Not long after Abigail O'Malley helped solve the Moorehead kidnapping case, a problem she'd had all her life took a definite turn for the worse. It was a personal and very secret problem that she'd never shared with anyone, not even Paige Borden, who was her best and closest friend. So embarrassingly personal, in fact, that she had never allowed herself to believe that it actually existed, at least not for sure.
Abby was twelve and a half years old when the kidnapping occurred, and in the seven years since her mother, Dorcas O'Malley, had become a private investigator, Abby had never gotten involved in any of her cases. At least not on purpose. And she had no plans to do so in the future. She had, in fact, made her feelings on the subject quite clear in an essay she'd written only a few days before Dorcas started work on the Moorehead case.
The essay was for Ms. Eldridge's seventh-grade language arts class, its title was to be "My Future Career," and it was supposed to be at least two pages long. Most of the class groaned when Ms. Eldridge gave the assignment. "Two whole pages on what you're planning to be someday? What if you haven't made up your mind?" Paige whispered.
"I thought you had," Abby whispered back, grinning. "You know. About being a movie star or a fortune-teller?"
"Don't laugh." Paige frowned. "I meant it."
Abby made her nod say "I know you did" and went back to her own list of career choices. Once she'd started, she found it wasn't so difficult after all. For one thing, she'd always been a list maker, so coming up with one of future careers was an interesting challenge. There were, she discovered, quite a few things she might want to do as an adult. But nowhere in the list was there one word about being a private investigator.
Abby's essay was going to say that her first and most important goal was to be a gold medalist in the Winter Olympics. After that, a career as either a ski instructor or a lawyer, like her father. Along with getting married and raising a big normal family (important word underlined). No mention of detective work.
The career choices were fairly recent, but the family thing Abby had always planned on, especially the normal part. Over the years she had changed her mind several times about future careers, starting with cowgirl when she was in kindergarten, and librarian when she began to love reading and was under the mistaken impression that all librarians had to do was sit around reading all day.
But being a private investigator had never been one of her choices. Not ever, in spite of the fact that she was the daughter of Dorcas O'Malley, who, according to Tree, was one of the best detectives in California. Or at least in northern California, where there were fewer crimes but the ones that did happen tended to be more original. That was what Tree said anyway, but then, Tree (short for Teresa Torrelli) was Dorcas's employee, and under the circumstances she'd probably felt it was the tactful thing to say.
But Abby had her own ideas about the O'Malley Detective Agency--ideas that were based on a lot more inside information. After all, Tree had been working for the agency only a couple of years, but it had been a big part of Abby's life ever since she started kindergarten. Which coincidentally was the same year her father had moved to Los Angeles and her parents got a divorce.
Before Abby's father, Martin O'Malley, moved away, the whole family, Abby and Dorcas and Martin, had lived in a great house in the Marina. But after the divorce they had to sell the house Abby had lived in since she was a baby so that Martin could pay for his apartment in Los Angeles and Dorcas could start the agency. Someone else owned the Marina house now, but Abby could still draw accurate floor plans of every room. And she still liked to look at it as they drove by and try to remember what living there had been like. Not that driving by happened all that often anymore. Not since Dorcas decided that mourning over a house wasn't a normal thing to do. Perhaps not, but to Abby's way of thinking, she'd lost a lot of other normal things right about then, and if drawing pictures of a normal house helped, she didn't see what was wrong with doing it.
After the divorce the O'Malley Detective Agency had set up shop in the two front rooms of a small shabby Victorian, and Dorcas and Abby moved into what was left over. Abby hadn't been quite six years old at the time, but she wasn't likely to forget how she'd had to practically live at Mrs. Watson's Day Care Center because of Dorcas's strange work hours. And how Dorcas had to worry all the time, not only about not getting enough clients, but also about things such as termites and leaky plumbing and unpaid bills. And Abby had to go without all kinds of things that most of the girls at her school got from their parents without even asking.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The Magic Nation Thing by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Copyright © 2005 by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.