She took a step backward and threw the key on the ground. With the voice now shrieking at her, the young girl took another step back. Sweat trickled down her face as she struggled with the voice in her head, but she could feel the control of her limbs returning to her. Then the heavy door suddenly opened on its own to reveal a strange, weirdly colored world inside. Truly frightened now, the young girl began to turn around when a hand that looked more like a claw with its blood-red nails, reached from inside this smelly world and grabbed her gown. Before she could tear herself free, the hand pulled the young girl inside with tremendous force. The young girl screamed from deep inside as the big door shut in her face with a loud thud.
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Read an Excerpt
The Magic Keys of Tanglewood
By Malcolm Chester
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2015 Malcolm Chester
All rights reserved.
The three fourteen-year-old girls, Peggy, Jade, and Carly, stared at the enormous house looming at the end of the long winding drive. They all lived in large houses in nice neighborhoods but this house looked like something out of a mystery novel. Pleasant smells from the large gardens filtered through the car windows. Their chauffer sat ramrod straight behind the wheel of the big black limousine transporting them, but showed some middle-aged spread around his waist. Jade, so named because of her sea-green eyes, pure white skin, and jet-black silky hair decided the chauffer didn't merit one of her teasing remarks. Instead she turned to her friends and said what they all thought.
"Wow, is this place for real? We have the biggest house on our block and it isn't as big as this house's garage. How many people live here?"
"Skylar told me once. We used to be inseparable in sixth grade but lately she is as close to the rest of you as she is to me. So we're the Fab Four now instead of the Dynamic Duo. Anyway, she told me that her mom and dad live here with her and her older brother, but her brother isn't around much. He is away at college. Sometimes the other relatives come to stay but that is only on holidays. Her mom says they ought to sell the house and move into something a little smaller but her dad's family has lived in this house since the mid-1700s. He refuses to even talk about moving. Anyway, the most exciting thing about this place is it's haunted, just like in a horror or mystery novel," Carly said, brushing back long strands of silky blonde hair from the front of her crystal-blue eyes.
"Neat. I love haunted houses. Anyway, Skylar's family sound like royalty or something, but of course we don't have royalty in the US—just rich people," Peggy said, rubbing her cocoa-colored hands in front of her black sparkling eyes, long silky hair, and perfectly shaped face.
"Yeah, that's true but Skylar is related to some kind of duke back in England. So I guess she's both rich and royal," Carly added.
"Hah, none of that impresses me, even the haunted house stuff. She is just Skylar to me. I'm not going to get hung up on royalty and money. They call my dad the king of the short-sellers. So I guess he is royalty too," Jade said, her chin pointed slightly upward.
"Well, if you must know, my dad is head partner in a law firm. He is like a king to all the lawyers who work for him. He makes a lot of money," Peggy asserted as she moved a strand of black hair from her forehead.
"My dad has a big title too, senior vice president or something like that. He creates advertising for dog food, dolls, soft drinks, and pickles. A lot of people call him boss which is almost the same thing as king," Carly asserted as she stared out the window.
"Enough. Skylar is our friend. We just treat her like we always do. If she doesn't care about all this royalty stuff why should we?" Peggy said with some irritation in her voice.
"Okay, we won't, but I still feel like we're about to step into a haunted castle or something," Jade said.
The girls fell silent for a moment as the limousine pulled in front of the mansion's huge front door. The chauffer moved quickly out of the front seat and held the door open for the girls. Before the girls could even think about their luggage, the chauffer placed it next to them in front of the door. Carly grabbed the knocker, which she could barely lift and let it fall on the thick door. Moments later, a servant in an elegant dress opened the door and waved the girls forward. As he did so the man said, "I'll take your bags and put them next to the stairs. Then I'll find Skylar. When she tells me where you're going to sleep, I'll take the bags there. I know she is anxious to see you. You can wait for her here in the hall."
After walking into the enormous front hall, the three girls focused on the heavy antique furniture, sparkling chandelier, and large Chinese vases around them. Then they looked at the dramatic huge staircase with large statuettes at its base. Carly spoke while her normally talkative friends stood there with their mouths open.
"I've of course been here before. This place is like a palace or something. Skylar could care less. Even though we were best friends she didn't want me to come here. She felt too embarrassed. Really the best thing about this place is the large number of rooms. I think there are forty or something like that. You can explore forever. Oh, and I actually thought I heard a ghost coughing last time I was here, but Skylar says she never heard a coughing ghost."
"Hearing a ghost would be neat, but this place is far too stuffy for me. There is only one way to break the tension of staring at this place and all its expensive things. Watch this." Moving her bag aside, Peggy suddenly started doing cartwheels and flips. Her last flip landed right next to a big Chinese vase. The vase began to rock back and forth, when Peggy's right leg hit it. Carly, close to where Peggy landed, leaped for the vase, just managing to stop it from falling onto the polished marble floor.
