As Melody was walking down the stairs, I heard an ear-splitting creak, and suddenly she fell through the stairs. As she stood up, she yelled up to us and said she had never seen this part of camp before. I don’t why this stuff is always happening to me! I’m a decently quiet girl who does her best to stay out of the way. I also don’t get how my sister and I are related. She is outgoing and a real extrovert. I have a couple of close friends from school and some from dance company; but, it’s nothing compared to my sister Riana’s gaggle of girls. She has at least 13 girls with her at all times! As you can see we are exact opposites but of course, I’m the one who cleans up all her messes, thinks of clever excuses, and the one who was going to figure out this mystery before there was no one left at Camp Letts. I had a feeling we were about to find this crook.
I should probably start from the beginning. My name is Malia; and I’m an 11-year-old girl from Annapolis, Maryland, who is going into middle school. I applied to the STEM program and got accepted through the lottery. I was so excited to go until I found out that my sister had also been accepted and my friends had not. Two siblings from the same family never get accepted into the STEM program so I was pretty grumpy. I was glad that I had the rest of the summer to spend with them and we could hang out before we were separated to different schools.
Apparently, the world didn’t hate me enough and it had to continue to make me miserable. Of course my Mom had to tell me that I had to go to a stupid summer camp for two days and one night. So much for my friends and our book club.
Now that you know a little bit about me, I can start from the beginning of the first day. My Mom had made my sister and me preset all of our stuff that night so it wasn’t a mad rush in the morning. We woke up, got ready, and piled into the car. As soon as we reached the highway, we hit some traffic but after the intersection, it was smooth sailing. We arrived at the building that was my new school right on time. We signed in at the table by the front entrance to the building that I had learned at the open house was the seventh grade main entrance. After we signed in, my sister and I each got a nametag. We were both on bus G, as were all of the girls. My sister immediately found a group of girls and became BFFs with them. I, on the other hand, just stood there until a girl named Melody came up to me and introduced herself. We sat next to each other on the bus and when we got there and picked bunks, I took the bottom bunk and she took the top. The bunk next to ours contained two girls, Aggie, who we became best friends with immediately, and Vivian, who we tried to be nice to, but, she just kept trying to be as distant from us as possible. We got all of ur stuff unpacked and settled in. Then, we went to the boathouse to meet with the boys, whom of course, took forever to arrive.
When the boys arrived, we split into groups, red, blue, green, purple, and yellow. I was in the green group with four boys named Grady, Nick, Mathew, and Andrew. There were also three girls not including me, named Lily, Salina, and the ever-elusive Vivian. Aggie ended up in the yellow group with my sister Riana and Melody ended up in the purple group. Our first activity was to build a boat out of cardboard and duct tape that could float the longest in the lake. Lily had an awesome idea to make it pointed at the front and square at the back, sort of like a canoe, and Nick had a moment of sheer brilliance when he suggested that we build two long rectangular boxes under the canoe/boat to keep it floating longer. We waterproofed the entire boat like Mathew suggested and we completed it with time to add decals that we’d had time to create. We made a storm cloud and lightning bolts and named our team the STEM STORM. After the time for building was up, we went to lunch and had a delicious meal of cheese and chips. After that, we went out and tested our boats. The other boats lasted long but not as long as ours, which went for 30 minutes and could have gone longer except that it was time to start the next challenge, car building.
We had to create a car that would protect a water balloon from the impact of a car crash. I suggested that we use the popsicle sticks to make a flat bottom and straws as bumpers to soften the blow of the crash. Salina and Grady worked together to design a secure hatch for the water balloon on the car. They thought that we should glue the eggcup to the top of the bottom of the car. We did that and then attached the wheel using paperclips through the straws. After that, we put the water balloon in the cup and secured it in there with many layers of tape on the cup. As we put the tape on, the trouble started. Glue started exploding everywhere and our tape started unraveling. We tested our car over and over until ours was the only one left. We won.
The teachers hosting the activities were extremely confused and we got split into two groups. Purple, red, and green groups went canoeing and the other three went to archery. There were five people to a canoe so Melody, Vivian, Tabitha, a girl in the red group, and I went in a canoe together. It was a foggy day, so as we went out, we had to pay extra attention to where we were going. We went out to the island in the middle of the lake and went swimming.
As we were canoeing back in, I looked back at the island and saw that there was a faint figure in the mist. I looked closer and saw it was a boy about my age. Yet, when I blinked my eyes, he was gone. The next second, Tabitha said she had left her cover-up on the island so we called out to the instructors and went back to the island. She had left her cover-up in the woods so we decided to wait for her in the boat; but, after 20 minutes, she hadn’t come back and we got worried. We told the instructors and they sent out a search party. This was the first of many disappearances. My sister told me that she heard an arrow whizz by her head, and when she turned around to ask Lana if she had heard it, her friend was gone.
