Chapter One: The Mystery Begins
GIFTS TO MAKE
Victorian Room Spray for Mermie
Sailboat Paperclip Bookmark for Daddy
Bible Bookmark for Grandma
Ice Cream Cone Hair Barrette for Sarah
Stocking Dog Biscuits for One and Two
Snowflake Photo Ornament for Miss Vi
"Hey, Babycakes. Are you busy?"
Elm Sunday practically jumped out of her skin when she heard the sleigh bells jangle, causing her to spill some of the snow glitter on her desk. She didn’t want her father to see his Christmas gift. After struggling to twist the perfect sailboat shape from the jumbo paperclip, it still didn’t look right.
And now Daddy’s at the door.
She hurriedly wrapped her creation inside a pink and turquoise mermaid scarf and hid it behind her aquarium. When she felt certain the item was concealed, she plopped on her bed, flushed and breathless, trying not to appear suspicious.
"Come on in, Daddy."
Big Dave stood in her doorway, dressed in a red and white Santa suit, black belt and boots, topped with his white Sunday’s Marina cap.
"Well, what do you think?" he asked, scratching his fake beard and shaking his metallic bells. He twirled around so she could get the full view. "You think I’ll make a good Santa’s helper?"
Elm giggled. "You need a different hat, Daddy. And you’re not very fat. Santa should be a lot fatter. But you do look nice with a beard."
"Well, thank you, Miss North Pole Fashion Critic," he said, adjusting his padded belly.
"But why are you dressed like Santa now?" Elm asked. "It’s too early for Christmas!"
"Is that so?" he asked, observing the winter wonderland his eight-year-old daughter had created. She had decorated her bedroom in twinkling fairy lights and on the dresser was a small driftwood tree draped with pink lights and ribbons and white seashells. "From what I see, it’s never too early."
And then he glanced at the aquarium and winked at her. He winked as if he knew.
Eager to change the subject, Elm asked, "Do you think I can see Miss Vi today, Daddy?"
Miss Vi was the pine tree Big Dave had introduced her to at Purity Park that summer. To most people, there was nothing special about her, just one of the many evergreens standing in whispering contemplation. But Big Dave had a secret. One day he revealed that he and his best friend, Jason Moontree Smith, were sensitives, which meant that they could see the energy around objects, people, even ghosts. And what they saw around Miss Vi was a lovely violet energy!
"Am I a sensitive too, Daddy?" Elm had asked.
"You betcha!" her father replied.
As boys, Big Dave and Jason had built a crude observation deck from some abandoned boards they had found at a construction site and Miss Vi remained their secret hideout for the rest of their youth. Years later, they renovated the space into a beautiful treehouse for their daughters, with the idea that Elm and Snow would become the best of friends.
That was the plan, anyway. Too bad the girls hated each other!
"Oh, I have something for you. It was in today’s mail." Big Dave reached inside his Santa suit to produce a small package. "Here."
"What is it, Daddy?" It wasn’t her birthday, so why was she getting a gift?
Accepting the package, Elm pointed at the label and read her name and address aloud. Yes, it was for her! And then she noticed another label, a company name with no address.
"Mystery Color Glass. What’s that?"
Big Dave shrugged his shoulders. "Santa doesn’t read other people’s mail," he said, as Elm excitedly ripped open the packaging as if it were Christmas.
There was nothing but a plain white card with the words: Find me.
Elm frowned. "Nothing but a stupid old card."
"Are you sure?"
She picked up the card and was delighted to find an object taped to the underside of the card. It was a pretty violet shard of seaglass!
"Violet?" said Big Dave. "Isn’t that one of the rarest colors of seaglass?"
Elm nodded, detaching the glass from the card and holding it up to the light. "Yes, Daddy. They call it 'amethyst.' I’ve never found one in Little Blessing before. But who sent it to me?"
Elm laughed. "Santa doesn’t bring seaglass to children. Only toys and books and games. And sometimes clothes." She wrinkled her nose at that last word because Santa wasn’t always fashion forward.
Her father grinned. "Sounds like a mystery to me. Possibly a case for Miss Steffi Sleuth?" He nodded towards her white wicker bookcase next to the window where Elm’s dog-eared collection of Steffi Sleuth mystery books were framed in festive pink garland.
"Maybe," she said, studying the seaglass. She hoped so because there wasn’t an awful lot to do in Little Blessing in the wintertime. "Do you think the company who sent it knows I have a seaglass collection?"
"Well, it is a small town," Big Dave replied. "So how much seaglass do you think you have now? A ton?"
On the floor were five glass containers, bursting with colored seaglass. There were amber, clear, green, cobalt blue, sky blue, black, white—even a few red shards. But no violet. Like many serious seaglass collectors, it was the amethyst glass Elm coveted most of all. Now, thanks to Mystery Color Glass, she had her prized amethyst. But one violet shard was hardly worth getting excited about. Maybe I could ask Santa for more?
"Hello? Calling Elm Sunday!"
"So now that I’ve delivered your mystery mail, I’d sure like to see the progress on your Christmas wreath." Big Dave was referring to the special wreath Elm was creating for the Christmas Wreath Auction to support the Little Blessing Animal Shelter.
"Okay." She removed a plain driftwood wreath from her closet and placed it on her desk. Except for a strand of white lights and a powder blue ribbon, the wreath was unfinished. "But I’ve still got a lot to do," she admitted. "I want to glue some seashells and seaglass and put a starfish up there. And then I want to put a miniature Sea Angel in the center." Sea Angel was the family’s forty-foot sloop.
"Well, I know it’s going to be pretty because you’re very artistic, like your mother," her father praised. "Speaking of our beautiful Mermie, dinner will be ready soon."
"By the way, I really like what you’ve done with your room. Especially the glitter!"
Patting her sparkly cheek, he smiled and left.
Big Dave had the largest smile she had ever seen on a human being, probably larger than the real Santa Claus himself. Like a beacon, it was illuminating which is why she had dubbed him "Daddy Lighthouse." When she was four, she had wandered away from her parents at the annual seafood festival. Elm had stood in the center of the crowd and cried, not sure what to do next. Fortunately, she didn’t have to wait long. Like a scene from a fairytale, her father’s light shone through the crowd, his golden head taller than the rest as he came forth to rescue her.
"Daddy Lighthouse!" Elm had blurted, wrapping her arms around her father. "Daddy Lighthouse!" She sobbed with relief as he lifted her up and carried her away on his broad shoulders.
Elm adored her father, but she wasn’t the only one. Everybody in Little Blessing had a high opinion of Big Dave, especially Grandmother Ruth. Elm cringed a little as she thought of the scary old lady who lived in the sea captain’s house on the highest hill in Little Blessing.
But me and Mermie, we love Daddy most of all.
After dinner (it was seafood lasagna—her favorite) and an hour of watching public television with her parents, Elm returned to her bedroom. She retrieved the mystery color glass, turning it over and over in her hand, thinking about the mysterious message: Find me.
Peering out her window at the stars twinkling above the sleepy harbor, Elm chose a star to wish upon, closed her eyes tight, and received an answer within seconds. She must write a letter to Miss Vi!
Elm removed a pink glittery journal from her desk drawer, a gift she had received from her mother for her last birthday. Opening the first page of the unused book, her hands trembled as she wrote the words:
The Mystery of the Violet Seaglass
It was going to be so much fun trying to solve the mystery. And she already had two suspects—if she didn’t count Santa!