Category Archives: The Crusader Mysteries! (Kelly's Crusaders)

Bradley and the Mysterious Secrets

*started #3 of the Crusader Mysteries: Bradley and the Mysterious Secrets.

    The Crusader Mysteries:

    Case Entry #3:

    Bradley and the Mysterious Secrets

 

    Written By:

    Lady Adellandra Dratianos,

    Author of the Inner Realm Chronicles

 

 

 

 

 

When a family moves into the once-abandoned Catz Mansion, it rises the Bomb Squad’s suspicions. Then there’s a strange, new boy in school. What’s his mysterious secret?

 

 

 

 

 

    Prologue:

    Strange Happenings

 

The boy helped his family unload their car into the new house.

“I still don’t understand why we have to do it this way.” He complained to his mother. “Why not the way we did things in Salem?”

“Michael Catz! How dare you speak that way!” His mother scowled. She lowered her voice as she stepped inside the house. “You know that nobody here will understand if we were to use our powers. It just isn’t right.”

“What about in Salem?” He asked.

“No arguments, young man.” His father’s voice bellowed.

“Yes, Dad.” Michael said patiently. He headed out the door to unload the moving van.

He stopped in front of it, put his hands on his hips, and stared.

Why can’t I use a little witchcraft? He thought to himself.

Glancing side to side, to make sure no one was watching, he pointed to a box. “Hey you. Come here.” Michael commanded, crooking his finger. He concentrated hard until his eyes hurt. The box magically lifted up off the floor of the van and headed toward him. “That’s it.” He muttered to himself. He opened his arms to receive the flying box, but heard a voice behind him. Not thinking, he stopped concentrating on the box. It fell to the ground, hitting his foot on the way. “Ow!” He yelped.

“Michael! What’s taking you so long?”

He turned to the house. “I’ll be right there, Mother!” He yelled back, clutching his foot in pain. He bent down to pick up the box with his arms instead of his powers. Looking around him, he saw across the street neighbors peeking their heads from a window, curious.

I hope they didn’t see that just now. Michael thought to himself objectively. Otherwise, I’m washed up even before I’m sold.

* * *

 

Veronica Whitehead made her move. After cheering practice, she went over to Hill View High’s football field. Some of the boys were still playing around, their coach was nowhere to be found.

It’ll all go as planned. Veronica thought. She eyed a boy from a cross the field and called to him. “Hey, Carmichael!”

Richie Carmichael caught the ball before turning to see who called. When he saw who it was, he smiled. He threw the ball back to his teammate before heading in her direction.

“Well, well, if it isn’t Veronica Whitehead.” Richie remarked. “What can I do for you, Ronnie?”

“I want to make trouble.” She said.

Richie was interested. “What kind of trouble?”

“Kelly Reading stole Bradley Schmidt away from me.” Veronica replied. “I want my revenge against her.”

“I don’t know, Ronnie.” Richie started. “You’re a Bulldog Cheerleader and Kelly’s the Associate Editor-in-Chief of the Gazette. How are you gonna do it?”

Veronica smiled an evil grin, pointing to him. “With your help, of course.”

“Why should I help you?”

 

“Admit it. You’ve had a crush on Kelly since grade school.” Veronica said. “I also heard about your fight with Bradley a couple months back. Don’t tell me the leader of the Deadly Dragons doesn’t want revenge against those goody-goodies.”

“The Dragons split.” Richie said.

Veronica thought it over. “Well, isn’t that the perfect reason to help me?”

“Your point?” Richie began, frustrated.

“I want to show Kelly Reading whose boss. You want to show the school just how terrible you can be.” Veronica started. “Together, we can make it living hell between them. What do you say?”

Richie Carmichael was known as the biggest bully in school, but now his friends thought him soft. Time to show who still rules the school.

He held his hand out for her to shake. “You got yourself a deal.” He said. “Name it, and I’ll do it.”

Once she took his hand, she kissed his cheek. “You won’t regret it, believe me. See you later, Carmichael.”

With that, she turned and sauntered away. Richie caught himself staring at her seductive hips with a smile on his face.

He loved the sweet, intoxicating smell of revenge.

 

 

    * * * * *

 

As you could tell, the past couple weeks were the weirdest. Only, you don’t know the half of it. Open your eyes, close all other thoughts, and pay attention. I’m only gonna tell this once.

Are you ready?

Let’s begin last month, when it all started to happen at once. Kelly Reading (who just happens to be my girlfriend) was walking home with me from school. We were holding hands, glad to be alone at last.

From the personal casebook of Bradley Allen Schmidt… I bring to you a strange tale…

 

    Chapter One

    Reflections. . . .

 

“I’m glad KC and Krysti are okay.” Kelly replied. “Cara and I were really worried.”

Last month, our friends Kendra “KC” Clark and Kirsten “Krysti” Farthay were kidnapped by an escaped convict, “Crazy Jake” Harrison. First, we overheard the criminal our club had sent to jail was out, and were spooked. We thought nothing of it until KC turned up missing. Obviously, being teen detectives, we believed the two were related somehow. The kidnappers actually demanded ransom money from Mr. Clark, KC’s dad and told him they’d call to confirm the transfer. Kelly was there to take the call with her best friend Cara Richardson. Not too long after, Kelly herself was kidnapped, and Cara, being the Vice-president of the new Bomb Squad of Hill View High, had to take her place. It took a while, but everything was back to normal, whatever that was for us.

“I just hope Crazy Jake doesn’t try to escape again.” I told her, wrapping my arm around her waist and kissing her hair. “Right now, I’d like to forget all this ever happened.”

“Hmm.” Kelly agreed softly. “Me, too.”

She wrapped her arm around my waist, giving it a squeeze.

“You know, all in all, I had fun.” I replied as we sat on my porch.

“How do you figure?” Kelly asked, looking at me strangely. “Two of our best friends from the club were kidnapped, including me, and we were almost killed in the Catz Mansion. You call that fun?”

“What I meant, if you’ll only listen, is I had fun solving a case with the club.” I teased, kissing her.

“Oh, we always seem to run into one, Bradley.” Kelly teased back. “You should know that by now.”

I laughed. “Yeah, it’s as if we’re mystery magnets.”

Kelly giggled. “I’ve gotta run. See you.”

“I love you, Kelly Reading.” I made her turn with the statement.

She blushed, repeating. “I love you, too, Bradley Allen.”

I let out a romantic sigh as she disappeared inside her house. I stood, opened the door and sauntered into my own. I found Dad talking on the phone.

“He just walked in, Josh.” Dad handed the phone to me.

I took it. “Hey. What’s up, buddy?”

“I have some weird news to tell you.” My best friend Josh Stevenson replied.

“So, tell me already.” I laughed.

“I just saw a moving van in front of the Catz Mansion.” Josh replied. “Cara’s the one who noticed it first, while we were studying.”

Cara Richardson was his girlfriend and next-door neighbor. She was also Kelly’s best friend.

“You’re joking, right?” I asked, secretly wondering who it was, and if this could lead us into another mystery.

“Nope.” Josh answered. “You know what the really spooky thing is?”

“What’s that?”

“I saw a boy, about our age, picking up a box.”

“What’s so spooky about that?”

 

“You didn’t let me finish. He wasn’t touching it. He was just staring at it, with his arm out.” Josh replied.

If that wasn’t an invitation to mystery, I didn’t know what was.

“Did you want us to come over and investigate?” I asked, not meaning to sound excited.

“Wait for a while. At least until he comes to school in the morning.” Josh replied. “I wouldn’t want you to jump to conclusions too quickly, if you know what I mean.”

“I get your drift, Josh.” I laughed, rolling my eyes. “I’ll see you and Cara tomorrow, then you can tell the rest of the club if you wish. You know how our friends are.”

“Yeah, nosy.” Josh quipped, laughing.

“Very funny.” I said sarcastically. “I’ll see you tomorrow, nut-ball.”

“See ya.”

As I hung up the phone with Josh, I sensed someone behind me. Turning, I see my almost-cousin Angel Hope watching me with her big blue eyes.

“What did he want?” Eight-year-old Angel asked.

“None of your business, Squirt, so scram.” I said. “Don’t you have homework to do?”

Angel nodded. “Only math. Can you help me?”

Mathematics. My favorite subject. I don’t mean to brag, but I was a literal genius at math. I used to have trouble with it when I was her age, but Mr. Reading, Kelly’s ex-stepfather, taught me little tricks he knew.

“Not right now. I’ve got homework of my own to do.” I told her.

“Come on, Bradley, please?” Angel begged.

“Don’t bug him.” I heard Dad’s voice from behind us. “If he doesn’t want to help you, he doesn’t have to.”

“But I want him to.” Angel continued. “I won’t be able to pass the test on Friday if he doesn’t help me.”

“What about me?” Dad asked.

Angel waved at him. “You’re no good at math.”

I laughed at that one, leaving them playfully arguing. “I’ll be in my room if you need me, Dad.”

“Sure.” He told me, turning to Angel. “As for you, young lady….”

I didn’t hear the rest because I was already safely in my room by then.

