The Mystery of Dogwood Cross
CHAPTER
24
Unexpected Conversations
This is how well I slept that night:
Tripped over air on the way to the bathroom, put a little dent in the wall. Which was made of stone, by the way.
Washed my hair with body wash.
Tripped over the bed and scraped my knee on what appears to have been a sock.
Poured granola into my coffee.
Didn’t realize until a chunk tried to choke me.
“You could just stay here, today,” Mom said, concerned, as she pulled her purse onto her shoulder. “I mean, it might be safer to just sit on the floor and crawl around if you need anything. Walking seems a bit too much for you today.”
I scowled a lot. “I’m going with you.”
She watched dubiously as I pulled on my camera bag. When I didn’t strangle myself, she nodded slowly. “Okay, you may come.”
At the Fontaine cottage, Mom set up in the kitchen and I went to find Rhys.
I didn’t trip on anything en route, thankyouverymuch.
I tapped on his door. “Rhys, it’s me.”
A minute later he appeared and glanced behind me.
“She’s in the kitchen,” I whispered. “Nadia looked into Maisie. She says it looks like she doesn’t exist at all. How’d your grandfather find her?”
He frowned deeply. “I don’t know. You could ask him.”
Um.
“Ask your grandfather?”
He nodded. “He’s sometimes lucid. He has a lot of pain, but sometimes he tongues his medicine. He’s trying hard to get better. Sometimes, I can help him walk—”
We both froze as footfalls neared. The lightness and the speed told me it was Mom. I glanced up at him again, and there, the facade was back in place.
“There you are,” Mom said. “I was starting to wonder. How are you doing today, Rhys?” she asked him.
He stared at the floor.
She led him back into the kitchen, and I ducked into the bathroom until I knew they were settled.
The last time I’d been in CTW’s bedroom, the sight had scared me. I remembered the stale scent of illness, and the horrible sound of his labored sleep from my first visit, too.
I didn’t really want to go in there.
But there I was, moments later, pushing open the door again.
This time, he wasn’t on the floor.
“Success,” I murmured, and pushed the door shut behind me.
His low snoring continued as I approached the bed. “Mr. Fontaine?” I whispered SOOOOO quietly. “Mr. Fontaine, can you hear me?”
The snoring stopped.
“Mr. Fontaine, my name is Miya. My mom is helping Rhys. He told me to come talk to you.”
The snoring resumed.
I whimpered, and then tried saying all that again, but louder.
He snored right on through it.
Oh, come on! I need an assist here!
After a moment’s hesitation, I reached out and took his hand. I guess I was expecting it to be cold and clammy, but it was warm and dry. Which was a great sign.
But then his fingers moved, pressing against mine.
The snoring stopped.
“Mr. Fontaine,” I tried again, more insistently. “Mr. Fontaine, I need you to talk to me if you can. If you can hear me, if you understand, squeeze my hand?”
No response.
And then his mouth opened. A desert-dry sound came from his throat. “Help him.”
Okay! Okay, that was huge, right? I swallowed hard and hung onto his hand. “I’m trying to help him,” I said. “Rhys told me to ask you how you got Maisie’s name for the job.”
His eyelids were still shut, but under the thin skin, I could see him struggling to open them. At length, he rasped, “Hospital. Assigned her.”
The hospital assigned her?
Well, there went all my trust in the medical system, right out the window!
“Did a doctor introduce you?”
He grunted. “No.”
“Did she find you and tell you she was assigned?”
This gave him the extra power he needed to open his eyes. He looked at me hard—at least, as hard as his weakness would let him. “Yes.”
“She’s evil,” I muttered.
He kept my gaze. “Yes.”
Okay, so I’d gotten the answer I’d come for, but it didn’t solve anything. And his exhaustion was already winning, as his eyes fluttered closed. “Mr. Fontaine? Do you know anything about caves?”
Like magic, his eyes opened again and locked on mine. “Yes. The caves—the caves are beautiful. A treasure. They’re a treasure.”
“How do I find the caves?” I asked, but I could tell he was fighting to remain awake.
“Ty’s files.”
“Ty’s files?” I thought hard about any files I might’ve seen. Rhys was living in an office—files belonged in an office, right? Maybe he knew where to look. He definitely would be able to look with raising less suspicion than I would. I was about to ask for more specifics, but a loud snore from CTW made me jump.
I let the man sleep and returned to the living room., where I proceeded to be restless and tired. Over the low tones of Mom talking to Rhys, I heard a car outside. I popped up from where I lay on the sofa, and watched Maisie’s SUV drive off. A moment later, Daniel’s truck followed it out the main road, toward the gatehouse and beyond.
Daniel.
Yeah, I was so going to be avoiding him for like, EVER, at this point.
I did NOT want him to be evil.
I did NOT want him to be responsible for hurting anyone.
But he was gone now. So was Maisie.
Maisie.
The only person who knew what Maisie was up to.
The only person who might have the evidence Rhys needed.
I grabbed my bag and bulleted to the kitchen. “Feeling better, going out, be back soon!” I said, and blew Mom a kiss. Rhys and I exchanged the briefest look, and then I was out the door.
I walked around the back of the cottage, as if I was going to take the path to the beach, but instead, cut a path through the low brush over to Maisie’s little house. A debate raged within me: “Is it breaking and entering when the victim is actually the villain?”
And then I decided I was a minor, and I had a squeaky-clean record, and a judge would go easy on me.
Besides, if a cop caught me, it would mean there were cops on the island, and that would be a GREAT thing.
I neared the cottage, and the sound of wind chimes sent chills down my spine. I slowed as I approached a window, and then I drew to a full stop and stared inside.
Maisie was there.
She sat at a computer desk, her back to me. On the flat-panel monitor, a RealTalk session was in progress.
Someone had driven Maisie’s car away.
Henri, of course.
But bigger than that, Maisie had Internet access.
I ducked under the window, my heart racing.

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