Hidden somewhere in the fog of the San Francisco bay lies Blue Rock Island, home to the bay area’s two best-kept secrets: Bell’s Bluff, the old, abandoned prison on one side of the island, and the Night Train, a mysterious train ride on the other. When twelve-year-old Molly Pepper receives a secret invitation promising a night of magic and adventure aboard the Night Train, she is skeptical. In her experience, most promises prove too good to be true. The fact that she lost her mom is proof enough. Still, Molly gives hope another chance. Together with her loyal friend, Noah Wonderly, they sneak out of the house and follow a string of clues leading to the Night Train. But when the train stops at Bell's Bluff, Molly discovers the real reason she was invited. There, she starts to wonder if hope and magic not only fix broken promises; but make you believe in them again. Goodreads | Amazon
The Real Face of Adventure
IS YOUR DESIRE
174 CANDLESTICK HILL
AT NINE O’CLOCK TONIGHT
NO LATERWell. There wasn’t a question in Molly’s mind about her desire for adventure. In fact, if anybody desired adventure more than her, she would like to meet them face-to-face just to see what the real face of adventure looked like. Because she was pretty sure the freckled face she met in the mirror each morning silently begged for something more than this—more than entertaining herself all summer long while her father worked two shifts at the police department and slept it off the next morning. Adventure was the easy part. The difficulty about this whole message, if Molly chose to follow the card’s directions after all (and she was definitely still debating the whole idea), was the getting-to-the-top-of-Candlestick-Hill-without-passing-out part. See, Candlestick Hill was the steepest hill in all of California. In fact, if Blue Rock Island were situated a little closer to Canada instead of in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, Candlestick Hill would make the world’s best ski run. But, a thick blanket of fog was as close to white the island ever got, making Candlestick Hill a nightmare instead of the attraction it could be. Therefore, a little skepticism about the mysterious message was in order. The more Molly thought about it, the more she wondered if perhaps somebody was playing a joke on her just to get her to climb the murderous hill for nothing. Who would do something like that? Molly chewed on that thought along with another cinnamon bear, and drummed her fingers along the tabletop, trying to come up with a few criteria. First off, somebody with easy access to her mailbox; secondly, somebody creative enough to make up the whole idea in the first place; and lastly but most importantly, somebody who knew Molly well enough to play on her longing for adventure. Somebody probably like… “What’s that?” asked a voice coming from a space right behind her. Molly coughed on her cinnamon bear and whirled around as the beginning of a scream eked its way out of her throat. She stopped just before it grew loud enough to wake her dad. “Noah!” Molly hit her next-door neighbor on the arm. “Why are you sneaking up on me?” “I’m not. You didn’t answer when I knocked, and I know your dad’s rule about ringing the doorbell, so…” “You could have warned me! I thought you were a burglar.” Noah Wonderly rubbed his arm and pulled out a chair beside Molly. “I’m sorry. But, I did knock, you know.” Molly slid the mysterious note across the table. “Do you have any idea what this is?” she asked, getting right down to business. She wanted to gauge Noah’s reaction, certain if he were behind it, the truth would reveal itself immediately. He could never withhold information without the whole truth bleeding out through his shifty brown eyes and seesawing smile. Because of that, Noah was a terrible secret-keeper and an even worse actor. When they were kids, Noah was the lousiest performer in the history of neighborhood plays, resulting in Molly having to play both Darth Vader and Princess Leia (which didn’t turn out so well). Even now, Molly could tell by the way Noah shifted his eyes to the right whenever they made eye contact that he had a crush on her. But, she was careful not to let on because she wasn’t quite sure how she felt about him. Not yet. Noah picked up the crème-colored note and studied both sides of it very thoughtfully, as if taking a test. His eyes narrowed as he mouthed the words of the message quietly to himself. Molly couldn’t stand how long he took just to consider a few words on a piece of paper, and immediately concluded that he was much too serious to be part of any practical joke. She snatched the note back from him, a little relieved. “Is it some kind of joke?” he asked, helping himself to the bag of cinnamon bears lying open on the table. She allowed it. “I thought the same thing,” she said, glad she wasn’t the only one to jump to conclusions. “Who’s it from?” “I don’t know. I found it in the mailbox.” Noah glanced at the note. “Well, are you going to go up there tonight?” Molly thought for a minute, but still didn’t know what her answer should be. She wanted to go. The promise of adventure had definitely piqued her interest. But, at the same time, she felt this deep, lurking fear building up inside her. What if she went all the way up there, only to be met with…nothing? “Not sure,” Molly said. “I have to think about it for a little while. I’m trying to decide if it will even be worth the climb.” “I don’t think you should go.” She looked up, surprised. “Why not?” “I just don’t trust it,” he said, revealing a bit of the blood-red remains of his demolished cinnamon bear. “What if it really is a joke?” Molly sunk back into her chair, not sure what she should do. She had hoped for a little more support from him than this. Noah remained quiet, his mind searching for a solution, a way to help Molly without her having to risk falling victim to some kind of mischief. Noah Wonderly was that kind of friend—the kind to back you up when you didn’t know where to go next, and the kind to offer up solutions to problems that weren’t even his. Molly almost always felt happier when he was around; he had his own way of making everything look brighter, even on a foggy day. San Francisco had a lot of foggy days. And he also usually smelled like a clean laundry room. Though, that didn’t mean Molly liked Noah, or anything. “What about your dad? Would he drive you up and check it out for you?” Noah asked, dropping his chin on his hands. “Nope. He’ll be at work. Plus, policemen don’t approve of this kind of correspondence.” “You mean, like secret messages?” “Yes. Secret messages. Not exactly a police-approved activity. We’ll have to keep this one under wraps. Which means if my dad starts asking questions, you’d better leave. He’ll be able to tell you’re hiding something just by looking at you.” “What? No he won’t!” Noah jerked upright and ran his hands through his dark hair, as if proving he was smooth and had skills. Molly pointed a finger. “That look on your face right now…guilty.” “What are you talking about?” A hesitant smile spread across Noah’s face, despite his every effort to tame it. Molly laughed. “What’s so funny?” asked Noah, laughing now, too, though he wasn’t sure what he was even laughing about. But, that was the thing about Molly, and the whole reason he liked her. Everything about Molly Pepper was contagious, making it that much harder to be around her when she was sad. Molly looked up at him. “If I decide to go, will you come with me?” Noah wasn’t sure about that. Did he want to go? Not really—who wanted to climb Candlestick Hill ever? Plus, he wasn’t very excited about chasing after an anonymous prankster. It just seemed…stupid, and maybe even a little bit dangerous. On the flipside, he never turned down an opportunity to hang out with Molly, especially when it meant the chance to prove he was brave and strong and all that other macho stuff girls liked. What guy wouldn’t want that? But, first, he thought he might as well ring in a favor in exchange, and hoped Molly wouldn’t run away screaming at his request. Especially when she found out there might be spiders involved. “Yes,” he said with his shifty eyes. “But I need you to help me with something, first.”
About the Author
Courtney King Walker grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area building rocket ships and rafts out of cardboard, hoping to make it the moon or at least Niagara Falls. But a trip across the border to Tijuana was as exciting as it ever got, so she decided writing about adventure was the next best thing. She now lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband and four children, and still dreams of flying to the moon. Her YA debut, ON THE FRINGE, was published in 2011 by Lands Atlantic Publishing.