to be answered as Mrs. Ryan introduced our hosts.
"Listen up children, this is Mr. and Mrs. Dexter, the owners of SHETLAND STABLES, a real working horse ranch," she announced.
"Howdy kids, the mother and I are right happy to have ya'll visit this morning," said Mr. Dexter with a huge smile.
"Why does he call her mother?" Claire whispered.
"Shhh!" Winifred and I replied, shushing her.
"That's right children; father and I have been looking forward to your visit. We enjoy showing off the place even if it does need a coat of paint here and there," Mrs. Dexter added sweetly.
"She looks real to me," Daniel whispered.
"Shhhh!" replied Winifred, Claire, and I, shushing him.
"Over yonder are our sons Clay and Hank. The boys will be showing ya'll around and then taking you on a little tour of our spread. Some of you will be on horseback if you brought the signed release forms your teacher gave you. The rest of you will ride in the hay wagon on the tour. How does that sound?" asked Mr. Dexter.
"You said those guys were his grandsons KK," whispered Winifred.
"I know, I don't get it either," I replied.
"Do you have any bucking broncos Mr. Dexter," shouted a kid I didn't recognize from another school.
"Call me Walt son and no I'm afraid we haven't got any wild ponies for you to see today. Most of the livestock on this ranch are bred for domestic use by families with kids like you who might enjoy learning to ride. Horses make wonderful friends boys and girls, you're going to love learning about them today," Walt answered cheerfully.
       No time like the present I always say, and I let out a little moan, cueing Zoë. She turned out to be a natural born actress and rushed over to my aid, calling out to Walt directly and bypassing Mrs. Ryan. Nice touch I thought to myself.
"I think KK needs to sit down Walt," Zoë said pouring it on thick.
"Holy smoke young lady, she sure does! Mrs. Ryan if you don't mind mother and I are going to take this child up to the house and get her a cold drink," Walt said kneeling beside me looking concerned.
"Must be the blamed heat; its uncommon warm today for October. Ain't that just the way in San Diego? Seems like a feller never knows what to expect come daybreak," he added.
       Walt was a real deal cowboy I thought, smiling inside. Mrs. Ryan walked over to check me out. She had her cell phone at the ready with a finger on the speed dial key for 9-1-1.
"KaSandra are you alright? Should I call your mother?" she asked.
"I'm okay; I just need to rest a little bit. I think I rushed too fast to catch the bus this morning," I replied, not actually lying.
"Well alright, but I'll be back to check on you after I get everyone started," she said pointing her cell phone in my direction.
"You go on back with Clay-boy, Mrs. Ryan. Mother and I will take of this young-un," Walt said.
"Alright, thanks," she replied.
       Before we could even ask Walt looked over at Zoë and gestured for her to come with us. Talk about a lucky break!
"Young lady, would you mind helping me with your friend here?" Walt asked Zoë.
"Sure," she replied winking at me.
       Phase one, divide and conquer was complete. Time for phase two, the inquisition

Chapter Ten


Spirits can be tricky

       Zoë and I settled into two of the six wicker rocking chairs spread out on the big front porch. They were all painted white and were in lots better shape than the house itself. Mrs. Dexter, (she told us to call her Emma) went inside to fetch a cold towel for me and some fresh squeezed lemonade for all of us, while Mr. Dexter, Walt, pointed at an old fashioned fan our way to help cool us off.


"Thanks, we have a fan just like that at my house, but it doesn't work, it's just for show. My Mom loves antiques! WOW! This house is huge," exclaimed Zoë.


"It is at that young lady. But it is as old as it is big and it keeps me pretty darn busy what with fixin this and patchin that," Walt said with a wink.


"Emma's old Daddy, Henry was his name, left us this ranch when he passed away. Clay-boy was just right around two I recollect and little Hank wasn't even born yet, he was still cookin in the oven," Walt continued, settling into a seat beside me.


"My goodness, that was over forty years ago Father," Emma added, appearing out of nowhere with a tray of tumblers and a big picture of ice cold lemonade.