 

    Chapter Two:

    They Call Me Bradley Allen

 

If Casebooks had a pause key, I’d use it right now.

First, I ought to introduce myself. My name is legally Bradley Allen Schmidt, but I like to be called Bradley Allen. I’m sixteen and am a junior at Hill View High School here in town. I live in a house on Sycamore Street with my Dad Aaron, his twin sister Aimee, and my almost cousin Angel Hope. Dad and Aimee both married and their spouses are now living together with us. I’m adopted into the Schmidt family.

This is confusing. Dad, Aaron, isn’t my real dad. His parents adopted me when I was a baby, shortly before he and aunt Aimee were fourteen. I originally grew up as his son and Aimee’s nephew with the surname Schmidt. That is, until my best friend Josh and I found out I was adopted. Until then, I lived a simple life. I was the step-brother to Kelly, who lives next door, cousin-brother to Angel (whom Aimee adopted when Angel was three and I was fourteen), and brother-figure to Kelly’s step-brothers Mark Antony, Andrew, and Theodore (the baby) and her step-sister Melody. I am now step-son (sort-of) to Dad’s new wife Sierra and step-nephew to Aunt Aimee’s new husband Scott Archer. I have what’s called an extended family. Those I’ve grown up with live either next door or across the street.

First of all are the Readings and Dratianos’, Kelly’s family.

When I was seven, I met a wonderful girl named Kelina Erin in a dream. Silver-blue eyes, long reddish-brown hair and happy personality, I was stuck from the get-go. We were best friends at first sight, and I began loving when bedtime came around. Six-year-old Kelly would show me things in my dreams that were fun and exciting. We’d play until morning came, and I left her side. For a year, I wondered if she was real. On the day I actually met her in person, I was ecstatic. We later found I was her brother (sort of) and we lived right next door to each other. From that day forward, I was by her side, the bond between us getting tighter with each passing year.

Even before I found out I was her sort-of-brother, I loved her.

Soon, I met her family, which later became my own. Her mother, Ariana Reading, stepfather Derrick, younger twin brothers Andrew and Mark, stepsister Melody and youngest brother Theodore live next door. Her real father, Aaron Schmidt, and Aimee grew up with Ariana in an orphanage in California. When they were barely teenagers, they did the deed and Ariana, Mrs. Reading, was soon pregnant with Kelly. She ran away, escaping an evil orphanage Mistress to begin a new life. Years later, she reunited with Dad and Aimee, introducing them to her new boyfriend, Derrick Reading. Of course, Derrick and Ariana soon married, had four children and lived happily ever after, right?

Wrong. The marriage didn’t come until Ariana met her own family, the Woods.

Not long ago, a thing the Mystics called Destiny kicked in and everything changed.

Which brings me to our across the street neighboring family, the Morehouses. Shane Morehouse and his wife Luna are really Kelly’s aunt and uncle, and their children, Caleb, Meredith, and Logan, are her cousins. When Ariana and Luna met, the resemblance was uncanny. Turns out, they’re identical twins. Ariana, Luna, Aaron and Aimee are all the same age now, twenty-eight. Caleb, Luna’s son who is the same age as Angel, is the identical triplet cousin to Ariana’s twin sons, Andrew and Mark. Some say Meredith, who’s two years younger than the twins, looks like a dark-haired version of Melody, Kelly’s reddish-blond haired step-sister. Kelly swears her youngest brother Theodore looks a lot like Dad.

 

Not only are the Readings and Morehouses part of the family, now the Stewarts are, too. Next door to the Morehouses are the Stewarts, their own cousins. Julie, Mrs. Stewart, just moved in with her husband Jamie and sixteen-year-old daughter TJ three years ago. Two years ago, another set of twins was born, Corrine (who we call Cory) and Caitlin (Katy). Also living with the Stewarts is TJ’s fiancee, Charlie Reynolds.

This may seem complicated, but I’ll clear things up the best I can.

Julie, who used to be called Julia Lynne, grew up almost like Mrs. Reading, as an orphan. She had a baby when she was only sixteen, forced to give it up when Tamara Jane was born. Tamara Jane, nicknamed TJ, grew up in a happy home with her adopted parents and an older brother Charlie. She always knew she was different, so she asked questions when she was thirteen. She found she was adopted, and three years later, went to find her mother. For support and so she wouldn’t be alone, Charlie tagged along. During the trip, they fell in love. Even knowing they grew up as brother and sister (like Kelly and myself), they decided to stay together. As for Julie, when she and TJ reunited, it wasn’t easy. At the time, she was happily married to an electronics genius named Jamie “Jammins” Stewart. She still wanted to be a mother to her daughter, but she was scared. Like Charlie for TJ, Jamie was supportive of his bride. Shortly after, Julie wanted to learn more about the family, so she wrote to her cousin Ariana in Hill View. Jamie got a job with Intelligence, and surprised her with a house next door to the Morehouses. They were a family at last, and neither of them could have been any happier.

Two years ago, at about the same time, three more people were added to the family, whether they liked it or not. Juliet Grey, Scott Archer and Sierra Gregory.

Juliet Grey was the younger sister of Mrs. Reading’s adopted brother Mark Grey, who lived with her in the Parker Mansion. Short story: Juliet and Mark were adopted into different homes from the local orphanage; Juliet three, Mark five. Mark went to the Parkers while Juliet went home with her true family. They each grew up in different parts of Hill View, going to different schools. Juliet meets and has a crush on Derrick Reading, who’s a whole four years older than she is. Mark grows up loving an adopted sister he can’t have. Years later, Juliet wonders about him, and searches in the Hill View records for him. She finds something she didn’t expect – an article on Mark in the obituary, with the Readings names listed as close friends. Juliet goes to the Readings and meets Derrick’s Mystic wife, Ariana. Immediately, Ariana knew something was familiar about this girl with strange grey eyes. When Juliet asked her about Mark, Ariana found it hard to explain. Ariana told Juliet about the Mystics and where her brother Mark was now, in the Dream Realm, and was trusted to keep the Magic a secret from outsiders. In the end, Juliet stayed at their house as a caretaker for Kelly, Andrew, Mark, Theodore and Melody when the other adults couldn’t take care of them. She’s still touchy when it came to the Mystics using their great Magic around her, but we all still love her.

 

Scott Archer used to live across the street from the Shore Point Home for Children with his brother Seth and parents. At the home lived the Three Musketeers (as they called themselves), Ariana, Aimee and Aaron. Both Scott and his older brother Seth made friends with the kids at the Home, mostly the Musketeers. Scott was considered the fourth Musketeer, falling for Aimee as they grew up. He was silent and sure to keep watch whenever Ariana used her Magic. When it came time for Ariana to run away and have Kelly, Scott’s brother Seth made her a deal. She could borrow money from him if she returned it in thirteen years. Two years ago, that thirteen years was up. When Seth came back to collect, Scott went with him. Scott fell in love all over again with Aimee, who was no longer an orphan. Aimee was just like Ariana (sort-of). She had powers, given to her by a pact the Musketeers made before Ariana left. Aimee carried some of Ariana’s Magic with her, called Unicorn Magic. Anyway, he was still attracted to her, even though he was soft-spoken and nervous at first. In no time, they married, with Scott moving in with us.

The third person was Sierra Gregory, Dad’s new wife. They just married not too long ago, and she moved in shortly after the Bomb Squad’s first case. She calls her self a Wiccan, which is basically a witch with a love of the Earth. When they were first dating, Dad was sick with something no one could do anything about; not even the remaining Musketeers. Sierra claimed she could read, see, and feel auras. She later found she could heal, and used those powers to save him from being close to death. Slowly, he began to get better and the two of them became closer. I still don’t know her very well, but Dad seems to love her. As Aimee said many times, anything to make him happy. Dad hasn’t been this happy in a long time. They met two years ago by accident, but I have a feeling Aimee and Mrs. Reading had something to do with it.

Whew!

So that’s my extended family. I know they aren’t my birth family, but I don’t care. No matter how complicated they are, I love them all.

Especially my Kelina Erin Reading.

 

    Chapter Three:

    Bomb Squad of Hill View High

 

Back to the story. That night I was studying in my room with the phone rang.

“Hello, Schmidt summer home. Some are home, some are not.” I joked into the line.

“Bradley, you are such a goof-ball.” Came the giggling voice of my girlfriend Kelly.

“What can I say? I love a good laugh.” I told her, smiling. “What’s up?”

“We’re meeting at Josh’s house in an hour.” She said. “Can you make it?”

“Are you going to be there?” I asked.

“Of course, silly.” Kelly laughed. “I am the President you know.”

“I know that.” I said. “I was just joking.”

“Are you coming or not?”

“I’ll be there in an hour.”

“Can you give us a ride then?” Kelly asked me sheepishly.

“In what?”

“Can’t you borrow Daddy’s jeep?”

“I can ask. If so, who’s coming with us?”

“Steve, Adam, Peter and Devin.”

Steve Edwards, Kelly’s other next-door neighbor and best friend, Adam Smith, his cousin, Peter Valentine, the school perfectionist, and Devin Jones, former bully of Hill View High.

