Epilogue: Cross-Country Mystery (Long Fiction for Middle Graders)

Note: When I was an elementary schooler reading Nancy Drew books, for some weird reason I was fascinated that the end of every book included the title of Nancy’s next adventure. The number of books couldn’t possibly be infinite, I reasoned.  Although the time between Nancy’s 18th and 19th birthdays was apparently infinite, surely the real life book series had to have an end.

Whenever I was at the bookstore, I looked at the end of the highest number book to see if there was a new title. Then I would wait until that title came out and eagerly look to see if that one ended with a new title. For some reason I was really curious about what would be in the “last” book. Would Nancy Drew finally turn 19? Would she give up sleuthing?

Of course, there was no “last” book. New books were being written long after I left elementary school, and even college.

Even though right now I don’t have plans to write a sequel to my story, I included a hint of a subsequent adventure as a sort of homage to those ND books of my childhood.


The afternoon went by much too quickly, but everyone had a chance to ride the tube behind the boat.  Tim even took off his shoes and shirt, rolled up his pants and took a turn.  Curt politely passed on the opportunity.

Tim, Curt and the Hales had a lot to talk about as they enjoyed the breeze and the sunlight on the water. Nanette and Nathan told about their adventure at the old mine, and Tim and Curt had a chance to tell them what the mine was like in their time. Frank, Peter and Ashley related their adventures with the BGs, and Curt shook his head.

“You’re lucky that Al and Phin do everything with a lick and a promise,” Curt remarked. The conversation then went down a rabbit trail about slang phrases old and new.

Tim, Frank and Nanette talked a lot about what might happen next with the Shrike brothers, their house in Bass Lake, and their relative in Merrillville. This was all pretty boring to the children, who were more interested in talking about the other spots on the map. Tim told them not to get their hopes up. He didn’t think that they would really find anything there.

Tim and Curt insisted on leaving before supper. The Hales wanted to give them some gifts, too, but they refused to take anything modern back with them except for some life jackets.

Thursday evening was the last night of the family reunion. They had a big pizza party with games, songs and a mini talent show. Everyone hugged and promised to get together for another reunion in two years.  By the time the Hales returned to the chalet, everyone was exhausted. The four kids fell asleep within seconds of crawling into bed, except for Charlie, who fell asleep on the couch moments after they got back and had to be carried to bed.

About forty-five minutes after falling asleep, Nathan woke.  He could hear his parents softly talking over the events of the day in the kitchen. Usually they would talk downstairs, where he’d be unable to hear, but Mom and Dad were having a snack before bed. He heard the clink of glasses and the crunch of cookies.

“Well, what do you think?” Nanette said. “Is it going to start all over again?” Even though she spoke quietly, Nathan thought he could hear a hint of playfulness in her voice.

“What do you mean?” Frank asked.

“You know. Like when we were young. We would barely solve one mystery and another one would start.  Do you think we’ll make it home without another mystery rearing its head?”

Frank let out a brief chuckle. “Hopefully not a dangerous mystery like this one,” he said. “But this adventure has opened all our minds to a lot of new ideas. A person with curiosity will always find mysteries.”

“Fair enough. So what do we call this one? You know we have the tradition of naming our mysteries,” Nanette said. “I was thinking maybe Cross-Country Mystery since it occurred on our cross country trip.”

“Sounds fine to me,” Frank said with a yawn. “And whatever mystery we find tomorrow can be Cross-Country Mystery Part 2. I’m too sleepy to be more creative.”

Nanette chuckled and yawned. “I’m going to nod off right here in the kitchen if I don’t watch out. Let’s sleep in tomorrow. We’re in no hurry to get to Las Vegas.”

The two descended the stairs and Nathan looked up at the ceiling and smiled. Surely some new mystery, large or small, would pop up soon. He decided he would try to get a good night’s sleep so he would be alert to find it. But first, he thought, he must think of a better name than Cross-Country Mystery!

How about The Mystery of the Stagecoach Robbers? Or The Case of the Terrible Time Travelers?  Nathan liked the idea of a title with alliteration. Maybe The Case of the Thieves out of Time or The Clues in the Cross-Country Chase?  Maybe he could think of an old-fashioned word or phrase to add to the name. The Case of the Rapscallion Robberies?  The Mystery of the Spiffinwheeze Shrikes?  Wait, ‘spiffinwheeze’ was supposed to mean something good. He tried to concentrate. In the dark, the words started to blend together into nonsense. Outside, an owl hooted and a soft sprinkle of rain hit the window. Inside the chalet all the Hales slept deeply and soundly.

End of Cross-Country Mystery

If you want to read this from the beginning, the story starts here: Long Fiction for Middle Grades: Cross-Country Mystery Chapter 1


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