The Secret of Willow Lane (A Willow Lane Mystery, #1) by Virginia Rose Richter

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Two eleven-year-old amateur detectives set out to solve the mystery of a deceased neighbor's missing will and to identify a stranger snooping around the house where the will is thought to be hidden. What begins as an excuse to use their new detective kit turns into a frightening experience that has the girls running for their lives.

This is the first in a new mystery novella series recommended for ages 9-12.


On the Johnson porch across the street from Jessie’s house, a man stood quietly in the shadows. He watched the two girls run through the field. When they were out of sight, he crossed the street. He wore bib overalls and a blue shirt. A baseball cap, pulled down low, hid his eyes. And he walked with a limp.

At the Hanson house, the man climbed the steps and pressed the shiny black doorbell. Mrs. Winter appeared at the screen door. “Yes?” she said.

He looked down as he spoke. “Excuse me, ma’am. I’m here to measure the bedroom for the carpet you ordered.”

She looked puzzled. “I’m afraid I don’t know anything about this. I’m just babysitting. Mrs. Hanson’s not home and…”

His hand went to the door handle. “It’ll just take a minute. It sure would help if I didn’t have to make another trip.”

“Oh dear,” said Mrs. Winter. “Well, I guess it will be all right.” She opened the screen. “Which bedroom are you supposed to measure?”

The man stepped inside and pointed to the bedroom on the upper right hall—Jessie’s. “That one.” He started up the stairs.

“Wait! I’d better go with you,” said the sitter. “I wish Mrs. Hanson had told me you were coming today. Oh well. Let’s get it done.”

She passed him on the staircase and led the way. Just as they stepped into Jessie’s bedroom, the telephone rang.

“Go ahead and measure. I’ll get the phone.” She rushed to the telephone in the Hansons’ bedroom. “Hello? Oh, Mrs. Hanson. Yes, Phillip’s fine—asleep. And Jessie—oh, the man is here to measure for the carpeting in Jessie’s room…” She paused and listened. “Oh, dear. You didn’t order any carpeting? Yes. Hang on.”

She laid down the receiver and hurried to Jessie’s room. “Sir! Sir?” The room was empty. Through the window facing Willow Lane, Mrs. Winter saw the man limp to a green car parked at the curb. He got in and sped down the street.

The sitter rushed back to the phone. “Why, he’s gone, Mrs. Hanson! He just ran out and went racing down the street in a green car.”

She listened. “Well, I surely won’t do that again! It was foolish of me—letting a stranger into the house.” She listened. “No, the car was too far away to see the license number. Jessie and Tina went downtown about fifteen minutes ago. I hope they’re all right.”

She paused. “Don’t worry. I’ll check with you next time before I let anyone in. Oh, by the way, the man had a noticeable limp. Bye for now.” She hung up.

Mrs. Winter hurried to check on Phillip, who was still asleep. In Jessie’s bedroom, she looked for anything out of place. When she spied the camera lying open on the floor, she reassembled it and set it on Jessie’s desk.

Downstairs, she firmly hooked the front screen door. Then she hurried to the kitchen and did the same with the back door.

  • Published by: Untreed Reads

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