"Has it been that long? Yes ma'am, I reckon it has. Old Henry loved this ranch, it was part of him. You know we named our Hank after him," Walt pointed out.


"Why this old ranch has been in Emma's family since the turn of the century," Walt continued.


"WOW, that's a long time," I replied.


"Hey, I thought you went in that door over there," Zoë said to Emma, pointing at the front door?


"Yes dear, but I came out from the kitchen around back. This porch goes all the way around this old house," Emma explained, filling our glasses.


"Oh, okay. Thank you," Zoë replied taking a sip of lemonade from the tumbler Emma handed her.


"You're welcome dear, and here is one for you too little one," said Emma handing me a glass as well.


"Now, let's see if this cool towel will help you feel a little better," she said placing the cold terrycloth on the back of my neck. She was right. It felt really good, even if I was faking? Grandmas are magic!


       There was no time for chit chat, it wouldn't take Claire long to annoy the socks off of Mrs. Ryan, to the point of ditching her and coming on up to check on me. I cleared my throat loudly to get Zoë's attention. She had veered off track slightly after she noticed the snacks Emma brought with the lemonade. The girl was power chewing a mouthful of tollhouse cookie large enough to make a chipmunk proud!


"Okay, shoot," Walt said with his smiling Grandpa eyes.

"Ahem! Well, actually had a question for you. We were wondering about Clay and Hank."


"What about em?"


"Well, somebody told us that they were actually your grandsons," I blurted.


       Wincing, Zoë quickly choked down the cookie she was working on and washed it down with a big gulp of lemonade. She wiped her mouth with the sleeve of her hoodie and got back on board with our fact finding mission.


"Who would say such a thing I wonder?" Emma asked puzzled.


"We thought it was you," answered Zoë.


"Me? Why I've only just met each of you," Emma replied, surprised.


"Yeah, but KK dreamed about you, twice! Right KK?" Zoë added.


"Is that true dear?" Emma asked looking me square in the eyes.


"Well, sort of. I mean now that I see you up close you do seem a little different? Like your eyes are blue and the old grandma in my dreams had brown eyes?"


"And, come to think of it, you're wearing glasses, the grandma in my dreams didn't," I answered studying her closely.


"She was wearing a blue gingham dress and a white apron wasn't she?" Walt asked suddenly.


"Yeah, how did you know," I asked?


"It's Abigail," answered Walt looking down at his boots.


"Walter Dexter, why I never," scolded Emma!


"No, its true Mother, I've seen her too, in my dreams I mean," he replied.


"Who's Abigail?" I asked.


"Abigail was my twin dear, she passed a few of years ago," Emma explained staring at her husband.


"She was a bitter woman Emma. Mule headed and angry after your Daddy left us this place. The poor thing just never seemed to have a sunny day, always a dark cloud over her head," Walt said.


"Don't you speak ill of the departed Walter, it's just not right," Emma said sternly.


"My Daddy left this ranch to us because Walt and I had children, and because Walt grew up on a working ranch," Emma explained.


"Abigail was my older sister by 8 minutes, but she never liked it here. She was always dreaming of the big city. When she ran away to New York it broke Daddy's heart," continued Emma.

"Wow! All the way to New York, huh," whispered Zoë.


"Yes, she had big dreams Abbey did. She wanted to be an actress you know. Daddy thought she was foolish and told her so. They didn't speak for years after that. Things never really worked out for her though. Big cities can be cold and hard," Emma said, sadly remembering.


"She never did marry so she never had children of her own. But my stars, how she spoiled our boys, they loved their Aunt Abbey," Emma reminisced as she gently rocked in her chair and stared out at the day.


"I don't get it? Do you think your sister is haunting Walt, and me. I can see why she might haunt Walt, but why me?" I asked interrupting Emma's stroll down memory lane.


"I'm not saying anything of the sort KK. I don't believe in spirits. But if Walt says he's seen her then there must be something to it, I've never known him to lie or tell tall tales," Emma replied.


