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The Legend of Jack Straw

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    Lane Champion

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    Lanette Curington
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by Lane Champion

Something wicked awaits beneath a full moon the night Nicole Hansen hangs out with her friends in the cornfield maze. Terror mounts as the teens are picked off one by one. Nicole struggles with clues leading to the impossible, that the attacks may be connected to an old story about a scarecrow come to life known as the Legend of Jack Straw.

A Halloween horror novella, approx. 19,000 words or 63 pages.

A teen scream horror tale without excessive gore and violence. Suitable for YA ages and up.

Published by Silver Heart Books

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Excerpt from The Legend of Jack Straw
©Lanette Curington / Lane Champion
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction.

Jordan stepped closer to the scarecrow and peered up at him. “Well, ol’ Jack here looks kinda mean.”

“Oh, don’t make fun of him, Jordan.” The scarecrow didn’t look mean at all. He was still a little scary to me, by the light of a full moon in the middle of the night, but that wasn’t his fault. “Scarecrows can’t help what they are.”

Jordan sniggered. “Taking the story a little too serious, are you?”

I just shrugged.

“It’s okay.” Jordan tapped my nose with his finger.

I slapped him away. “Stop it.”

“You always stick up for the underdog—Weird Willy and now the scarecrow.” Jordan started walking away, toward the edge of the clearing where Bella and Blake were huddled. “Don’t ever change, Nic.”

“Oh, you’re hopeless,” I called out after him.

“Hey, Nic, can you come here a sec?” Ashley yelled from the other side of the clearing.

“On my way.”

Caleb gave a little wave with his fingers. “See ya later.”

I watched him go after Jordan then I walked past the scarecrow to where Ashley and Emily stood.

“I’m going to find Jordan. You tell her,” Em said to Ash and took off.

Suddenly, I was tired. It had to be close to two o’clock. It had been a long day—and night—and I was ready to go home and fall into bed.

“What’s Em all spazzed out about? It’s getting late. Maybe we ought to head back to the cars the way we came instead of finishing the maze ’cause I’m ready to go.”

“I know, but Jordan told Em something and she thinks you should hear it.” She grabbed my arm and pulled me along one of the paths. “Just in case you’re getting stuck on Caleb—”

“I’m not.”

“Good.” She pulled out a cigarette and lit it. After taking a drag, she handed it to me. “Jordan has a cousin who lives in the town where the Warings just moved from. Something happened there…”

“What happened?”

She shrugged. “Jordan wasn’t sure. He was only half listening to his cousin because it was right before school started when they talked and before he even knew the Warings had moved here. But Jordan thinks he remembers it having to do with somebody named Waring and some kind of trouble. And he thinks that it might’ve involved Caleb and that’s why they had to move away. It might have something to do with drugs or a robbery, but he didn’t know for certain.”

“Could Jordan be any more vague?”

Ashley linked her arm with mine, and we started back toward the clearing. “I know! Isn’t it awful? I told Em it was stupid to even mention that to you, but she insisted. And, well, I guess I agree. There might be something to it. I told Em to tell Jordan to talk to his cousin tomorrow and get all the facts.”

“Thanks for letting me know. And thanks for backing me up about Will Jones.”

Ashley shrugged. “You knew him better than any of us.”

“When Will and I had study hall together—you remember, our freshman year—we talked sometimes. From what little he told me, his older brothers and sister left town as soon as they could, going to college, getting jobs, so it was up to him to take over the farm one day. He was into his schoolwork and farm work and didn’t really have time for anything else.”

“You know how it is. He was different, so it’s easy for the others to make fun of him.” Ashley pulled me to a stop. “Shouldn’t we have reached the clearing by now?”

Somewhere we’d taken a wrong turn. I didn’t know how, but we must have walked farther along while we talked than I first thought.

“You’re the pathfinder.” Ashley referred to my ability to always find my way through the maze without getting help. “Get us back to the clearing.”

“Not sure if I can.” The cigarette was almost finished after we’d passed it back and forth, so I dropped it in the dirt and ground it out with my foot. I picked up the filter, wrapped it in a used tissue, and stuck it in my jacket pocket. “I haven’t been paying as close attention to the layout as I should because of the guys and that stupid escaped lunatic story and Em babbling on and on about him being an ax murderer.”

“Yeah, like something out of a bad horror flick.”

“I think we just turned the wrong way. So we should turn around now and go back the other way.”

“I thought that’s what we did.”

We made a one-eighty anyway and started walking again, but after a few minutes, there was nothing but walls of cornstalks every which way we turned.

“This is crazy.” Ashley let out a loud sigh of exasperation as we stopped again. “We only went a few steps out of sight of the clearing.”

“That’s why it’s called a maze,” I murmured, looking at the sky.

I thought about when I stood in the clearing and tried to picture the position of the moon in relation to the scarecrow. Now, I turned around in place until the moon was in that same position in the sky. We had gone down a path behind and to the right of the scarecrow, so we needed to go back in the opposite direction… I pointed to a wall of cornstalks. “We need to go that way.”

“We can just go through the cornstalks, can’t we?”

I hesitated. It felt like cheating to go through the wall instead of around it. But we were trying to find our way back to the clearing and our friends at the moment, not run the maze. Ashley parted the cornstalks and slipped in between them, and I followed. They blocked out the moonlight, and it felt like wading through yards of cornstalks instead of a few feet. When we broke through the other side, Ash stumbled, nearly falling, but caught her balance in time. I almost went down with her, but managed to stay on my feet, too.

“What the— I don’t believe—” Ashley sounded stunned so that she could hardly finish her thoughts. “Did the—Did the Joneses turn this into a haunted maze this year? Like with fake ghosts and bones and—and bodies and stuff?”

“I don’t think so. We haven’t run across anything like that while we’ve been here.”

Ashley grabbed my arm and pulled me around. “Do you—Do you see what I see?”

I looked at the thing Ashley had tripped over. In the moonlight, it was hard to tell what we were looking at, but it appeared to be a body, face down, with a hunting knife sticking out of its back. It couldn’t be real. It couldn’t be!

“It’s another stupid prank the guys are pulling, right?” Her hand tightened on my arm. “Right?”

As I fumbled in my pocket for the flashlight, I heard the train whistle begin its code of long and short blasts whenever the two o’clock train ran through each railroad crossing in town. The blasts grew louder as the train chugged closer and emphasized the increasing tension of the moment. My hands trembled so badly that it took a couple of tries before I twisted the end enough for the light to come on. I aimed it down toward the body.

The beam hit a shock of light-colored hair and revealed a jacket, heavily stained with blood from the knife wound, and jeans. It looked like…it looked like…

It had to be fake!

I dropped to my knees and tugged at one arm, trying to turn the body over, to see the face. It was heavy, dead weight…and I wished I hadn’t thought of that particular expression. I heaved with all my might, and the body turned enough to reveal the slack jaw and sightless eyes of Jordan Reese.

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