Zeaflin Plants the Seeing Stone
The tall, dark-haired creature called Zeaflin surveyed the forest with
his deep amber eyes, searching for the perfect place to put the stone.
It was still midsummer but there were plenty of dead leaves on the
forest floor that would hide his object well; he just needed to find the
correct spot. Zeaflin paused in his search when his gaze fell upon the
old lakeside cabin a short distance from where he stood. He could catch
the glint of sunlight scattering off the broken glass of one of the
windows but there was no sign of the cabin’s inhabitant. That
didn’t worry Zeaflin; he knew she was there, waiting impatiently as
always for him to bring her one of the living. As your
run-of–the-mill ghost, she didn’t understand the nuances of
selecting the appropriate living for this job. Fortunately, Zeaflin did
and they had finally arrived. He cocked his head to one side, listening
to the voices of his selection, three children, before focusing back on
the task at hand. There wasn’t much time before they would arrive at
this spot in the woods.
The main path to the cabin was overgrown, save for a small break in the
wild blackberry bushes. The roots of the bushes had trapped water from
a recent rainstorm and that part of the path was thick with mud.
Perhaps not something that would deter the boys, thought Zeaflin, but it
might deter the girl. For added insurance, he leaned over and dipped
his long-nailed finger into the mud and swirled. A deep gray fog
burbled up from the mud with a popping noise, releasing an aroma of rot
and death. Zeaflin wrinkled his nose in disgust and took a few steps
back. He looked to the left of the main path. The bushes were too
thick to pass that direction. He looked to the right. An old willow
tree with low hanging branches was the only obstacle. Several of the
willow’s roots peeked up through the dirt of the forest floor.
A sharp-toothed smile of approval passed Zeaflin’s lips as he stepped
forward toward the tree. Dropping to his knees, he used his long, sharp
fingernails to dig the dirt from around one of the shallowest tree roots
until a small arch of root, perfect to snare one young girl’s foot,
was exposed. His handiwork completed, Zeaflin reached into his front
suit pocket and pulled out an irregularly-shaped object wrapped tightly
in a red silk handkerchief. He removed the wrapping gingerly to reveal
a milky white stone, smooth on one side but quite jagged on the other.
The jagged side had deep black lines carved along the surface leading to
a V-shaped trench. The apex of the V created a perfect funnel toward an
almost imperceptible hole drilled deep into the stone.
Zeaflin brushed aside the leaf litter underneath the willow tree and
placed the stone, jagged side up, a few feet from the exposed tree root.
He then covered the stone with the litter and rose slowly to his feet.
The children’s voices were growing near. It was time to leave.
Zeaflin took one last look at the cabin and then vanished in a puff of
While Mary Waits
The ghost named Mary stood by the window of the cabin and looked out
toward the lake. In the distance she could hear the sound of
children’s voices and wondered if Zeaflin had also heard them and was
somewhere nearby. He’d promised her he would bring someone living to
help her find her locket but he had failed so far. Sure, she’d had
several visitors to her cabin over the past few days but they neither
saw nor heard her, so they must have failed to find the Seeing Stone.
Or perhaps Zeaflin had failed to plant it.
Mary couldn’t understand why Zeaflin didn’t just put the stone in
her cabin for the living to find. Surely they would pick it up,
wouldn’t they? It was such a beautiful looking stone, milky white and
translucent, much like an opal. But Zeaflin would just wave his hand
dismissively whenever she suggested he leave it out in the open. He
could be so stubborn and arrogant sometimes! Working with him was
difficult. It tried Mary’s patience, and she was grateful that all
she had left to do now was to obtain her locket and arrange a séance
for Elizabeth. Then Zeaflin would finally summon John out of Halcyon
and the two of them could live in the cabin until the usurper Belial was
ousted from power and Ambrogio reinstated as the OtherWorld ruler. Once
that happened, she and John could then return to the OtherWorld and
enter Halcyon together.
Things might have been different if John had waited for her before
moving on to Halcyon. They could have explored the StopOver shops
together. But John was a simple man and Mary was certain he hated the
commercialism of the StopOver. He must have decided it was better to
wait for Mary to join him in Halcyon, even if it took her a while to get
there. If only he knew how long it took to move on nowadays. Belial
had created such a bureaucratic mess that few spirits ever moved on!
The voices of the children grew louder and Mary saw two boys who looked
to be around eleven or twelve years old, one with blonde curls, the
other with dark hair, emerge through the bushes on the path that led
toward the cabin. Behind them, Mary saw a girl of similar age, red
hair, pony-tailed, and freckled. The girl hesitated just before the
break in the bushes and then veered off the main path. Mary lost sight
of her so she focused her attention back on the two boys. The boys were
drawing nearer yet they still showed no sign that they could see her
standing by the window of her cabin. Mary sighed and wandered back into
the cool shadows of her old home. She sat on the dusty chair in the
corner and rested her head in her hands. Zeaflin must have failed her
“I’ve got it!” Billy cries out, jumping from his chair, pushing it
back with a loud screech against the treehouse floor. “We’ll call
ourselves Sleuths Supernatural.” He plops back down with a
self-satisfied grin so typical of Billy. We’ve been debating the name
of our detective agency for over an hour. Earlier suggestions, such as
“Grave Investigations” and “Phantom Sleuths”, were soundly
rejected. It’s not easy coming up with a title for a budding
detective agency with ghostly clients.
It all began yesterday. Billy, Toby, and I were doing what you’d
usually do on a warm summer afternoon, looking for frogs at the nearby
lake. Well, if you could call it a lake—it was more like a
reed-filled pond. A few years back the three of us would have gone
swimming instead of frogging on such a nice summer day, but lack of rain
and a few hot summers had reduced the lake to a shadow of its former
glory. Luckily for us, it made it a great place for hunting frogs.