That night at dinner, the tables were silent. The usual chants of joy were not heard and the attitude was damper than a fire on a rainy day. This was so ironic because it had cleared up and was bright and sunny. Each cabin had experienced a loss of one or more campers. I know the campers weren’t happy about losing their friends; but, the food didn’t help. The kitchen staff had decided to make mystery meatballs which were sure to give you indigestion. That night it rained and we were supposed to have s’mores but instead we went straight to bed. That night I woke up with a bellyache so bad I felt like a knife was repeatedly stabbing my gut. As I lay awake contemplating why I ate those mystery meatballs, I heard a noise. I slowly and quietly turned over and saw Vivian get out of bed and walk out the cabin door and down the stairs. I decided to follow her and see what she was up to.
As I saw her turn the corner, I realized where she was going. She was going to the only place that had transportation to where the first disappearance had happened, the boathouse. As I followed her down the stairs, she turned around and I had to hide behind a pillar holding up the arts and crafts building. As I heard her go down the stairs, her footsteps finally stopped. I risked peeking but Vivian had disappeared from sight. I ran back to the cabin but she was nowhere to be seen. I woke up Melody, Aggie, and my sister, Riana, and we walked down to the stairs where I had last seen Vivian. Melody said something didn’t seem right about the stairs, something felt off. So, she walked down the stairs, and as she neared the bottom, she fell through. We all rushed over to see if she was alright, but, we heard her call out, “Don’t worry, I’m fine.” Suddenly, I saw a flashlight beam glare out of the pit. Melody called out, “I told you this flashlight would come in handy! Guys you need to come down here, I think I found the answer to the disappearances.”
I grabbed a rope from the nearby rock wall and ran back over to our little group. I tied one end to a strong tree nearby and threw the other end in the hole. Riana, Aggie, and I lowered ourselves in and joined Melody in the pit. We walked down the corridor and into a small little room that had a mountain of newspaper clippings and numerous maps of the camp. We started looking through the clipping and noticed that they were all about one incident.
One of the clippings that was dated 1996 read:
Young Boy Dies At Camp Letts
Report by: Colette Juliano
At the very first session of the newly opened Camp Letts, an unfortunate mishap happened. One day while sailing on a dingy, a young boy, Robert Vertiemie, Jr., 16, got tangled in the lines of his boat. Unfortunately, it was a windy day and Robert wasn’t the best sailor. The sails ripped and the boat started sinking and dragged young Robert down with it.
Well, there you have it, the latest scoop on the juiciest news.
“Wow!” Riana said, “That is sure something; but, what would anyone want with all these clippings about this murder?” Suddenly, I heard footsteps and I said, “I think we’re about to find out; scatter!” We had hidden just in time because almost immediately a few people came through the door. I recognized Vivian and her parents. They started talking so I listened.
“They don’t expect anything so can I please be friends with them now?”
“No! That would expose us and ruin our whole revenge plot.”
Suddenly, it hit me. It all made sense. The first day Vivian had scratched her last name of her nametag. I thought it was because it was embarrassing but it was because she didn’t want anyone finding out that her father was the dead boy’s brother. Aggie nudged me just in time for me to see a trunk that contained all of the missing children closing. We heard Vivian’s dad say, “Looks like it’s time for your wanted friends to disappear.” And, all off them walked out of the room.
We raced back up the rope and ran back to our cabin. By the time we got there, Vivian was sound asleep and soon we were to. That next morning we went to get the authorities, explained everything, and set a trap. We were the bait and today after breakfast, it would all go down. At breakfast, we were so nervous that we could barely eat. Vivian kept shooting us weird looks and now we knew why.
Finally, it was time for archery. Melody luckily had been listening the whole time so she knew that they would whiz a smoke bomb-wielding arrow into the archery range, grab us, gag us, and take us back. Our plan was to let them capture us; but, the police would be waiting to capture them in their lair. Luckily, Riana and Aggie would be canoeing so we didn’t have to worry about them.
The time had come. It was time to start the lesson. Melody, Aggie, and I were demonstrating how to shoot an arrow when a smoke bomb came whizzing past us and we felt hands gag and pull us. As soon as we knew it, the crooks were entering the lair, where to our surprise, the cops were tied up. Luckily, Aggie had called for backup just in case. As we were getting put in the trunk, the reinforcements came running in. They tied the crooks up and took them away but gave us the credit and we became camp heroes.
Soon enough, all four of us were heading back to school on the bus and talking about the mystery of the mysterious girl. As Aggie talked about the newspaper clipping, I realized that we hadn’t actually solved the mystery at Camp Letts, merely found a piece of it. I knew that the next puzzle piece had to do with the boy disappearing. I was about to tell my friends when we arrived at school. I told them I’d see them at the start of school and headed over to my Mom with Riana close behind me. She asked us about camp and Riana and I shared a look. We knew we couldn’t tell her just yet so I said, “Fine.” She smiled and walked to the car and I knew that middle school had just gotten more interesting.
Central Middle School, Anne Arundel County, sixth grader Bridget Norton, loves to read, write, and dance.