I wrote home every week, every week I ended the letter with “Get me the fuck out of here!”
Whatever fun Kid Detective Camp had promised to be, it had not delivered. The brochure had described six weeks of sleuthing adventures, running around in the woods with magnifying glasses, solving the mystery of the “missing” counselor, Dirk. The problem was, Dirk really did go missing. So did Alonzo and Samantha, neither of which were in the plan.
I’m the one who found Samantha’s size 7 tennis shoe floating in the pool at morning flag salute. The chlorine had washed most of the blood from the laces, but not all.
The rest of the kids flipped open their Junior Clue Book to make a note of it, like this was still just a game. I was the only one who knew better; I saw the look on the camp director’s face as he fished it out of the water.
When I asked if he was going to call the police, he just gave me a nervous smile. “Why would I?” he asked, and gestured at the small lump of us that had gathered poolside. “You’re already here!”
I wrote home again that night: “People are starting to die.”
My mother wrote back with a drawing of a horse and an extra jar of cream for my eczema.
Bernard was next. His too-short shorts showed up skewered to the target at the old archery range, shot through with an arrow buried so deep, none of us were strong enough to pull it out.
At our Campfire Case Briefings, we went over what we knew, which wasn’t much. We’d found an old raincoat in the woods on our nature patrol with two pennies in the left pocket. “Or maybe three,” Lance said, flipping through his Junior Clue Book. “I can’t read my writing.”
Lance and the camp rabbit went next.
By the last week of camp, we were eating dry macaroni noodles by lantern light on the floor of the director’s office. The only sound was our nervous crunching. No one had seen the cook, and the director had locked up the dining hall—whatever was inside he didn’t want us to paint during Crime Scene Watercolors.
“I don’t want to be a Kid Detective anymore,” I told him. He looked at me, his sunburned face glowing even redder in the flickering light. He unpinned his tin badge from his shirt pocket and set it on the floor.
“Me neither,” he said.
Front page image by Anita Carril.
GHOST WRITER is a project by Tracy Danger Mumford. New sections are released every other Sunday. If you’d like to receive email alerts—and that’s all you’ll get, a short email—saying the new one’s up, sign up here: