The Mystery of Dogwood Cross
CHAPTER
28
Spelunking for Real
With my virtual shovel, I dug into Ty’s computer.
In ARCHIVES > HISTORICAL > GEOLOGICAL, I found loads of words that I didn’t recognize, like “littoral” and “karst.” But then I found a few that I did: “sinkhole” and “erosion” and “pirate.” I scanned a few documents quickly, picking up the basics as I skimmed for—and began seeing—the word “cave.”
In short: the pirates of the late 1600s and early 1700s used the naturally eroding cliffs along one edge of the island as hiding places for both their bounty and themselves. I began wondering if Maisie and her crew were searching for pirate treasure. Images of chests overflowing with gold and jewels flooded my mind, but quickly dissolved when I read the following sentence:
While hunting Edward Teach, the pirate known as Blackbeard, the Royal Navy descended upon the trophy-rooms. As they worked to reclaim the treasure for the Crown, they discovered the caves held value the pirates overlooked: the walls were made of a rare alabaster.
There was more about mining, but I closed that document and began digging more.
The only other thing of obvious value I found was a stash of maps.
Yes, maps.
Most of them didn’t look like they had much to do with caves, but one stood out. In its far left corner, where the ocean took up a big space, the words ALABASTER SYSTEMS OF THE ISLAND OF DOGWOOD CROSS had been hand lettered.
It took some Thinking, but I was able to match the cave systems to the current island. They extended from an area near the stone pier, all the way to the tip of the island where the mansion stood, with a point going inland. I guessed that point ran to the pavilion.
I wanted a copy or six of that email from Ty, and a copy of the Alabaster Systems map. The drivers to Mom’s printer weren’t installed on Ty’s computer, of course, so I dug out a thumb drive from my computer bag and copied it over. But I had seen enough movies to know ONE copy wasn’t good enough. I carefully snapped pictures on my phone, making sure every word was visible. And finally, I took pictures with my good camera. I copied the maps to the hard drive, too, and took a few minutes to print copies of each.
I still had a few hours of daylight left, and I needed to get down to the pavilion to see if I could get in. I wanted to have as much as possible to give Mom when she got home.
In my sixteen years, I had devoured enough mystery novels to develop a plan. You know, just in case I was in my own mystery someday.
I knew exactly where to stash Ty’s laptop.
I shoved it into my computer bag and zipped it up tight, and then took it into the laundry room. I loaded it into the dryer and reached wayyyyy back behind the stacked system and unplugged it.
Then, back in the kitchen, I wrote Mom a note.
Mom, stuff is weird here and we HAVE to talk. I’m kinda freaked. I have to check on things. I’ll be back ASAP. I love you SO SO SO much!
I stashed a folded copy of the email under Mom’s tablet. Then, with my camera bag, a flashlight, the map, and my phone, I set out to the pavilion.
Precipitation hung in the warm air, and my skin responded with a cold sweat of its own. I made my way through the labyrinth as quickly as I could, praying that the storm would hold off until I was back at the gatehouse. I paused before emerging and peeked around the final hedge, just to be sure the area was clear.
Even though I saw no one, I booked it across the lawn, to the pavilion door I’d last used. It was still unlocked, and I counted that no small miracle. Inside, I checked out the stairwell I’d used to go up to the widow’s walk, and then found the small service elevator, which had definitely been retrofitted into the pavilion’s original framework. A staircase opposed it, and even though I’m totally a “take the elevator” kind of girl, this time, I opted for the stairs. I figured it would be a little less obvious, in case anyone was hanging out down in the basement.
As quietly as possible I descended, stopping only to withdraw my camera from its bag. A few steps from the bottom, I pulled off the lens cap and readied myself to take photos—or run, whichever proved necessary.
The basement was dark, save for a few ghost lights that had been left on, and surprisingly dry. It certainly didn’t look like anyone was lurking around.
Well, anyone other than me.
I was totally lurking right now.
I flipped on my flashlight and headed towards the farthest wall, where I began to scan behind the shelves. I hadn’t been able to tell from Ty’s photos, but the shelves were all independent from the walls and mounted on wheels, so they could be moved without much trouble. I looked past the stored plastic bins, and soon enough, I came across the poorly hidden door. A few photos of my own later, I shoved my flashlight into my back pocket and then began rolling the shelf out, like a door in front of the door.
It moved easily enough, but even with it out of the way, I was stuck.
The door had no knob, no handle. No way to open it.
I began pressing along the edge, hoping it had a pressure release like some cabinet or pantry doors, but other than a bit of movement, no luck. I tried digging my nails in and getting enough grip to be able to move it. Still nothing. The hinges showed no bolt, so it was definitely supposed to push in, not pull.
I needed a crowbar or something. I stepped back and aimed my light at the storage bins, and found them neatly labeled.
I LOVE PEOPLE WHO LABEL THINGS.
I began scanning the lovely labels: Linen Napkins; Linen Tablecloths; Table Skirts. Nope, nope, nope. Chafing Fuel Cells, Lighters, Matches. Could be helpful eventually, but not what I needed now. I kept on until I found Serving Utensils, Tongs, Ladles, Spatulas.
Bingo.
I tugged the top off of that bin and moments later, wielded a stainless steel spatula. I slipped it through the crack in the door, and soon enough, I was able to pry the door open.
“Good spatula. You are the very best spatula in the world,” I told it, with great sincerity. I returned it to its home and reached for the lid, but froze.
Footsteps above me.
So faint that I second-guessed myself. I listened harder, but then the sound of the elevator motor engaging made me move.
I pressed the lid on quickly and looked around for a place to hide—but with the shelves creating open, airy aisles, and I would be totally conspicuous if they cut on the light.
The only place I could go was in.
My heart pounding, I shut off my flashlight, stepped through the threshold, and pulled the shelf back into place. Then the door after it.
Darkness enveloped me, and the cold dampness of the cave filled my lungs. I prayed that my allergy medicine would hold out against whatever was inevitably growing down here. Every instinct screamed for me to stand still. But I knew that wasn’t an option. So I turned on my flashlight and ran.
Create an account

Use this art for a:

Longform Book (multi-chapter)

Picture Book (multi-page)

Poem (single image)

Create an account to get started. It’s free!

Sign up

or sign in with email below