“Must be big if both Peter and Devin are invited.” I told her.

“They’re gonna be inducted as Associate Members.” She said. “Devin feels bad about both the fights with Richie and KC being kidnapped.”

I smiled. Devin has had a crush on KC since she started this year. When she was kidnapped, he helped by giving us important clues to seal the case.

That didn’t explain Peter.

“What about Peter?” I asked her.

“Not only are Peter and Devin old best friends but their now both friends with Adam.” Kelly explained. “Peter led one of the search parties when KC was missing.”

“I don’t remember that.” I told her. “Listen, I’ll be over in a few. You can explain it to me then.”

“Trying to get rid of me?” She joked.

“Why limit ourselves to talk when we live next door to each other?” I countered.

At that, she giggled. “In that case, see you later. I love you.”

“Love you, too, Kelly.”

When I hung up the phone, I heard kissy-kissy noises coming from my doorway. No doubt a nosy Angel was listening in. I shook my head at her, barely listening to her singing “Bradley’s got a girlfriend. Bradley’s got a girlfriend” as she followed me down the hall to the closet.

“Angie, shut up.” I told her as I grabbed my coat. “Where’s Dad?”

I knew Aaron wasn’t my dad, but the habit was hard to break.

“In the study. Why?”

I ruffled her hair instead of answering.

Once I found him, I asked if I could borrow the jeep. With a warning of “be careful,” I was on my way next door.

 

Since I didn’t have to knock, I let myself in, finding Kelly waiting in the kitchen for me. When she saw me, she put down her glass of fruit punch to embrace me.

“Long time, no see Romeo.” She smiled as she kissed my lips.

They tasted so sweet, I had to hold her closer and indulge myself. I looked into her eyes when we parted. They were so mysterious, yet so lovely.

“Hello yourself, beautiful.” I commented, kissing her nose. “What’s new? Why did you call a meeting?”

“I didn’t.” Kelly shook her head. “Cara did. She’s heard something odd across the street.”

“Again?” I asked. “What is it this time?”

“Movers.” Kelly smiled. “Someone’s finally moved into the Catz Mansion.”

“Josh told me.” I shrugged. “It spooked him out, big time.”

“It takes a lot to spook Josh Stevenson.” I heard Steve Edwards’ voice behind Kelly. Adam, Peter, and Devin were behind him.

I released Kelly to greet them. It was too late. Steve was already smiling at me.

Adam turned to Kelly. “Isn’t it said the Catz twins who haunt the place were witches?”

“You don’t know who these people are.” Peter said, pushing up his dark-framed glasses. “They could have just bought the house, plain and simple.”

“Pete’s right.” Devin said. “We won’t know until the guy starts school.”

“For once, I agree with Devin and Peter.” Kelly said. “We’ll just have to wait until then. For now, off to Josh’s house for the meeting.”

We headed out to the jeep, with Kelly sitting beside me and the guys in back.

“I still don’t understand why Pete and I are here.” Devin supplied.

“You’re going to become Associate Members of the Bomb Squad.” Kelly told them.

“Groan.” Devin said.

“Why?” Peter asked.

“You deserve it, and you’re our friends, so why not?” Kelly said.

So that was the end of that discussion. We were at the Stevensons, ready for another meeting of the new Bomb Squad of Hill View High.

We were greeted by every member of the club in different spots around the Stevenson’s living room. I saw all my friends, laughing, giggling, munching on chips and popcorn, waiting for their almost-perfect president to arrive with the Treasurer (me), Alternate (Steve), Junior Officer (Adam), and two new members, Devin and Peter. KC, the secretary, looked up from her notebook to wave. Vice-president Cara Richardson raced to Kelly as soon as their eyes met. Steve saw his crush, Krysti Farthay, another Junior Officer, and sat next to her, starting a conversation. The fifteen-year old twins, Alternate Secretary Carrie and Alternate Treasurer Kymm Parker were gossiping with Allie Watson, the school’s punk-rocker and our club’s Private Investigator. Lesal DeRose, Jamaican Spy Officer, was sitting with her best friend Miranda English, the other Spy Officer. Adam the nut sat next to her, making her blush and Lesal roll her eyes. I, on the other hand, stayed by Kelly’s side as I always do, sitting on the love seat next to her. Cara sat on the arm of the chair while Josh beckoned her to his lap on the floor.

“It’s still strange seeing you guys together.” Krysti said, and all but Allie and KC agreed with her.

“You mean Bradley and I?” Kelly asked, grasping my hand. Krysti nodded. “We’ve always been together, you know that.”

 

“I know, but it’s different now.” Steve put in. “You grew up as brother and sister.”

“So?” I asked.

“So, that’s how we know you.” He replied. He nudged Krysti. “Right, Krys?”

Krysti blushed when she looked at him, but nodded. “Right.”

“KC and I don’t see them like that, do we KC?” Allie interjected.

“I think it’s romantic.” KC supplied. “Sort of like Romeo and Juliet, don’t you think?”

“I hope not.” I told KC. “That love story doesn’t have a happy ending.”

“I think she’s talking about the love between Romeo and his Juliet.” Kelly teased, playing with the necklace I gave her when I told her the news. She stood up. “Unfortunately, we’re not here to discuss Bradley’s and my relationship. We are here, brought by Cara and Josh, to discuss our new case.”

Collective groans, shaken heads, and choruses of “oh no” were heard.

“It’s not a new case, Kel.” Cara replied.

“Yet.” I added under my breath. Knowing Kelly, she’d make it one, soon. Cara eyed me and I shrugged.

“We just want to tell you to be aware of the new boy.” Josh supplied.

“That’s it?” Allie asked, standing and placing her hands on her hips. “That’s what we were all brought here for?”

“Allie, sit.” Kelly commanded. Oddly enough, she obeyed. “We’re also here to induct two new Associate Members.”

“You can’t mean dem?” Lesal pointed to Devin and Peter, giving them looks of suspicion.

“What’s wrong with us, Lesal?” Devin challenged, standing up and getting in her face. “Didn’t we help find three of our friends?”

“But –”

“But what?” Devin argued. “No, don’t tell me. Let me guess. This doesn’t have anything to do with me being an ex-Dragon, does it?”

“Well, yeah.” Miranda shrunk back. “You’re a really nice guy, Devin, really.”

“Thanks, Miranda.” Devin said, eyeing Lesal. “I just wish your best friend could see that.”

“I do, really.” Lesal argued. “It’s gonna to take a lot of getting used to, dat’s all.”

I’d had enough, so I whistled loud and long.

“Enough.” I said. “I believe everybody should have a second chance, and that includes Devin.”

The club looked at each other, unable to say anything.

Kelly came to the rescue. “Don’t you remember the Oath you took?”

Now they looked at each other, guilty. I caught Kelly’s eye and winked, making her smile. It took a few moments, but the club agreed.

I knew by best friends wouldn’t let another down.

 

    Chapter Four:

    The New Boy

 

By seven o’clock, there were only four of us left, Kelly, Josh, Cara, and I. We sat around Josh’s livingroom, talking about whatever came to mind. Kelly and I were sitting on the love seat and Cara and Josh sat on the couch. My eyes happened to wander out the front bay window to the Catz mansion. Kelly had to nudge me to get my attention.

“What’s got your eye?” She asked.

“Besides you? The Catz mansion.” I told her, teasing her nose with a kiss. Looking out the window again, I saw something moving from the upstairs window.

It was a shadow of a small box, floating in air. Being Kelly’s boyfriend, I was used to things like this happening. But this really caught my eye. Soon, I had the three of them watching as well. More objects began to move in air, from left to right, then in a giant circle before dropping to the floor.

“Did you see that?” Cara squealed. “Whatever it was, it was creepy!”

Kelly fluffed it off. “It’s no worse than telekinesis. I can do that, too. Watch.” She said, looking to a throw pillow on the couch across the room. She made the pillow levitate to her hands by watching it. As soon as she caught it, she pelted it at Cara, giving her best friend a playful grin. “See?”

“I know you can do that, Kel.” Cara replied, dodging the pillow. “What I want to know is how who or whatever did that did it.”

“Huh?” Josh and I chorused.

“As usual, you’re not making sense.” I told her.

“What if it’s Jeremiah or Jesemiah doing that?” Kelly asked, making us look out the window again to where we saw the action.

“In broad daylight?” I cornered. “No, I think, whoever the boy was Josh saw today did that.”

“How would you know?” Cara asked.

“Theoretical estimate.” I said. When my three friends gave me looks of confusion, I said. “I guessed.”

“Theoretically, you guessed.” We heard a voice speak up. When we turned back to the livingroom, we saw Josh’s older sister Noelle standing above them. “What did you guesstimate, Bradley Allen?”

Somehow, my name coming from Noelle’s prissy perfectionist’s mouth didn’t sound right. I didn’t say anything about it, though.

“He made a guess as to who moved in across the street.” Josh spoke up quickly.

“Why not go over there and find out?” Noelle challenged him. “It is the easiest way you know.”

“Do you know when they moved in?” I asked her. “We’ve been, uh, too busy to pay attention.”