"Wow, just in time. This vase is from some Chinese dynasty. Mang or Ming, something like that. I think it's worth a lot of money. Anyway no harm no foul. Although I must say those were very good cartwheels and flips. You're great at the gymnastic thing you do," Carly said, wiping her brow in relief.
"I think we ought to calm down a little. We don't want to wreck Skylar's house before she even gets here." Jade said, pacing nervously and staring at an embarrassed Peggy.
At just this moment, a tall and regal-looking Skylar appeared at the top of the stairs. She had on a long cocktail dress and some pearls. She started to slink down the stairs, her large dreamy vivid azure blue eyes focused on her friends below. Her long luxuriant red hair picked up the light from the second floor lights, as did her creamy white skin. As she descended, Skylar spoke with a fake high society accent.
"Darlings, so good of you to come by. I think we have some tea in the drawing room if you'll follow me."
Jade, who loved to play dressup ran to the top of the stairs, followed by Peggy and Carly. Jade began to sway her hips as she followed the still slinking Skylar downward. The other two girls did the same thing. Carly started laughing.
"If I sway my hips any harder, I think I'll dislocate them. Does this really attract boys like it's supposed to?"
"Yeah, it does. You know Thad the hunk. In the sixth grade, every time I passed him in the halls at my junior high, I start swaying my hips. Even though he pretended not to look, I could see him watching me," Jade said with a twinkle in her eye.
"I wasn't at your school but I saw him at the park in his swimming trunks. No boy should look that good at age fifteen. It isn't fair. If I date him, I'd have to watch other girls all the time so they didn't hit on him," Peggy said.
"Good luck with that! If you date a guy like Thad you'll have to accept that he is going to be a two or more timer," Jade laughed then continued. "What do you think, Skylar?"
"Boys, boys just like toys to play with, darling. A little wiggle here a little wiggle there, you can have them all," Skylar said her head high in the air.
"Okay, enough playacting. The Fab Four are all here, Skylar, and ready to have a great time. The question is, are you ready for us?" Peggy said with a big smile on her face.
"Am I? I've been waiting all day. I put on this outfit to welcome you in style. We're going to have a good time in this big old house, I can guarantee it," Skylar said, losing the accent and smiling from ear to ear.
"So what do we do? It's only 3:00 p.m., plenty of time for some activities," Carly said.
"I have an idea! When I was little I used to slide down the bannister, but it's really tricky. Before you reach the statuettes at the end of the bannister, you have to jump off. Otherwise you hit the statuettes, and believe me, that hurts! I'll show you if you want. Anyway we can't be sophisticated all the time. Sometimes we just have to be kids," Skylar said as she ran back up the stairs. Skylar continued, "Now watch this."
Skylar jumped on the bannister, put her arms in the air, and slid quickly down toward the end, quickly gathering speed. At the last moment she pulled up her dress and rolled off the bannister onto her feet, staggering to control her forward momentum. When she finally stopped moving, Skylar yelled.
"A perfect 10—well, maybe a 9 but whatever the score that was great fun."
Peggy at the top of the stairs slid next almost as well as Skylar, but her rolling dismount put her on the floor. She quickly leaped to her feet to show everyone she remained uninjured and commented, "I guess that was only a 7 or so but it sure felt great."
Jade followed soon afterward moving down the bannister much more slowly but when she rolled off the bannister she managed to stay on her feet before hitting the wall. Jade her head held high and said, "That had to be an 8 at least."
"No way, you went much too slowly," Peggy challenged.
As the two girls glared at each other, Carly moved down the bannister very slowly, her eyes focused on the statuette at the end. Like the rest, Carly tumbled off the bannister just before the end but fell on her side with a loud thunk. Carly sustained no major injuries but the pain still registered on her face. Carly trying to maintain her dignity managed to say, "So okay, that slide wasn't the best but I never slid down a bannister before. At least I made it in one piece."
"That you did, my friend. Okay, we've shown we can still be kids. What's next? We have a pool, a gymnasium, a large grass area, and a horse stable. We can do whatever you like," Skylar announced in a strong voice.
"The pool is good for me. I want to try on my new bikini," Jade said.
"Good for me too, but I only have a two-piece. My mom won't let me wear a bikini," Peggy added.
"Try a one-piece. My mother still thinks I'm a kid," Carly complained.
"Well, if you must know, I have a two-piece but it's pretty skimpy. I guess Jade is the only one here who can show off," Skylar said with some reluctance.
"Really, what difference does it make? We're only wearing the suits for each other. Now if Thad were around, that would be a different story, wouldn't it?" Jade said.
"Whatever, let's go to the pool. Grab your suits out of your bags. You can dress there," Skylar said as she waved them forward down a hallway to their left.
A half hour later the Fab Four gathered at the side of the pool, carefully examining how each of them looked in their bathing suits. Jade made the first comment.