"Did Abbey talk to you too Mr. Dexter?" I asked.


"No, can't say as I ever heard her say anything young-un. She just appeared there in the hall outside our bedroom," he answered.


"She spoke to you, did she?" he asked.

"Yeah, I remember she said: 'Beware the grandsons, they're a tricky pair. Heed them not lest your dreams disappear.' Or something like that," I answered.


"And you thought she meant Clay and Hank?"


"I thought so, I'm not so sure anymore."


"Neither of our boys have families, why would she warn me about kids they don't even have," Walt wondered?


"I think I know what she meant," Zoë said, jumping out of her chair suddenly, like it was on fire!


       Startled we all just stared at her and waited for whatever she was going to say next. She was silent for a few of seconds, making the face she makes whenever she has an answer on the tip of her tongue. Zoë walked toward the front steps and then spun around quickly, both her hands held up like she was stopping traffic.


"What if Mrs. Dexter's sister wasn't looking for Walt?" she asked.


"Who else would she be looking for? Emma and me are alone in this big house," asked Walt.


"You are now," Zoë replied, gesturing with her hands like she was playing charades.

"Wait a second!" I exclaimed as the light came on in my brain.


"Mrs. Dexter, I don't remember you mentioning your mother. Where was your mom when Abbey ran away?" I asked, finishing Zoë's thought (teammates can do that you know).


"Well, let me think. Daddy and Mother divorced when we were just little girls. I didn't see any reason to bring Mother up. She'd run off with a travelling salesman, Leo Jordan was his name, in nineteen hundred and eighteen. It was while Daddy was overseas in the First World War," she replied.


"Did she ever remarry?" I asked gently.


"Why yes, as a matter of fact she did. Why do you ask?"


"I'm not sure yet. Where did she run off to? Did she have more kids?"


"Well, Daddy's sister Martha came to take care of us until he came home from the war. Aunt Martha stayed in touch with Mother over the years. She said that she had remarried and became Mrs. Helen Jordan, and settled in Austin Texas where she gave birth to one child, a boy, David."


"Interesting," I replied.

"He would be around your age, right?"


"No, maybe 4 or 5 years younger," she replied.


"Double interesting," I muttered.


"Have you ever met?"


"Yes, once come to think of it. It was at Mother's funeral."


"Hmmmm, when was that?"


"Oh, about twenty years ago, right Father?"


"Yes, December 24th, 1989," Walt replied.


"Of course, that's right, 1989. We ended up spending Christmas in Austin that year. Her son David was very nice to us," Emma remembered.


"Did you stay with him?"


"Oh heavens no, he had a full house! His two boys were very young at the time, and wild little Indians as well as I recall," replied Emma.


"Two boys?"


"Yes, I think their names are Robert and Richard," she answered.

"Is that important?" asked Mr. Dexter.


"I think so Walt. One more question. Mrs. Dexter, did the room you're sleeping in now once belong to your parents?"


"Yes of course, there's only one master bedroom in this house, why do you ask?"


"I KNOW, I KNOW!" Zoë shouted.


"I think I do too," Walt said as well.


"Abbey wasn't looking for me Mother, she was looking for old Henry, your Daddy," Walt said, getting up suddenly and walking into the house.


"Where are you going Walter?" Emma called out to him.


       He didn't answer. I was pretty sure he just realized the connection between Abbey's haunt and her Mother's second family. Whatever Walt went into the house for was going to be the missing piece of the puzzle. Mrs. Ryan appeared at the porch steps as he disappeared inside the house. She walked up and over to where we were seated and stood in front of the fan, cooling off.


"Oh my gosh! It is so hot today," she exclaimed.


"Well I see you girls are nice and comfy. How are you feeling KK?" she asked giving me the teacher eye.


"Much better Mrs. Ryan, I think that the sun was just making me a little dizzy," I replied, peeking around her to see if Walt was coming back yet.


"Well I'm sure your mother will be relieved. I called her you know, and she's on her way to pick you up right about now," Mrs. Ryan explained.


