The Mystery Of Miss Trees By Harmony Ackerman

Copyright © 2010 by Rachel Wright; all rights reserved. Published with permission.

It all started in July, 1980, when seven of us from the academy were invited to New York to meet one of the academy’s biggest benefactors, a rich lady called Miss Flaumel. Our teacher Miss Trees came with us, and we all got on the plane. Dave went and sat in First Class and got away with it, it was so unfair! Anyway, after a bit, Miss Trees got up to go to the ladies, and about half an hour later, we realised she hadn’t come back. This was a bit weird, ‘cos there were still people going in and out of the toilets.

It was about this time that we heard a scream from the other side of the plane! It wasn’t Miss Trees, though – someone had found a mouse! Ugh! Hannah caught it and put it in a tin and insisted on bringing it with us. I told her Miss Flaumel wouldn’t like it, but she wouldn’t listen. We later discovered it was Christopher’s mouse anyway – he must have had it with him all along. We waited a bit longer for Miss Trees to come back, but she didn’t. Then the seatbelt sign came on and a guy in a coat and a Fedora hat sat in her seat. I tapped him on the shoulder and when he turned round we saw his skin was all grey and his eyes were bloodshot, like a zombie or something! It was disgusting. He didn’t say anything when I asked him about Miss Trees, he just looked at me in a really creepy way. Poor Hannah had to sit next to him until the plane landed! We couldn’t find Miss Trees’ hand luggage, and when we got off the plane and went to Baggage Reclaim, her suitcase wasn’t there either! We were really worried then, but Harryn said we should carry on and find our next plane to Westchester, and Miss Trees would probably turn up later.

So we got on the plane, and at the other end there was a really nice limousine waiting for us. Christopher felt sick (he’d drunk way too much cola on the plane), but luckily the others managed to shove his head out of the window before he threw up. He said there was a man in the car behind who looked like Hat Guy, but I thought he was just winding us up.

Miss Flaumel’s house was huge! We rang the bell and her maid, who was called Carmella, let us in and showed us to our rooms. She said Miss Flaumel was out, but we could look around the house if we wanted. After trying on my ball gown that was hanging in the closet in my room (it fitted perfectly), I went to sit by the pool. Some of the others played billiards and Skye went to the library. She said there was a man in there whose name was Carl.

This is gonna sound strange, but when we woke up, the house had been abandoned for years.

We all went to the kitchen for dinner at six. While we were eating, a woman stuck her head round the door and told Carmella not to leave the kitchen as there was some kind of trouble going on. She didn’t notice us there. Then we heard some strange noises, which Skye and James thought were gunshots. Carmella went to find out what had happened, and when she came back she said we could leave the kitchen but we weren’t to go in the sitting room, and we were to stay out of the way because Miss Flaumel’s brothers were in the house.

We went out into the gardens, and it wasn’t difficult to spot which window was the one for the sitting room, ‘cos it had been broken. The others looked in the window and from their reactions I could tell there was something horrid in there. Eventually they lifted me and Hannah up so we could see in, and there were six dead guys on the floor! Some of Miss Flaumel’s dogs were dead too. We climbed in and looked closer at the dead guys, and they looked just like the guy off the plane who’d sat in Miss Trees’ seat. They all had these glowing blue pendants on; I wanted to take one ‘cos they were pretty, but Harryn wouldn’t let me. Miss Flaumel and her brothers were sitting in the library, but we couldn’t see much through the stained-glass window, so we went to bed. The next morning was when things really got weird.

This is gonna sound strange, but when we woke up, the house had been abandoned for years. Really! There was dust everywhere, the windows were broken, there was no power and the garden was all overgrown and wild. Our stuff was fine, and we looked normal, but apart from that the only thing that was the same as the night before was the six dead guys in the sitting room. We took their amulets and put them on (apart from Dave who doesn’t wear anything that isn’t black). There were only six amulets, anyway. Skye went off to the general store she’d found the day before, and that was abandoned too. She took some food, and a newspaper – which was dated 1970.

There were no signs of life anywhere in the neighbourhood, so we decided we’d have to make our way to New York. Somehow, Christopher and Harryn managed to start Miss Flaumel’s Mercedes, and we filled it with food and stuff that Skye said would be useful. I reluctantly left my hair curlers behind. Skye was going to leave her ball gown so I said I’d have it. Christopher put his tuxedo on ‘cos he said it was the only chance he’d get to wear it. He looked like James Bond. Well, a bit like James Bond.

They made me leave my ball gowns and make up and jewellery behind. I really really wanted to go home then.

Harryn figured out how to drive the car, and we set off in the direction of New York. It was a bit of a squash with all seven of us in there. Anyway, we soon noticed something was wrong – the landscape didn’t look at all like what was on our map, even though Skye insisted we were going in the right direction (and she never gets lost). The road got narrower and narrower until it became a dirt track. That’s when we decided to turn round and go back – but the road wasn’t the same as the one we’d come down, and we couldn’t find Miss Flaumel’s house again. Skye was very upset. We turned round again and headed southwest, but soon the road had disappeared completely and we were driving across a meadow. That’s when the car stopped working. Christopher said there was no spark in the battery, or something, and we’d have to continue on foot. Skye made a kind of net out of tarpaulin that we could drag along behind us, but we had too much stuff so they made me leave my ball gowns and make up and jewellery behind. I really really wanted to go home then.