“They moved in last week.” Noelle narrowed her eyes. “Why? They’re not another victim of the Bomb Squad, are they?”

“We’re just curious, ‘Ellie.” Josh said.

“Just remember the old saying.” Noelle replied. “Curiosity killed the cat.”

 

Kelly stood up to her, folding her arms at Josh’s older sister. “Haven’t you heard? Satisfaction brings it back.”

Noelle sighed, rolling her eyes. “When will you guys learn to leave people well enough alone?”

“Day after never.” Kelly spat. “Please leave, Noelle, unless…?”

Noelle knew what Kelly’s ‘unless’ was, and shook her head. “No way, Reading. I’m gone.”

With that, she left.

“That was a close one.” Cara breathed, standing only to sit next to her best friend. “A moment sooner and she would have seen your theatrics.”

“You’re telling me.” Kelly laughed lightly. She looked at the clock, then at me, tapping my leg. “Come on, Bradley. We’ve got to go home.”

I stood, gathering my keys. “We’ll see you two later.”

Kelly and I said our goodbyes after I parked the Jeep in the driveway.

“Brad!” I heard Steve Edwards’ voice yell. Before heading into the house, I met him on the porch swing.

“Hey Steve, what’s up?”

He was fingering the emerald necklace he had around his neck.

“Do you feel anything with yours?”

Mine? Oh, my Protectors’ Pendant.

“What am I supposed to feel?” I asked, sitting next to him.

“I don’t know. Energy or something?” Steve asked. “Do you feel it?”

I touched mine and felt nothing.

“Really think hard about that boy Josh saw.” Steve replied.

I closed my eyes to think. I began to see an image of Kelly and him talking. I was there and so were Josh and Cara. I couldn’t see the face, or even what the boy looked like. All I saw around him was strange-colored light.

“His aura is like Kelly’s.” I whispered aloud.

“And?”

I forgot Steve was there. I opened my eyes and dropped my hand from the Pendant. “This means Adam could be right. He might be one of the Catz family witches.”

Steve was deep in thought, his eyebrows narrowed. This was unlike him. Usually, Steve would find a sarcastic comment about everything. When he looked up at me, he said. “I know he’s right.”

“How?” I asked. “I mean, how can you tell? It’s not like he’s a Mystic and you could look into his eyes or something. Look and Rhiannon Bennington and Arianrhod King. If you didn’t know them, would you believe they were witches?”

“No, neither would I believe the same for Arianrhod’s boyfriend Audrey Barnes.” Steve replied. “That’s why I’m wondering about the guy.”

“You’re starting to sound like me. Get to the point.” I told him.

“This necklace of mine grew warm at that meeting.” Steve told me. “Don’t tell Kelly, or we’ll both be in for it.”

I laughed. “I hear you. Listen, Steve.”

“Yeah?”

“Keep a close eye on things, okay?” I asked. “Learn and Practice what you can about that necklace. It may come in handy one of these days.”

 

“Right, and Brad?”

I looked at him.

“I’m worried about Krys. She’s different lately.”

“I know what you mean.” I said. “She hasn’t been the same since she was kidnapped.”

“Do you think I should talk to her?”

I grinned. The Earthly Protector in him is starting to show, and he was ready to defend her with his life. “Definitely. Go for it.”

“What if she doesn’t feel the same way about me as I do about her?”

“Will you stop worrying and make your move?” I teased him, standing. “I’ve gotta run. See you in school tomorrow.”

He mumbled a soft “see ya” as I left. He was still sitting on the porch swing, staring into space when I went inside my house.

 

Halfway into the next day, the case officially started. I was in the middle of reading The Great Gatsby when my attention was stirred elsewhere. I happened to look up when he came in the room, wearing all black. I noticed a silver star with a circle around it hung on his neck by a silver string.

A witch’s pentacle. I thought to myself, staring at it. Could he be a witch?

Mr. Edwin cleared his throat and my thoughts were interrupted. I looked around, glad no one else seemed to notice or care for the moment. I watched as Mr. Edwin and the boy talked, with the teacher pointing to the seat behind me.

That’s when the boy’s and my eyes met. I tried to cover up by reading but it didn’t work. The boy just walked down the aisle to his new assigned seat. I ignored him, only that didn’t work, either. True to my adopted families wits, I was too nosy. Being sure the teacher didn’t see me, I turned to him and introduced myself.

“I’m Bradley Allen Schmidt.” I told him. “What’s your name?”

The boy hung onto his books with his head down. His greasy black hair hung in his face, but he did look up for a moment. I saw the black eyes. “Michael Catz.” He mumbled.

Catz! It was his family’s mansion, I know it!

“Where did you move here from?”

“Massachusetts.” He whispered, then looked over my shoulder. “You’d better start reading. He’s watching us.”

Sure enough, as I turned to the front, I saw Mr. Edwin staring over his bifocals at us. I returned to my reading quickly when I saw he wasn’t smiling.

Michael and I didn’t speak again until the end of class. Mr. Edwin called us to the front and waited until my classmates were gone before beginning.

“Am I in trouble, sir?” I asked, worried.

He shook his head. “No, not at all Bradley. I just wanted to talk to you. Both of you.”

Michael and I looked at each other. Unfortunately, Mr. Edwin continued.

“Mr. Anderson has chosen you to lead him around school.” Mr. Edwin told me. “You will be excused from all of your classes for today only to give him a tour and show him the ropes. Am I making myself clear?”

I nodded. “Yes, sir.” I turned to a silent Michael Catz. “Come on, I’ll show you around.”

 

I first went to my locker where I met Kelly, Cara and Josh. “Hey guys.” I got their attention. “This is Michael Catz. He just moved here from Massachusetts.”

“You sure work fast!” Kelly teased. She nodded to Michael. “Welcome to Hill View High. I’m Kelly Reading, and these are my friends, Cara Richardson,” Cara nodded her hello. “And Josh Stevenson.” Josh waved. “I’m sure you’ll have fun here, so enjoy!” She quickly kissed my cheek before waving goodbye and heading to class.

I cleared my throat, embarrassed as I set my bag in my locker. I swore I saw him smile for a split second before it turned back to a frown.

“I take it Kelly’s your girlfriend?” He asked, smile growing.

I touched my cheek. “You could say that.” I said, slamming the locker door shut. “We originally grew up together.”

Why did I want him to know that? I thought to myself. I shrugged it off, showing him around school and the campus grounds. I told him a brief history of Hill View, even bragging about the Bomb Squad.

“Is Josh a member of this Bomb Squad of yours?” Michael asked me when we were outside. We sat on the metal bleachers to talk.

“One of many, why?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. I saw him watching me the other day as I was moving in.”

“I don’t know if I should tell you this, Michael, but the people of Hill View have always thought of the Catz mansion as being haunted.” I told him gently. “Therefore, they also think it’s strange for a family to move in.”

“I know our house is haunted.” Michael told me. He didn’t even shiver. “It’s a family legend.”

“A legend that no one in Hill View could get straight.” I said. “That is, until…”

I cut myself off, almost telling him about Kelly’s abduction five years ago. To tell him that would also tell him her secret, and I didn’t want him to know that. Ever.

“Until what?” He asked. “What happened?”

Think, Bradley, think! I scolded myself. There’s got to be a way to tell him without revealing Kelly’s secret! Think!

“When Kelly was ten, she was kidnapped by her step-dad’s ex-girlfriend, Adrienne Whitehead. Miss Whitehead took her to the barn behind the house, where she met one of the ghosts.” I explained. Now, the hard part. “Somehow, the ghost-girl told her the true story.”

Michael stared at me, unbelieving. “Kelly doesn’t happen to be, uh, different, does she?”

Different, he calls it? “Everybody’s different from one another.” I told him. “Otherwise, we’d all be a bunch of boring old clones walking the earth.”

Michael smiled at that. “I meant a different kind of different.” He pressed. “You’ve known her since you were little, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Has she ever, you know, done things out of the ordinary?” Michael asked in a whisper.

“I don’t know, I guess so.” I said. “But the extraordinary is what makes her Kelly Reading. Why?”

He stood and shrugged. “No reason. I’ve gotta run. See you tomorrow.”

With that, he raced off, leaving me staring after him.

After school, I gave Kelly a ride home. We rode in silence, with me thinking over that conversation. Why did he run off so fast? Does he know something I don’t? All I know is Michael Catz is cool in a creepy way.

 

“You’re awfully quiet, Bradley.” Kelly stared at me from the passenger seat of the jeep. “What’s on your mind?”

I turned to her. “Did you sense anything strange about Michael Catz?”

She thought about it. “I don’t think so, but I did see the pentacle around his neck. Why?”

“He asked me about you today.” I told her, revealing the conversation.

“That is strange.” She remarked. “Tell me more. It’ll give me a clue or two.”

I told her everything. How, even if I didn’t want to, I turned and introduced myself. I told her about how I almost told him her secret, but not on my own. “It was like some force was dragging the life out of me. I wanted to tell him everything, and I mean everything.” I said. I placed a hand on hers. “Please don’t tell me you’re mad, Kelly.”

