The Mystery of Dogwood Cross
The Things He Saw
My feet took the pavilion steps too quickly, and I barely caught myself with the rail before tumbling. Heart pounding, I pushed through the door and found Rhys making his way towards me at a fast pace.
“We have to hurry,” he said and took my hand. I had time to register that A) it was his “good” hand, the one that hadn’t been affected by the accident, and B) that all the other physical symptoms of the palsy remained. The slackness of his mouth made his words a bit slurred, but it didn’t make him any less clear. And moving fast, as he led me down the stairs, was difficult for him, but it didn’t seem to be painful.
“Rhys,” I said, but didn’t try to stop. “What’s going on?”
“Henri,” he said, and the French name sounded dangerous. On-REE. “He’s coming, and he can’t know you were here.”
We made it to the main floor and out the doors, and he rushed us to the labyrinth. We rounded a few of the turns, and then finally he stopped short.
I caught my breath, and then looked at him good and hard. “Rhys. You’re…you…you can—”
“Talk?” he supplied, and nodded. “Yeah, I can talk. I just—I can’t talk around them.”
“Maisie and Henri?” I asked, and then followed that question up immediately with, “Who is Henri?”
“Henri is her partner in crime,” he answered bluntly. “And no, I meant Maisie and Daniel.”
“Why in the world can’t you talk around Daniel?” I asked, but it was too late. All the misgivings, all the shadows and secrets around Daniel surfaced in my head.
“Because he works for her. He’s in with her. And until yesterday, I wasn’t sure if your mom was, too, or not.”
I looked at him bug-eyed. “My mom? ‘In’ with Maisie? Are you kidding me?!?”
“Shhh!” he whispered. “Listen.”
I was about to ask what to listen for, but the rumble of a truck, like Daniel’s, but somehow more, made me frown. “Henri?” I asked Rhys.
He nodded.
“Where is he coming from?” I asked. “The only way to the pavilion is through this maze. The forest is way too dense to drive through.” There was no way anyone would be able to get a vehicle through it.
He shook his head. “The beach borders the other side of the pavilion. That van can get over the sand okay, and they need to get to the pavilion to access the caves.”
The roar grew louder until the vehicle stopped and the engine turned off. We both fell silent and heard the car door shut—just one.
I needed to know what this Henri looked like, so I began to creep along the path, toward the outlet. Rhys hissed my name, but I shot him the “one minute” finger, then peeked out from behind the last of the saw palmettos and brush.
He was nowhere to be seen, but the van….
I ducked back to where Rhys waited, scowling with the one side of his face. “That van!” I whispered. “It’s that van! That was the same moving van that came to the gatehouse in the middle of the night! We have to tell my mom, Rhys.”
“No, not yet,” he pleaded. “Not until I have the evidence I need.”
“What evidence? That he and Maisie are doing something shady? Agreed. You know what this island needs? This whole island needs a really thorough police search, if you ask me.”
Rhys’s scowl turned into a pleading look. “Miya, that man killed my dad.”
I had a trillion questions for Rhys, but I held them until we were safely away from the pavilion.
An overgrown footpath wound through the forest and I tried to figure out which of the trillion to ask first. “Okay, maybe it’s best for you to tell me the whole story from the beginning,” I said. “So that I have a fuller idea of what’s going on here.”
“I will tell you everything,” he said. “But I have to get back to Grandpa’s house right now. Maisie will be there to give us lunch. If I’m not there…well, it won’t be good. For any of us.”
I glanced at the clock on my phone. Mom’s session had been over for about 20 minutes. Rhys was right. Maisie would be getting there sooner, rather than later. “Okay, I’ll walk with you. Is she taking care of you both, really? I mean, she’s getting groceries for you, but what about the rest?”
He snorted. “She makes sure we have clean clothes and food. All the rest? I do it. I probably shouldn’t do as much as I do, but I can’t stand seeing Grandpa just lying there, collecting dust.”
I didn’t need to ask him to explain. I understood it well enough: Rhys was making sure all the real work, the cleaning and personal care was done, too. He was his grandfather’s nurse more than Maisie was. We emerged from the woods and crossed the main road. I was about to ask him to tell my mom the truth once more when her car rounded a bend and slowed in front of us.
I glanced at him, but he’d already bowed his head, gaze blank. His shoulders drooped, and he almost looked asleep. Crap. He was really, REALLY good at this!
I went around to Mom’s door. She rolled down the window. “Did he wander again?” she asked quietly.
I nodded. “He did.”
“I wasn’t gone long at all,” she said, concern filling her words. “And he just walked off.” She frowned deeply, eyes on Rhys, who still stood in the middle of the road. “I came back to tell you the air conditioning works again.”
“Oh,” I said, and nodded, as distracted by Rhys as she was, but for brand new and entirely different reasons. “That’s good.”
“How about I drive you both to your respective abodes?” she asked, trying to sound more energetic and focused.
“Yeah, sounds good,” I said. “Rhys?”
He didn’t look at me.
I got louder, kind of annoyed that I had to play this game because Mom was here. “RHYS.”
He looked up that time.
“Get in the car. Mom will drive us back to your place.”
He blinked, but soon enough, we were delivering him to the cottage. Fortunately, there was no sign of Maisie yet. I offered to walk him inside, and Mom let me. I stepped in after him and let the door close behind me. “Tomorrow, after your session, we’ll go for a walk and talk. Okay?”
“Yeah, okay,” he agreed. “And I want this over as soon as possible, too. I promise.”
I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I stepped in and gave him a quick hug. “Okay. I’ll keep the secret for like, ONE night. But I SUCK at keeping stuff from my mom. You’ve been warned.”
He smiled his great half-smile at that. “Fair enough. Thanks, Miya. Please be careful.”
It wasn’t until we were back at the gatehouse and Mom was sleeping off another migraine that I remembered the first excitement of the day: cell service from the top of the pavilion. I pulled out my phone again and scrolled to Nadia’s messages.
Message 1/10:
How is Chaz doing? I’ve been worried about him since we left.
Message 2/10:
Thank you SOOOOOOO much for letting us come out. I’ve been so worried about Rhys.
Message 3/10:
Jason says you and your mom are really nice but he thinks something is up with Maisie. I do, too.
Message 4/10:
I did some searches for her name and I came up with NOTHING. Weird, right?
Message 5/10:
I mean, who doesn’t exist on the Internet? Even my grandma has an Instagram!
Message 6/10:
Am I nuts? But srsly, who doesn’t have a single entry with their name?
Message 7/10:
This is bugging me a lot. I am signing up for
Message 8/10:
Ugh. You have to have a credit card. And be 18 to join. :-P
Message 9/10:
Asked Mom to sign up for me. Said it was for a school thing. She didn’t buy it. BLAHHHHH.
*Message 10/10: *
Let me know when you’re in town again? I SO need to talk to you!!!!!!
I needed to talk to her, too. So, so much.
I had told Rhys I wouldn’t tell Mom yet.
I hadn’t told him I wouldn’t tell Nadia.
Nadia needed to know. More than that, she deserved to know.
In fact, there was a lot I deserved to know.
I pushed up and crossed from the sofa to my camera bag and pulled out my notebook and favorite pen, and then went back into the kitchen and put some water on to fancy-press some coffee. And then I sat down and began to write.
1—DANIEL’S TRUCK RADIO. Some dude called Daniel over the radio and wanted him to hurry back, said there was only a few hours left to fix the cave. ?????? What the Fun Dip? Asked Daniel and he said the storm messed up some construction, and they called in some help to fix it. The wood in the back of his truck was to make repairs.
2—DELIVERY TRUCK. Middle of the night, one of our first nights here, That Truck pulled up and tried to get through the gate, but couldn’t. And now it’s back on the island. Did it ever leave? Asked Daniel and he said Mom was right, it was probably lost. What-EVER.