"Eat your hearts out, boys. We all look terrific. Even you, Carly, in that one-piece look great but I see hints of a bruise from where you landed after sliding down the bannister."
"No problem there. It doesn't hurt much and makes me kind of glad I have on a one-piece. I don't want you staring at the whole bruise," Carly commented.
"It'll heal in no time. I want to get wet. The last one in is a rotten egg," Skylar said as she jumped into the pool.
Jade and Peggy jumped in next splashing in the water and laughing. Carly lined up on the side of the pool and dove cleanly in the water. She emerged seconds later into a powerful freestyle stroke. In less than a minute, Carly reached the opposite side of the pool and did a perfect flip turn. She came to the surface and leaped out of the water into a strong butterfly stroke. Carly quickly reached her friends. Her friends stared a few minutes; then Peggy spoke.
"What was that? Are you trying out for the Olympics or something?"
"Yeah, are you trying to show off?" Jade added.
"Nothing like that. My parents have a cabin on a lake in New Hampshire. From the time I could walk, I spent most of my time in the lake swimming. I joined a swimming team at school and competed in a few meets. I did very well, won most of them but got tired of spending every free moment I had swimming. I'd much rather be hanging with you than drying my skin in a chlorine pool."
"Yeah, we all have things we've done. Peggy is a good gymnast, Jade danced in some ballets, and I rode horses in meets. There are reasons we are the Fab Four," Skylar said with a slight smile on her face.
"Yeah, you're right. We have to be able to do things if we are going to be girl superheroes. So now that we're in the water, what's next?" Peggy said.
"I know. We'll line up on the side of the pool. I'll call out a boy's name. Then each of us will walk like they do in the beauty pageants. The sexier our walk the more we think the guy is hot. Since we've already talked about Thad we will start out with him. I'll go first," Jade said as she climbed out of the pool.
"I think all of us will do our sexiest walk when it comes to Thad but okay. Jade, show us what you have. I have never played this game before but it sounds like fun," Skylar laughed.
The girls loved the game. Each boy they knew received different treatment, some like Thad caused pronounced slow exaggerated hip movement while others like Stevie, the class nerd and brain in Jade's school, received no hip movement, tiny steps, and arms crossed in front. As with Jade, the girl mentioning a boy had to do the first bathing suit walk for him. As the girls lived in the same general area but went to two different junior high schools not all the girls knew a given boy. In such a case they just copied the girl who knew the boy. After twenty boys received reviews, Skylar put up her arm and said, "Okay, we've walked for almost every boy we know. My stomach is getting sore. Let's decide who is the sexiest boy. I vote for Thad."
"So do I," Jade agreed quickly.
"And me," Peggy added.
"Not me. I'm not big on muscle guys. I vote for Peter. He is good-looking and sensitive," Carly disagreed.
"Okay, Thad wins 3-1, but I agree a little with what Carly said. Peter is very good-looking. He'd be my second choice," Skylar said.
"And mine," Peggy added.
"I don't know Peter but if you guys say so Peter can be second on my list too," Jade said nodding her head. After the show, the girls jumped in the pool and splashed and laughed the rest of the afternoon.
Later that night after playing more games and having a delicious dinner, the girls gathered in Skylar's enormous room. They all carried flashlights and took turns making their faces look like devils. They talked very quickly and giggled so much Peggy got the hiccups. Although the girls should have gone to bed an hour ago, none of the girls looked or acted tired. After another hour, Skylar's expression suddenly changed as she leaned into her close friends.
"Since you're all going to Tanglewood with me next year, I have to tell you the legend of the witch."
"Wow, a real live witch—that sounds like fun. Please tell us. There is nothing I like better than a spooky story," Jade said.
"Okay, but it will take a while."
Looking around, Peggy laughed and said, "We don't have anywhere to go, so let's hear the story."
"First I have to tell you a little about my family. My father's relatives fled England in the early 1700s. My great, great, great, god knows how many greats, grandfather was the duke of Lancaster. Somehow he got on the wrong side of King George and had to get out of the country. With his inherited fortune, he began a shipping business in Boston, which over the years branched out into many different manufacturing and transportation businesses. He became one of the wealthiest men in the American colonies. In 1735, he began building this house and another one for his sister Prudence. It took twenty years to build both of them but they started living in the houses before they were finished. The duke had several children including a daughter, Samantha.
Excerpted from The Magic Keys of Tanglewood by Malcolm Chester. Copyright © 2015 Malcolm Chester. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Skylar's Mansion, 1,
Next Day, 12,
Last Day, 23,
Powerful Dream, 31,
Back to the Mansion, 33,
Halloween Dance, 36,
Briar Manor, 44,
Field Hockey, 63,
Football Game, 67,
Crying Girl, 74,
Christmas Break, 77,
Hidden Diary, 82,
Tunnels of Tanglewood, 91,
World in Between, 105,
Search Party, 115,
The Key Girls, 121,
Back to the Real World, 145,