“I’m not.” She laughed, taking my hand and kissing it. “I’m glad you told me.”

We parked the jeep in my driveway. I helped her out. “Why’s that?”

“It only gives proof to my – our – suspicions.” She said. “Let’s tell Momma what you know.”

I pulled back when she grabbed my hand. “I’d rather keep this between us for now, okay?”

She looked shocked. “Bradley, he could have put a spell on you!”

“You don’t know that.”

“Call it a hunch, Bradley Allen.” She said simply.

I sighed. I had a hunch, too. “Fine, but I have a much better idea.”

My girlfriend stared at me with silver-blue eyes. “Tell me.”

“We won’t go to your Momma, we’ll go to another witch.” I said. “You know where the Bennington’s live, don’t you?”

She nodded. “I attended a couple of coven meetings there with Momma and Aunt ‘Darra.” Kelly looked away, trying to understand. “I get it now! Mrs. Bennington is the only witch in the city who knows its history inside and out!”

I kissed her. “Right again, Sherlock.”

Kelly giggled. We were on our way to the Benningtons after putting our school bags away.

Halfway there, she spoke up. “You don’t think he’s telepathic, do you?”

“Why would you think that?”

“It would be the only way someone could get into another person’s mind.” She explained.

I shrugged, stopping the jeep in front of their house. Both Kelly and I stared at the house before going to the door.

“Are you sure about this?” Kelly asked me. “You hate Rhiannon Bennington as much as I do, if not more.”

I smiled, mocking her. “Call it a hunch.”

She shook her head as I rang the doorbell. After a few minutes, Rhiannon Bennington answered.

“What do you want?” She asked, frowning.

“Is your mother home?” I asked, the same time Kelly said. “It’s about Michael Catz.”

Rhiannon looked from Kelly to me and back again. “Come on in.” She folded her arms and addressed Kelly only. “What about him?”

Other than Kelly’s own family, Rhiannon, her cousin Arianrhod King, and Arianrhod’s boyfriend Audrey Barnes knew her secret. Just as she knew the three of them were witches.

 

“Please, Rhiannon.” Kelly begged. “It’s important we talk to your mother. She knows the history of Hill View, which includes the true tale of the Catz family.”

Rhiannon stared at her, awed. “Does this mean that boy really is a Catz?” Kelly nodded. “I thought I recognized his pentacle!”

“I thought they were all alike?” I asked.

“Nope. His is different.” Rhiannon said.

There was that word again.

“What do you mean by different?” I asked.

“It’s hard to explain. You know how the Scottish have their kilt-patterns, telling what clan they’re from?” Rhiannon asked.

I still didn’t understand. Kelly filled in for me.

“Like the Mystic’s eyes of silver-blue.” Kelly relayed. “They set us apart from the rest of the world. Am I close?”

“Exactly.” Rhiannon supplied, nodding.

“How did you recognize his pentacle?” I asked her.

This was interesting. Another part of history and I was hooked. It may have been Wiccan history, but it was still Hill View History.

“I’ll show you.”

Rhiannon led us to her parents’ bedroom where she pulled a large book off the shelf. She sat on the bed, leafing through it. Kelly and I sat next to her.

“Look.” She told us when she triumphantly found the right page. “Read it and weep.”

I read over her shoulder. “‘The Catz estate has been around for generations of their family. Founded by William Catz, proprietor, in the seventeenth century, it has stood as a symbol of the city. Sometime during the turn of the nineteenth century, the family moved out of the estate. Since then, numerous people suspected the estate to be haunted. Some even swear to seeing the ghosts of William’s only children, Jeremiah and Jesemiah.'” I looked up to meet Rhiannon’s and Kelly’s eyes. Rhiannon looked smug.

“You know their story, don’t you?” I challenged Rhiannon, with Kelly smiling beside her.

Rhiannon consulted the book, searching. Kelly put her hand on it, shaking her head. “Don’t bother, it’s not important.”

“That passage only told of the estate, not about the pentacle or their family crest.” I admonished.

“Don’t you get it, Brad? The pentacle, the very design he wore today, is his family crest!” Rhiannon cried. “To some witches, the pentacle stands for the five elements working together in harmony.”

“Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit.” Kelly told me.

“Sort of like your Mom’s amulet.”

“Right.” Kelly said. “Go on.”

“Thank you.” Rhiannon said. “As I was saying, a pentacle with a circle around it means the circle of life, death, and rebirth, and how the elements work in our lives. Michael’s family crest is different. It’s what’s called a Celtic Pentacle. If you look closely at his necklace, you’ll see what I mean. The main star representing the elements is surrounded by little crescent moons at each point, which are all surrounded by a circle of Celtic knot designs, binding it all together.”

“What does a pentacle do anyway?” I dared to ask.

 

“It serves as a tool for the witch.” Rhiannon told me. She held up hers, which was a simple silver pentacle. “It aids us in our magick as a focus for spells and stuff.” She looked at each of us after standing and putting the book away. “Anything else I can do for you?”

Kelly looked to me.

“Nothing else, for now.” I told her.

“Thanks for showing us the book, Rhiannon.” Kelly said before we left. “I hope we can be better friends from now on.”

Rhiannon actually smiled. “I’m sure of it.”

That was good to know. I hoped.

Even when I went to bed that night, thoughts of Michael Catz and his mysterious secret rumbled in my head. We may have suspected him of being a witch like Rhiannon, but was he really? Or was he just strange and creepy?

I’d have to ask Kelly if I could borrow the Crime Computer. I could already tell we had quite a paranormal case on our hands. I didn’t want to miss a clue.

 

    Chapter Four

    Hill View Hawks

 

Josh and I paired up during football practice a few days later. We threw the ball back and forth to each other, killing time. At one point, he threw it where I couldn’t catch it, and I had to look for it. I saw it on the ground and went to pick it up.

As my hand touched it, I felt heat coming from around my neck. I took the stone in my hand and looked around before checking it out. It was an onyx, a sure sign evil was near. Was it near me or Kelly? If it were Kelly, where was she? If it were me, I didn’t see anybody so I didn’t have a clue. I closed my eyes as I watched Kelly do so many times. I wanted to get a glimpse of what the foreboding evil was.

That’s when I heard her.

“Brad! Oh, Brad!”

The sound of my ex-girlfriend’s voice screeched in my ear, making me wince.

I opened my eyes and stood up, taking the ball in my hands. I watched her run up to me and wrap her arms around me. Frowning, I pushed her away.

“What are you doing here, Ronnie?”

Veronica Whitehead looked innocent in her revealing Cheer-pups uniform. I wasn’t fooled.

“I came to say hello, that’s all.” Veronica told me, sounding innocent. “It’s been a long time, Brad. Do you miss me?”

“No.” I said. “Never have and never will.”

“Don’t you miss the good times we had together?” Veronica asked, playing with my ear.

She knew how to push my buttons all right.

I kept my cool, moving her hand away. “What good times? I trusted you and loved you, Ronnie. When I found you with Whats-his-name behind my back, I was pissed. All you did was smile and give me a half-ass apology.”

“We were kids, Brad.”

“Not true. It was just two years ago.” I supplied.

I started to walk back to Josh, turning away from her.

“You’re right, it was two years ago.” Ronnie said, following me. “I’ve changed since then.”

“Yeah, from bad to worse.” I snapped. “Go back to the kennel, Ronnie. I don’t want to see you anymore.”

“It’s gonna be pretty hard during the competition.” Ronnie remarked. This made me turn. She smiled and continued. “Didn’t you know? I figured it would be around your school by now.”

“What are you talking about?” I demanded.

“The Academics Competition. Didn’t Mr. Anderson tell you?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I supplied. “Explain. Now.”

“Fine. The state of Michigan is holding a state-wide Academics Competition. Our two high schools have been chosen to compete, being our test scores were the highest in Ray County.” Veronica droned. “Anyway, it turns out five students from each school will be representing the five categories.”

“Which are?”

 

“English Literature, Political Science, Sociology, Governmental Law and Mathematics.”

“Go on.” Somehow, I didn’t like where this was going.

“We’re paired together in the Mathematics category.” She beamed, kissing me. “Isn’t that great!”

The kiss sparked something in me. Not good. Definitely not good.

“Yeah, great.” I groaned, moving away from her.

“Don’t be such a puss.” Ronnie said. “It’s gonna be fun. You never know, you just might learn something.”

“Yeah, right.” I said. “How do you know about this and we don’t?”

She shrugged. “No idea.” Veronica kissed me again on the lips. “Listen, I’ll give you a call later, okay?”

“No, not okay. I’ve got to babysit.”

“You don’t mean for Kelly’s brothers and sister?” Veronica’s face turned from a smile to a sneer when she mentioned my girlfriend’s name.

“The same, along with Angel and the brats.” I told her. “Sorry, Ronnie.”

“I give up.” Ronnie sighed. “See you later, Brad.”

I hoped not.

I stared at her until she was out of my sight, then turned to see Kelly and Josh. Kelly was wearing a simple pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, looking sexy as hell, but she wasn’t smiling. She pushed passed me and started running.

“Kelly!”