3—HORRIBLE YELLING MAISIE. On my way back from the beach, I heard Maisie tearing somebody apart, calling them stupid and stuff. Was afraid it was Daniel. Don’t think it was. His truck wasn’t there, either. Was she yelling at Mystery Man?
Something pulled me back to the first of my notes.
Over the radio, the Mystery Man had told Daniel there were only a few hours left to fix the cave. Daniel was helping him with the repairs. And today, Rhys said they had to use the beach to get to the pavilion, because the pavilion was how they accessed the caves.
I sat back, staring at my notebook.
The question wasn’t if Daniel was really involved with whatever crime Maisie was doing.
The question was, how involved was he?
And if the Mystery Man—Henri—if Henri had killed Rhys’s dad, how much danger was Mom in if she found out the truth and tried to stop them?
Note from the Author
Hey, y’all! I HONESTLY did not mean to keep you waiting! I sat down like SIX TIMES to write this, but each time I got about a hundred words down, and then I felt like I was going to pass out. Yep, I had vertigo. I’m sad to say I have a friend who’s been suffering from vertigo for years, but I’m grateful to her, because she was able to offer some advice that helped me get past it! A word of advice to you all: TURN DOWN YOUR SCREEN BRIGHTNESS. Yep! Changing my settings to “warm” helped out so, so much. Anyway, my deepest apologies, and thank you for not rioting...but thank you for liking the story enough to threaten to riot, @JesusFreak01!

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Chapter 24

Unexpected Conversations

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