"Okay," I replied secretly hoping that Mommy wouldn't get here too soon. At least not until this mystery was solved.


"How about you Zoë, are you ready to join the other kids? I'm afraid you missed out on riding a horse today though," said Mrs. Ryan.


"Well, maybe I should stay here with KaSandra, at least until her Mom gets here, don't you think so KK," she asked looking over at me hopefully?


"Um, yeah, would that be okay Mrs. Ryan," I asked with my best sad puppy eyes?


"I suppose, your mother should be here anytime now anyway," she replied with a loud sigh.


"I hope these two haven't talked your ears off, they've been known to do just that on more than one occasion," Mrs. Ryan asked Emma.


"Heavens no, they've been delightful, really," Emma replied as Walt jogged over to us with some mail in his hand.


"Pardon me ma'am, but I need to show these gals something," Walt said waiving an envelope excitedly.


       He sat back down in his chair, retrieved a pair of reading glasses from his shirt pocket and put them on his face. Holding the envelope up to his lips he gently blew it open, and removed a letter. He shook it open and looked at each one of us before reading it aloud.


"I got this here letter the other day and didn't pay it no never mind at first. A working ranch is always getting official looking mail from government offices, City and State, you name it," he started.  Zoë and I nodded our heads, pretending to understand.


"Usually when they are full of lawyer words like these I send them over to Amos, he's our attorney. Amos Holtz out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. I send em, he reads em, then he explains em to me in smaller words," Walt explained, smiling.


"Who's the letter from Father," Emma asked?


"Well that's just it. When you started talking about your momma and her other family, it came to me that I had heard those names before. And danged if I didn't! This here letter is from the Law Offices of Jordan and Jordan. That'd be Robert and Richard Jordan," Walt said, nodding his head knowingly.


"Well I'll be," Emma replied.


"The letter also says that this ranch is smack dab in the middle of some planned highway development and that those two boys have been hired by the State of California to buy up every property between here and the Interstate," continued Mr. Dexter.


"Our ranch isn't for sale is it Walt," Emma asked concerned?


"No, of course not Mother, but the letter says that it doesn't really matter if it is or it ain't. The State can just make us an offer and then we have to sell," answered Walt.


"Can they do that?" Emma asked.


"Actually they can," answered Mrs. Ryan.


"Excuse me, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to butt in like that," she added apologizing.


"That's quite alright dear. Are you sure about that?" asked Emma.


"Yes, it happens all the time. There's a term for it too but I can't seem to remember it just now," answered our teacher.


"Eminent domain," said Zoë matter-of-factly.


"That's it," Mrs. Ryan exclaimed, snapping her fingers!


"How do you know that?" I asked. I shouldn't be surprised though, the girl has a mind like a steel trap.


"What can I say, I read a lot," answered Zoë.


"I think that maybe you should call Amos right away dear, this sounds serious," said Emma.


"Actually it sounds a little fishy," Mrs. Ryan said in a curious tone.


"What do you mean ma'am," Walt asked?


"Well, my husband is actually on the Planning Commission for the City of San Diego, and he's never mentioned any plans to connect Hwy 56 with Interstate 8," replied Mrs. Ryan.


"That's very interesting, are you sure about that young woman," asked Mr. Dexter?


"Positive! Besides look around you, you're surrounded by neighborhoods. I seriously doubt that the State would uproot all of these tax paying families?"


"No ma'am, I reckon not," Walt said, rubbing his chin whiskers.


"OMG, that's what Abbey was trying to tell us. It wasn't your grandsons it was Helen's!" I shouted.


"Who's Helen? Who's Abbey? What am I missing?" Mrs. Ryan asked puzzled.


"It's a long story, we'll fill you in on the ride back to school," I answered politely.


"Why those rascals, I'm going inside directly and call Amos Holtz, pronto!" Walt announced, getting up quickly. Excusing himself, he left the front porch and went inside the big green house.