We didn’t see anyone, or any buildings or anything for the rest of the day, and when it got dark we had to stop and camp for the night. Skye cleverly made a fire and a trap for catching rabbits as we were getting a bit short of food. That night, I had a dream about Miss Trees being chased through a forest by some kind of monster. The next morning, the others said they’d had the same dream. We ate rabbit for breakfast (and Dave took its skull and made a necklace out of it – ugh!), then we carried on walking in the same direction as before. Skye had what she described as a ‘fuzzy’ feeling when she tried to sense which way we were going, and the compass had gone a bit crazy, it wasn’t making any sense. There was a mountain range in the distance, which shouldn’t have been there. We were all pretty scared, though the boys tried not to show it.

After a while, we heard a rumbling noise in the distance. We approached the top of the ridge cautiously, and down in the plains below, there was a massive herd of buffalo. Like, more buffalo than there should have been in the whole of the United States. There were also three guys on horses; two natives and one white man. They had isolated a buffalo from the herd and were trying to kill it, but it started running towards us. Harryn, who is a brilliant football player, threw a rock at it and hit it right on the head. It started to stumble, and then Christopher hit it with the sabre he’d taken from Miss Flaumel’s library. His tuxedo got covered in buffalo blood.

It was good to be in fashion again!

The three men thanked us for helping them kill the buffalo. We told them we were lost and asked where we were, and they said we were in Dakota! James asked what year it was and they said it was 1980. I think they felt sorry for us, ‘cos we were so confused, so the white man, whose name was Horse, took us back to their camp. We stayed with them for a couple of days, and they taught us how to use bows and arrows. Dave managed to learn how to speak their language.

One night, the tribe’s medicine man came to see us. He made us smoke some horrible stuff and then threw these bones on the floor and told us that we had to find our tutor if we wanted to get home. That was odd, ‘cos we’d all had another dream about Miss Trees. It seemed like she was really in trouble. Anyway, the chieftain gave us some horses and some other gifts. Harryn got a rock made of meteoric iron, Skye got a fire drill and I got a doeskin dress with beads on. It wasn’t really my style (it looked a bit – hippy), but it was the latest vogue amongst the tribe, so it was good to be in fashion again!

We didn’t really know how we were going to find Miss Trees, so we decided to aim for New York again. We rode for ages before we found any signs of civilization, but eventually we found a stone building with a watermill by a stream. We spoke to the man who lived there and told him we were lost, and trying to find New York. He said yes, he could see we were lost, and York was about two hours ride away. It took us a moment to realise he’d said York, and not New York… Further investigation revealed we’d somehow ended up in England. The man said the year was 1980. He said there was a village not far away, so we went there and the man at the chapel said we could stay the night there. Luckily Harryn and Skye had insisted we keep watches, so Christopher was awake to hear the noises at the door at about 3 am. We tried the door and found that someone had locked us in! James and I climbed up to the roof and looked outside – there was a crowd of people on one side, and one man guarding the other side. He saw us and said that they’d called the Sheriff and we were to wait until he arrived.

Well, we didn’t want to wait; either they’d decided we were witches or something or they wanted to steal our stuff. Harryn tried to break the door with his rock and his knife, but it wasn’t really working. So we hauled Dave up to the roof with the rope the natives gave us, and James and I threw slates at the crowd while Dave snuck away to get our horses, which were in the sheep pen. Dave is really good at not being noticed! He let the animals out and set fire to the hay; luckily the villagers all ran off to put the fire out and we made our escape.

Everything got on top of Skye at this point, ‘cos she broke down in tears and blurted out everything.

Skye’s fuzzy feeling soon came back and we reasoned that we’d probably left the village way behind us, so we stopped for a rest. We’d been sitting there a few minutes when we noticed this red-haired man standing right by us, watching. I dunno how he managed to sneak up on us without us noticing. Anyway, he wanted to hear our story, so he sat down and joined us. His name was Bleys.

I think everything got on top of Skye at this point, ‘cos she broke down in tears and blurted out everything. Strangely, Bleys was more interested in Miss Flaumel’s brothers than in our tales of buffalo slaying and escaping from angry peasant mobs. He agreed that we needed to find Miss Trees, and to our surprise he took another of the blue pendants out of his pocket and gave it to Dave. Before we could ask any more questions, he’d ridden away.

All we could do was keep going. So, we walked a bit further, and soon the air started to smell kinda acrid. Next we came across a herd of what looked like woolly mammoth. This worried us a lot; how much further back in history could we go? But then we heard someone screaming for help, and sure enough, we rounded a corner and saw Miss Trees, up to her waist in a tar pit. She was surprised but very grateful to see us! We couldn’t pull her out with the rope so the boys made some kind of frame thing out of wood so we could lever her out.

Unfortunately, while we were still trying to pull her out, we were attacked by a sabre-tooth tiger! We shot an arrow at it, and Christopher attacked it with the sword, and somehow we managed to kill it. But while we were congratulating ourselves, another one must have snuck up on us. By the time we’d spotted it, it was preparing to pounce! I really thought one of us was going to get killed then, but just as it leapt into the air, another arrow came whizzing past and pierced the cat; it fell down dead instantly. The arrow had been fired by a woman riding a horse. We recognized her - it was Miss Flaumel!

Miss Flaumel had horses for us too, and she told us and Miss Trees to get on and follow her. This time Skye’s fuzzy feeling was so bad she could hardly stay on her horse. Within minutes we’d arrived back at school, and everything looked normal. We told Miss Flaumel everything that had happened; she didn’t really offer any explanation except that her brother had been ‘tidying up’. She thought the pendants had something to do with it, and said we should keep them.

Seriously, I know it sounds unlikely but it’s all true! I’ve still got the pendant and the dress, look! Okay, don’t believe me then, but if you get invited to visit Miss Flaumel’s house, remember what I told you. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you, that's all.

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