“Don’t, man.” Josh stopped me. He wasn’t smiling, either. He followed in her lead.

“Great.” I muttered to myself.

I walked to the locker room to change out of my Hawks uniform. My head started to ache, thinking of what happened. Once in my street clothes, I rested on a bench, rubbing my temples. In my mind, I imagined how Kelly must feel.

Betrayed. Pure and simple.

I caught the reflection of my necklace in the mirror. It was glowing black. The onyx stone was clear as day in telling me something was wrong. I could feel the pain Kelly was going through as she witnessed Veronica and I talking.

All, hell.

What did they see? Or rather, how did they perceive what they saw? I knew I was innocent of all wrong-doing, but did they?

What was I going to do? Both my girlfriend and best friend walked away from me, without talking to me at all. It wasn’t like either of them to do that.

So, I went in search of Cara Richardson, Josh’s girlfriend and Kelly’s best friend. Maybe she’d help me talk to them.

Hiding the glowing necklace under my sweatshirt, I paraded over to the remaining cheerleaders. I found Cara teaching Liz Edwards some of the new cheers they were practicing.

“Hey, Cara!” I called to her.

Liz looked up and waved. Cara told her something out of earshot and Liz disappeared.

As soon as I came close to her, I took her aside.

“What did you think you were doing with Ronnie?” Cara cried, angry. The stone around her neck became red with power, too. At least I wasn’t the only one.

“Nothing. She came over and started talking to me. That’s it.”

 

Cara narrowed her eyes, unsure of whether to believe me or not.

I sighed. “Come on, Cara, you don’t honestly think –?”

“What should I think, Brad? Kissing another girl is considered cheating in my book.” Cara replied. “Kelly and I weren’t the only ones to see you do it, either, so you can’t deny it.”

“I’m not denying anything. I know she kissed me.”

“Twice.”

“It meant nothing to me.” I said. “In fact, I wanted nothing more than for her to leave me alone.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Cara, I didn’t do anything wrong!” I defended myself. Her eyes widened, surprised. “Everyone in Hill View High knows how much I care about Kelly.”

She was silent, so I continued, whispering. “Oh, and you’d better curve your anger. The ruby is glowing bright red.”

“Thanks.” Cara’s hand reached her necklace. “What would you want with me?”

“I need someone to talk to. Walk home with me.” I told her.

“What about Josh?”

“He deserted me, too.”

“We’ll see about that.” Cara replied. “I’ve gotta sit for the brats, so I can’t go home with you. Meet me at her house later.”

“Call me.”

“Gotcha.” She said. “Sorry I snapped.”

“That’s okay. You were protecting her, that’s all.”

With that, I walked away. I called Dad to pick me up in front of the school. Instead of Dad, I saw Mr. Reading.

“Hop in, Brad.” Mr. Reading supplied. “We need to talk.”

Why would I be in trouble with him? Did Kelly tell him about what happened?

I obeyed, stuffing my school bag in the back seat of his Jeep.

“Is something wrong, Mr. Reading?” I managed to squeak.

“The Whiteheads are at it again.” He said, pulling the car out of the parking lot and onto the main road.

“At what again?”

“Veronica’s mother Adrienne and I used to date a long time ago.” Mr. Reading started. “She used to be jealous of Ariana – Adellandra — and I when we were first married.”

“I remember that.” I told him.

Why was he telling me this?

“So jealous, she thought I was Veronica’s father.” Mr. Reading replied. “You tell me. Does that girl bare any resemblance to me?”

I shook my head. “No.”

“That’s what I thought.” Mr. Reading announced. “Anyway, Adrienne did the same to me as her daughter did to you. In that, we share a common bond.”

“I guess so.” I supplied. “Why are you telling me this?”

We stopped in front of our houses. “Call it instinct, call it intuition, call it anything you like, but know this. Veronica’s up to something. I’m willing to bet on it.”

“How would you know?” I asked as I climbed out.

 

He got out of the car before saying anything. “Protector’s instincts are never wrong. Keep that in mind.”

That told me something. “You felt it, didn’t you?”

“The sense of betrayal Kelly felt, yes. Only because Adellandra felt it, too.”

What could I say to that? “Thank you for the warning, Mr. Reading.”

“Call me Derrick. Anytime.” He nodded and was on his way.

I walked into the house to greet the family. Sierra was busy in the kitchen, Dad at her side teasing her. Aimee and Angel were playing a board game with Uncle Scott at the dining room table. Dad heard me shut the door behind me, turning to smile.

“Hey, Brad. How was school?”

How was school, he asks?

I sighed, looking out the window to next door. “There’s a strange new kid in school, my best friend is ignoring me, my girlfriend hates me and my ex-girlfriend is on the prowl. How was school, you ask? Just peachy.”

Sierra frowned. “You don’t need to be sarcastic about it, Brad. I’m sure it’s not that bad.”

“You don’t know the Whiteheads.” I told her. I put my bag in my room and went back to the kitchen to greet them. I told the family what happened, from the moment I met Michael Catz to when Mr. Reading dropped me off and what he had to say about it. By the time I was finished, I’d joined Uncle Scott and Aunt Aimee at the table. Sierra and Dad sat beside me, listening intently to my story.

“Don’t let the girl scare you.” Dad replied. “You know them.”

“I don’t.” Sierra supplied. “Tell me about them.”

“There’s not much to tell, really.” Aunt Aimee spoke up. “Derrick used to date Adrienne Whitehead long before he met Ariana. He caught her cheating on him and broke it off. When he came back to Hill View a few years later, Addie claimed her daughter was his.”

“Of course, she’s not, but Addie was jealous of Derrick’s newfound relationship with another woman.” Dad remarked. “She went as low as kidnapping Kelly five years ago. After the fiasco was all over, Addie apologized and swore she didn’t mean it.”

“That’s just Derrick and Addie. What about Brad and Veronica?” Uncle Scott asked. He’d reunited with Aunt Aimee only after Ronnie and I broke up.

“She used to be nice.” I replied. “No one knows what happened to make her a complete wretch. All I know is she somehow reeled me into dating her for a short time two years ago.”

“It surprised us all. At the time, he was all limbs.” Aimee teased.

“Aimee.” I warned. “If you’re going to be like that, I’m going to my room.”

She raised her hands. “I’m sorry, I’ll behave. Go ahead.”

“Anyway,” I glared at Aimee, making her smile. “I caught her cheating on me with another guy, so I broke it off, too.”

“The Whiteheads don’t sound like good people.” Uncle Scott remarked, shaking his head. “It’s a good thing you got out when you could.”

“You’re telling me.” I supplied.

“Why does Kelly hate you?” Dad asked. “I didn’t think she was capable of hating you.”

“Neither did I.” Now the hard part. “She saw me kissing Ronnie today.” Before either of them could say anything, I pitched in. “It’s not what you think. She kissed me after she told me something very interesting. Turns out, the county is sponsoring an Academic Competition which will include both main high schools.”

 

“Bayside and Hill View?” Aimee supplied.

I nodded. “She somehow found out we’re partnered together.”

“My guess she rigged it, right?” Sierra asked.

“I’m willing to bet on it.” I supplied. “Not only does Kelly hate me, but Josh won’t speak to me, either. Cara’s going to call me later and tell me what his problem is.”

“What about the new boy?” Uncle Scott asked.

“Michael Catz.” I told them what happened the day I met him.

“I wouldn’t worry about anything too much, Bradley.” Sierra remarked. “Things work themselves out in the end.”

I stood, trying to head to my bedroom. “I hope you’re right.”

“Talk to Kelly.” Dad supplied. “Tell her the truth.”

“I’m not sure she’ll understand, but I will talk to her. After we cool off that is.” I grasped the Pendant once again. It felt hot to my touch, but I didn’t say anything to them about it. Sure, they knew what it was and what the stone meant, but I didn’t want them interfering. “By the way, Dad, why couldn’t you pick me up from school today?”

Dad and Sierra took each other’s hands, smiling. “We went on errands today after her doctor appointment. She insisted on having me with her all day. What could I do but oblige?”

I grinned. “So?”

Dad hugged her from behind. “Our own fraternal twins. A girl and a boy, just like their father and aunt.”

“Just what we need, more brats in the house.” I teased, ruffling Angel’s hair.

“Cut that out!” Angel batted my hand away.

“Anyway, congrats again.” I replied, finally going to my bedroom. “I’m going to start my homework.”

“Need any help?”

I shook my head. “Naw, I can handle it.”

What I needed was to be alone to think.

 

    Chapter Five:

    The Day After

    

For the first time in several months, Kelly and I didn’t walk to school together. Instead, she got a ride from Mrs. Dratianos and I was left behind to walk with Steve, Liz, and Adam.

“What’s wrong with Kelly?” Adam asked as he walked on my right.

“Nothing I know of. Why?”

“She hasn’t called a meeting in three days.” Adam replied. “Aren’t we on a case?”

“I wouldn’t know. I’m just the treasurer.” I ran ahead of him, leaving Adam and Liz gawking at me. Steve must have noticed something wrong because he caught my arm at the doors.

“Out with it, man.” Steve was serious. “What’s going on with you two?”