"This is so bizarre. I can hardly believe my ears. My sister speaks from the grave to help save the home she ran away from for a father that she shunned in life?" wondered Emma aloud.


       Zoë, Mrs. Ryan and me, just sat there silently and waited for Mrs. Dexter to snap out of it. Which, she did after a moment, noticing that we were trying hard not to stare. She smiled and got up to pour Mrs. Ryan some cold lemonade.


"My goodness, where are my manners? I'm sorry dear, I should have offered refreshments when you first walked up here," she said handing a tumbler to our teacher.


"Oh, that's really not necessary, but thank you," replied Mrs. Ryan accepting the cold drink.


"Nonsense, you looked positively parched," Emma replied.


"Excuse me, Emma," I said softly.


"Yes dear," she replied?


"If you don't mind my asking, why do you think Abbey didn't appear to you?" I asked.


"Yeah, why not," asked Zoë, chiming in.


"GIRLS!" scolded Mrs. Ryan.


"No, it's alright dear, I was actually wondering the same thing," said Emma.


       She got up and walked over to the banister that framed the wrap around porch. Emma leaned upon the railing and looked around the property, at the barn, the corral, the cattle in the field beyond the corral, and at several children feeding apples to a couple of mares with their foals. Clay-boy looked up, sensing her gaze, and waived to his mother as he gently held the reins of a Palomino mare chewing on the tasty treats from the kids. Emma waived back and turned to face the three of us.


"You know, I've never been a very good listener. I've always been too quick to judge or give my opinion. Maybe that's why Abbey came to the two of you," she reflected, looking through a window at her husband who was sitting at his desk, talking on the telephone.


"My Walter is a kind man, a true gentle spirit. And KK, I'm guessing that in you Abbey sensed an open heart and a curiosity that would make a cat nervous," she added with a smile.


"I am grateful to you and all of your friends for your courage, and for believing in the unbelievable. You know, it says in scripture that to have true faith one must believe as a child. I can see the wisdom in that now," Emma said sincerely.


"Well, all we really did was ask a lot of questions. You and Walt had the answers all along. I guess you just needed to hear yourselves think," I said sheepishly.


"I suppose dear, I suppose," Emma replied, sighing.

"Just the same, thank you for helping us sort things out. All of you thank you," she said, nodding at the three of us.


       Mrs. Ryan's cell phone rang suddenly, startling us with its loud old style ring tone. We jumped and looked her way.


"Sorry, I need to take this," she said, flipping open her phone and placing her hand over her mouth as she said hello.


"It's your mom KaSandra, she just got here," she said looking up at me.


"Okay," I replied grabbing a crutch to stand.


        Zoë and Emma helped me to the steps while Mrs. Ryan gave Mommy directions to the house. Walt waived to us through the window as Emma gave us each a hug before we went down the steps. She watched from the porch as we made our way toward the bus. We followed Mrs. Ryan down the path that led back to the corral.


       I saw Mommy drive up in our mini-van, a thick dust trail following her, and wondered how I was going to convince her to give the team a ride back to school so that Zoë and I could fill everyone in. No worries, I'd think of something. When we reached the corral I turned to take one more look at the big green house and gasped. Mr. and Mrs. Dexter were on the porch together waiving goodbye, and right beside Emma was her sister Abigail, floating on air and waiving to me as well.


"Do you see that!" I exclaimed rhetorically.


"See what?" asked Zoë.


"I see a grandma and grandpa waiving at us," Winifred said, climbing into Mommy's mini-van.


"That's all I see too," said Claire following her.


"KASANDRA!" hollered Mommy.




       I hobbled over to the passenger side and let Mrs. Ryan help me climb into the mini-van. As I fastened my seatbelt I took one more look at the house. Walt and Emma had gone inside, but Abbey remained. She waived once more and I waived back. Mommy looked out the window then back at me.


"Everything alright honey?" she asked.


"It is now," I answered, smiling.


"Let's go home…"
Look for the next KK Undercover Mystery:
"The La Jolla Pirate Caves"


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