As we beat around the reeds, hoping to scare out a hopper, Toby suddenly
grabbed my arm. “Abby, look over there,” he whispered sharply,
pointing to a narrow opening in the wild blackberry bushes growing
around the outer edge of the woods. I peered through the thin slit,
seeing the sun dapple on what appeared to be a small shed or cabin.
“What’s up?” Billy piped in, nearly crashing into me as he rushed
over to see what held our attention. “Oh,” he said with a
disappointed shrug, “it’s just an old fishing cabin or something.”
“But I think I saw something moving around inside through the
window,” Toby replied, his brow furrowed with worry.
“Really? I don’t see how you could see anything through that dirty
old window but hey, let’s go check it out,” Billy said.
I felt uneasy. “Wait!” I hissed. “What if it’s some crazy
derelict or something?”
Billy rolled his eyes and let out an exasperated sigh. “Abby, you’re
such a girl sometimes.”
With a disgusted shake of his head, Billy pressed forward on the path
toward the bushes. I looked at Toby, who just shrugged and followed
Billy. That was one of the problems hanging out with boys. They always
seemed indifferent to danger; in fact I think sometimes they actually
looked for it. As always, I followed them to lend the voice of reason
when it might be needed. As if they’d listen!
I had almost caught up to the boys when they tromped through some muddy
water on the path, stirring up a smell like dirty gym socks marinated in
garlic. I decided I’d rather not traipse through that muck so I
veered off to find a dry area to cross. The left side of the trail was
impassable, unless I wanted to go home with a million scratches from the
blackberry bush thorns. The right side was mostly clear, other than a
willow tree with low hanging branches, so I headed that direction. I
ducked under the lowest branch and felt a sharp tug. The branch had
snagged my ponytail. I yanked my hair free, lost my balance, lurched
forward, and caught my foot on a tree root sticking out of the ground.
That tree was trying to kill me!
I fell to my knees and caught myself just before I planted my face into
the leaves carpeting the forest floor. “Ouch,” I cried out, feeling
a sharp pain in my left palm. Something had sliced into my hand. I
pulled my hand out of the leaves to look it over. Small droplets of
blood dripped from a thin slit, as narrow as a paper cut, in the center
of my palm. “Ouch,” I repeated for good measure and then dug into
the leaf litter to find the offending rock and chuck it into the lake so
it wouldn’t be able to attack anybody else.
After I uncovered the stone I changed my mind and decided to spare it
the watery demise. I’d never seen one like it before. It was milky
white, almost pearlescent. It had a sharp, jagged surface that was
etched with black lines that came together in a V-shape. In the groove
of the V was a small smudge of red which I assumed was my blood. I
carefully picked the stone up. It was smooth as a pebble on the
underside. Strange. Usually the upside of a stone is smooth, not the
I popped up quickly and hurried to catch up with Billy and Toby.
“Wait up, guys! I found something!” I called out. The boys were
almost to the cabin. They both turned at the sound of my voice and
stopped next to a maple tree, where they stood in its shade to wait for
me. I ran to them and held out the stone, bursting with pride over my
“Cool stone, huh?” I declared. Billy eyed the rock jealously and
reached out to take it from me. “Be careful,” I warned. “It has
a sharp edge on one side. It cut me.”
Billy shrugged nonchalantly and, as usual, didn’t heed my warning.
Instead, he ran his finger over the jagged edge as if to test out how
sharp it is. “Ow! That is sharp!” Billy exclaimed, holding up his
finger to examine the damage. A thin stream of blood dribbled down the
side of his finger and dripped onto the forest floor. Billy pulled a
handkerchief from his back jean pocket and applied pressure to the
wound. Then he handed the stone over for Toby to examine. “This has
to be an opal of some sort, wouldn’t you say, Toby?”
Toby took the stone from Billy’s hand, careful to avoid the sharp
edge. He held the stone up to the sunlight and peered at it with one
eye. “I don’t think it’s an opal. It looks more like a
moonstone. It’s flawed, though. See the red bubble in the center?”
“That wasn’t there before,” I said defensively, snatching the
stone from Toby’s hand to take a look.
“Ouch! That hurt, Abby!” Toby cried out, his blood now added to the
stone along with Billy’s and mine. Toby sucked his wounded finger and
gave me a dirty look.
Billy laughed. “Hey, we’re all blood brothers now!” Toby and I
both rolled our eyes.
”Let’s go check out the cabin,” Billy suggested, obviously no
longer interested in my stone. While the boys forged on ahead, I lagged
behind so I could gather up a few maple leaves to wrap around my
treasure before I put it into my jean pocket. No sense in taking the
chance it might cut through my pocket and into my leg.
By the time I caught up to the boys, they were already peering into the
cabin window, a small opening with cracked, dirty glass. I opened my
mouth, prepared to warn them about broken glass, infections and tetanus
shots, when Toby, quick as a dart, dropped to a crouch, dragging Billy
down with him. So there is someone in the cabin, I thought. My heart
skipped a beat when I saw a look of alarm cross Billy’s face as he
lost his balance and, with a muffled cry and flailing arms, tottered
into the dead leaves surrounding the cabin.
The resulting crunch shattered the silence of the woods like a gunshot.
The noise drew a startled, pale woman to the cabin window. She looked
out at me. I stared back. She was a pretty woman, with dark eyes and
light brown hair that hung in waves down past her shoulders. Around her
neck I could see a thin gold chain that she was nervously twisting in
her right hand. Then the sun moved out of the clouds and a shaft of
sunlight highlighted the woman. My heart pounded even harder and I
began to feel faint because I could see the peeling paint of the cabin
wall behind her right through her face!
Excerpted from "The Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency" by D.L. Dugger. Copyright © 2016 by D.L. Dugger. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.