“I’m surprised Liz didn’t tell you. In fact, I’m surprise no one else told you.” I snapped, getting in his face. “Half the school watched as Veronica Whitehead kissed me. Not once, but twice.”

“Calm down.” Steve supplied. “Don’t take it out on your friends.”

“Aren’t you listening?” I asked. “Ronnie kissed me. I pushed her away but she kissed me again. Kelly saw it and freaked. Josh took her side and went to console her. Cara on the other hand is not exactly happy with me, either.”

Steve remained calm. “This has gone for too long. I hate seeing either of you this way. Kelly’s one of my best friends and so are you. I don’t want to see either of you hurt.”

I found my locker with Steve still at my heels. Once I opened it, I found Kelly had beat me to it. Looks like I wouldn’t be able to talk to her until third period. I pulled out my books for the morning and leaned against the closed locker door.

Steve still stood beside me. I looked him over. “I’m sorry, Steve. I shouldn’t have let that little tramp get to me.”

“No skin off my back.” Steve smiled. “Meet me in third period before you talk to Kelly.”

“How?” I asked.

Steve’s smile stayed. “How’d I know what you were going to do?” He shrugged, winking. “Magic. See you later, gator.”

I shook my head at Steven Edwards. I used to be jealous of him, now I think he’s one of the coolest guys I know. He can turn anything into a running joke.

On my way to Physics, I heard a female voice behind me. “Hey, Brad! Wait up!”

It was Cara.

“So, what happened?” I asked as she caught up with me.

“I’m calling a meeting.”

“What for?” I asked. “Did you find out anything new on Michael Catz?”

“Same-old stuff, but that’s not it. It’s a Crusader emergency.”

That got my attention. Ever since we were declared the Dream Realm Crusaders two years ago, Cara hadn’t taken the stone around her neck seriously. Recently, she discovered what the Ruby stone meant. Fire. Steve had the Emerald, meaning Earth. Krysti Farthay had the power over the Air, but she hasn’t realized it, yet. Josh had the lapis lazuli stone around his, with the power of Water.

“What’s the emergency?”

“Our team leaders are fighting.” Cara looked serious.

 

“If you want to get Kelly and I talking again, I suggest you leave us to it.” I told her. “I don’t need your help talking to my own girlfriend.”

“Your girlfriend called me last night, crying because she saw you.” Cara replied. “She’s too chicken to confront you about it.”

“Kelly Reading, a chicken?” I asked. “Impossible.”

“Possible.” Cara supplied. “Frankly, her feelings for you haven’t changed. Have yours for her?”

I shook my head. “No, but I get your point. I’ll make it a pact to talk to her.”

Cara stopped in front of her classroom. “I know you will. See you later.”

“Yeah. See ya.” I waved and was on my way.

 

Third period was History – a horror if you didn’t have a certain silver-blue-eyed beauty sitting with you. As it was, Kelly sat clear across the room. Steve, when he came in, sat next to me. In the middle of class, he wrote on a piece of paper. “Talk to her, stupid.”

“How?” I wrote back, being sure Mr. Feldman didn’t see. “She’s with Char Bingham.”

Steve tapped his head as if to say, “Telepathy.”

“I’m not telepathic.” I wrote to him on the page.

“The Pendant. Try it.” He wrote back.

I tapped my pen to the first word I wrote. He shrugged. “Do it.” He mouthed.

When I thought no one was looking, I clasped my Pendant and thought to her.

Kelly Reading, look at me. Please.

Kelly’s head went to me, surprised. How’d you do that?

I held up the Pendant for her to see. She shook her head. Not here or now. Later.

I needed to talk to her now. It was the only chance before lunch. If we didn’t patch this up before then, the whole Bomb Squad would know about it. I had to think of something.

Bathroom pass. She relayed to me. Get one and I’ll follow.

I nodded. At least we agreed on that. It was a start.

In moments, we were in front of the girl’s bathroom.

“What did you do that for?”

I was confused. “You asked me to get a bathroom pass and I did.”

“Not that. You know what I’m talking about.”

Oh yeah.

“Ronnie? It was a mistake.” I whispered, looking out for any teachers.

“Darn right it was.” Kelly said. “Tell me why you kissed her.”

“I didn’t.” I replied, holding her mouth before she could say anything. “She kissed me.”

“Why?”

“She was excited we were partnered for the upcoming Academics Competition.”

It took a moment for her to say anything after that. In that moment, her face went from determined-to-kick-him-in-the-balls to complete and utter realization. Even after that, she said only “I see.”

“You see?” I took her shoulders in my hands. “Please, tell me you forgive me.”

She looked up at me and smiled. “I forgive you, just don’t do it again.”

I took the opportunity to kiss her full on the lips.

“Hey, you two kids! Get back to class!”

 

Uh oh, caught by Mr. Anderson himself. Before he could see our faces, I took her hand. We shared a secret smile as we got back to class.

We were met by Steve at the door. “So? What happened?”

“I’m smiling, aren’t I?” Kelly joked. “Come on, we’ve got a project to work on.”

“That’s my girl.” I remarked, following them to a table. “Judging by your reaction to the news, what do you know about this competition?”

Steve perked up. “Competition? What kind of Competition?”

“You wouldn’t qualify.” Kelly replied seriously (joking). “It requires a brain.”

“Very funny, Killer.” Steve joked back. “Seriously. What kind of Competition is it?”

She looked at both of us before surveying the room. Making sure no one was listening, she remarked. “I’m not supposed to tell anything about it. I told Mr. Anderson I’d keep it hush-hush.”

“How do you know about it and we don’t?” I asked.

“Don’t ask any more, please?” Kelly practically begged.

“All I know is that it’s an Academic Competition where students from the two main schools will compete against others in Ray County.” I said.

“How do you know?” Kelly asked.

“Ronnie told me, not that she was thrilled about it.” I replied. “She said there were five different subjects, therefore five different teams. I don’t know much else.”

“I wonder when that’ll happen and who else will be in it?” Steve supplied.

“Must be soon if she told me about it now?” I remarked.

Steve agreed and we worked on our project until the period ended.

 

    Chapter Six:

    Secret of the Catz

 

Later that week, and still no word of the Competition from Mr. Anderson. Kelly definitely knew something, and wasn’t telling anyone, even me. She usually tells me everything, and I was patient in waiting for the bomb to drop. Finally, I’d had enough waiting.

“Spill it, Kelina Erin.” I dropped my pencil to the paper and stared at her.

We were studying together at my kitchen table. At the name, she looked up, frowning. She knew whenever anyone called her by her full name, it was serious business.

“If you want to know more about the Competition, you’ll not get the information from me.” She said softly, turning back to her studies. “Oh, and please don’t call me that again.”

“It was the only way to get your attention, Kel.” I said, taking her hand. “For the past week, you’ve been ignoring us, and I don’t like it.”

“I’m sorry, Bradley.” Kelly said, looking back up and forcing a smile for me. “I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and it has to do with the new case.”

“New case?” I asked.

Kelly nodded. “Michael Catz.” She supplied. “According to what you told me, he could very well be a witch.”

“We know he is.” I said. “You met him for yourself, and he did recognize you as different.”

“How did he know, though?” Kelly asked. “Very few witches know how to sense other magic-workers.”

“Sierra can, and she’s a witch.” I countered. “She can read, see and feel auras. Maybe that’s what Michael did?”

“She told us herself it’s not a very common trait.” Kelly said, sighing. “Let’s finish up here, and find out for ourselves.”

“Right.” I agreed, watching as she put her attention to her work.

She was so determined, and I loved it. I grasped the Pendant around my neck and smiled, standing. Releasing the Pendant, I stared at her, awed by her beauty and warmed by her love for me.

It took her a moment, but she looked up. When she saw my smile, she blushed away.

“Don’t look at me like that, Bradley Allen.” She said, pretending to concentrate.

I took the pencil from her hands and shut her book. Holding my hand out, I beckoned her to stand. I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her lips. When we parted, I searched her silver-blue eyes, letting her see into my thoughts.

She brought a hand to my still-healing black eye. “Oh, Brad. Does it still hurt?”

I shrugged. “Not really.”

I took her hand in mine.

“It sure is taking a long time to heal.” Kelly announced, worried. “Want me to speed up the process?”

“What about ethics, and what your mother told you about using Magic on a whim?”

“She doesn’t have to know.” Kelly said. “Besides, it’s been two months, and the marks are still there.”

“I don’t understand it, either.” I admitted. “It can’t be a bad thing, otherwise all the Mystics in the family would have felt it by now.”

 

“You’re right.” Kelly said. “I had my worries….” She sighed. “Do you want me to heal you or not?”

Kissing her, I supplied. “Need you ask?”

She smiled, then touched both my eyes with her hands. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on bringing up the Healer’s Magic. I closed my own eyes, savoring the warmth of her Magic. I lost myself in the heat, and felt the pain simply melt away from my body and mind. When the heat of her Magic cooled, I felt her hands lift from my eyes as I opened them. She pulled back from my embrace, staring at me.

“Kel, what is it?” I knew she sensed something besides the pain from my black eye. The Pendant grew warm again, this time, warning me something was on her mind.

“I was right.” She whispered. “Michael Catz put a mind spell on you.”

“What kind of mind spell?”

“Compulsion. Even Mystics don’t like to use it often.” Kelly said, lost in a thought-trance. I waited patiently, hating when she did this. “His intentions were good, that I could tell by the established link, but he invoked the wrong spell in order to do it.”

I had to ask. “Do what?”

She stared at me. “He was trying to get information about me from you.”

That shocked me. “Why?”

“He sensed me, just as I sensed him.” She gathered her books together.

“Can you take the mind spell off?”

“You know I can’t.” She supplied. “In order for spells to be broken, they have to be undone by the caster.”

“I thought that was only a Mystic thing?”

Kelly shook her head. “It serves all who dabble in the Ancient Arts.”

“So, what do we do about it?” I asked her, putting my books away as well. My girlfriend was working on a hunch, and there was no stopping her.

Oh well, I thought. I’ll get back to it later.

“We go over there and have him take it off.” She said, grabbing my arm. “Come on, let’s go.”

“Fine.” Was the only thing I could say.

I was a good Earthly Protector, following wherever my Mystic love led. I may have obeyed, but I didn’t have to like it.

 

It didn’t take long to get there.

Looking across the street to Josh and Cara’s houses, I asked. “Would you like some company, or are we going at this alone?”

Kelly saw where I was looking. “Better not. Josh will overreact and Cara will feel it.”

“Good point.” I whispered. “Well, here goes nothing.”

I watched her reaction, and kept aware of my Pendant as we walked up the drive.

“Anything?”

“Nothing.” Kelly said. “Not even Jesemiah and Jeremiah.” She looked at me. “It’s as if they never existed.”

“That’s not true, and we both know it.” I supplied. “The twins have been haunting this place for over a hundred years. They couldn’t just disappear.”

 

Kelly knocked on the door and gave me a look that said. “Shut up and let me do the talking.”

When the door opened, there he was. Michael Catz. He was dressed all in black, frowning when he saw us.

“Come on in,” He said, keeping an eye on Kelly (who also kept an eye on him).

Kelly took slow, deep breaths, as if not trying to go into a clairvoyant trance.

“Relax,” I coaxed in her ear.

She squeezed my hand and addressed Michael. “We came over to see how you were doing.”

Michael led us upstairs to his room. “That’s not the only reason.”

Did he know? How?

“I know why you’re here.” Michael said simply to Kelly. “You want me to take the spell off him.”

“How?” Kelly was baffled.

“Simple.” Michael shrugged. “We both can sense things other people can’t.”

“Why put it on me in the first place?” I demanded. “If you wanted to know about Kelly, simply ask me, or even her.”

“Once I sensed your intentions, I would have told you what you wanted to know.” Kelly supplied. “Why resort to using Compulsion? You should know how dangerous and confusing it is if not used right.”

Michael blinked, smiling. “I did know that, when I used it. I was testing you.”

“You? Testing us?” I asked. “Whatever for?”

“I had to know if I could trust you.” Michael said. “I sensed something from you,” he looked at me, “that was odd. It was like you knew secrets no one else did, and it scared me.”

“Scared you?” Kelly asked, staring into his eyes. “How?”

“I can’t tell you now, not yet.” Michael supplied. “Let’s just say I’ve been hurt too often, and I couldn’t risk opening up too soon.” He stopped, staring at her. “You did it to me, didn’t you?”

Kelly smiled. “I didn’t use Compulsion, just my own kind of magic.”

“I’m confused.” I spoke up.

“I made him confess something he didn’t want to share.” Kelly told me. She turned back to him. “So, can you take it off or not?”

Michael shrugged. “I don’t know much about it. I just know how to use it, not to undo it.”

“Whatever you did, reverse it.” I said. “I don’t like seeing Kelly worried over me.”

Kelly nudged me. “You do too, and you know it.” She teased, turning back to a smiling Michael. “He’s right, you know.”

“I am?” I asked, surprised. It didn’t happen very often when she was around, and I loved hearing it.

Kelly nodded. “Reverse it.”

Michael scratched his head. “I wouldn’t know where to start.”

“Start from the end, and go back to the beginning.” Kelly said. “Do you still have the spell?”

Michael nodded. He went to a notebook and flipped through the pages to find it. “Here it is.” He showed her.

She didn’t even look. “Now, rewrite the incantation to reverse the spell.”

 

After a few minutes of silence, Michael said. “I’m ready.”

“Finally.” I breathed softly.

“Sit on the bed.” Michael supplied. “We have to make eye contact.”

I obeyed. “Whatever it takes.”

“Shut up and listen, Bradley Allen.” Kelly said, stepping back and folding her arms. “Go ahead, Michael.”

So we stared, eye to eye. I sat silent while he whispered an incantation, over and over again. It put me in a trance, and my mind was lost to the world around me. After the last repetition, he said. “So mote it be!”

As he said those words, I felt more like my old self again, and could tell Kelly felt better. Her smile actually met her eyes.

“No more Compulsion?” I asked both of them. Kelly shook her head.

He said. “No more.” He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry I had to do it.”

“We understand.” Kelly said. “You don’t know anyone here yet, and you’ve put up boundaries around yourself to keep others out.” She shrugged. “Don’t know why, though. We’re harmless.”

“I know you are, now, but I can literally sense a lot of Hill View High students aren’t.” Michael said. “I had to.” He thought for a moment. “If you don’t mind my asking, what did you mean by ‘your kind of magic’?”

Kelly faced him. “Look into my eyes.” She said, taking off her lenses. “What do you see?”

It took him a moment, but he gasped. “Mystic.” He looked at me. “Are you?” He stared into my eyes for a moment, and shook his head. “No.”

“Of course not.” I told him. “I’m just her boyfriend.”

“What do you know about us Mystics?” Kelly asked. “Does it have anything to do with the Magician’s Feud?”

Michael nodded.

“I grew up in Salem, Massachusetts.” He said. “I learned the Mystics were evil. I heard rumors and stories about them. Most were good, but some were bad. We were made to fear all Mystics, because they let their evil sides take over.”

“Surely you’ve heard of balance?” Kelly crossed her arms. “It’s true we do have a kind of Dark Magic inside us, but it’s only to balance the good Mystic Magic. I’m sure Wiccans like you know balance is essential to life itself.”

Michael sighed. “I’m just telling you what we were taught.”

“Do you fear the Mystics?” I asked.

“I don’t know what to think.” He confessed.

As if to lighten the mood, Kelly smiled. “We saw you using telekinesis when you first moved in.”

Michael’s eyes shot up. “You – saw?”

I nodded. “So did my best friend Josh and his girlfriend Cara.” I supplied. “They just live across the street.”

“You didn’t tell anybody, did you?” Michael asked.

“Nope.” Kelly said. “Your secret’s safe with us.”

“Just as I would hope Kelly’s Mystic secret is safe with you.” I said. “Not everyone in Hill View knows it, and we’d like to keep it that way.”

 

“If you don’t mind.” Kelly said.

“Oh, of course.” Michael nodded. “I won’t tell a soul.”

Now that we’d gotten that out of the way, on to brighter topics.

“I saw you with Rhiannon Bennington the other day.” I grinned. “I see you’ve already made at least a few friends.”

Michael blushed.

“To answer any questions, yes, she already knows about my being a Mystic.” Kelly supplied. “In a round-about way, she’s my cousin.”

“Cousin, how?” Michael wondered.

“My father is married to Rhiannon’s aunt Sierra.” Kelly said. “Sierra’s mother and Rhiannon’s mother are sisters, making us sort-of cousins.”

“You like her, don’t you?” I asked him gently.

Michael nodded. “Yeah. A lot.”

“Have you asked her out?” Kelly wondered, eager.

“Not yet.” Michael said. “I’m too shy.”

“Not to worry,” I told him. “That shyness will go away in no time. You’ll see.”

Kelly looked to her watch and told him we had to go.

 

By the time I went to bed that night, it was too late to ask her anything more about the Competition.

“Darn Kelly Reading!” I thought out loud to myself. “She deliberately avoided it. Why won’t she tell me?”

I won’t tell you because we’ll all find out tomorrow. I heard Kelly’s know-it-all voice in my head.

Doesn’t mean you couldn’t give me some kind of hint. I sent back with a vision of me sticking out my tongue as I grasped the Pendant in my hand.

Kelly’s laughter filled my head. Good night, Bradley Allen. I love you.

“I love you, too.” I returned, both aloud and in my head.

Oh well. No use fretting about it anymore tonight. I’d find out tomorrow.

 


 

Cara vs the Mystery Machines

2nd book in the Crusader Mysteries!  Comes after Kelly and the Crusaders! Currently not downloadable because it’s still in the editing stages.

Enjoy!

Kelly and the Bomb Squad

1st in an all-new Young Adult Mystery series!  The Crusader Mysteries! This comes after The Young Guardian Trilogy and The War of the Realms Saga:

Currently undownloadable as it is in the editing process 😉 Enjoy!