The Mystery of Dogwood Cross
The Unsent
It should’ve been daylight, but as I plugged Rhys’s dad’s laptop into the newly found power strip, I realized clouds had completely covered the sky, making everything dark and horrible. Even though it was still in the 80s outside, I fought off a chill with a shudder, and I went to make a cup of coffee while the computer charged.
A thought struck me: when I’d been away from my computer for more than a few weeks—once when we’d gone cross-country camping, and one other time when I’d been at arts camp for a month—I’d found that the battery had drained, even though it had been closed and sitting, without use.
We had been at Dogwood Cross for a full three weeks, but the laptop still had enough juice for me to at least try to log in.
Had it been plugged into its place at Ty’s desk until after we were here? When did it get thrown into the bathroom pile o’ junk?
I should ask Mom if she’d seen it when she’d been in the offices. As I headed back upstairs to the computer, I tried to draft what I’d say to her when she returned.
“Mom, Rhys is faking it and is mostly okay, I mean, physically, and Maisie is running some kind of smuggling ring out of the pavilion and some other dude you don’t know about has been living on the island WITH US and Rhys says he killed his dad and we have to do something about it right now.
There were a few ways she could take my declarations.
One: Get mad that I’d say Rhys was faking it at all, and tell me I’d been taking Northanger Abbey way too seriously, and it was time to read some nonfiction.
Two: Let me explain the whole thing in detail, and then again tell me to distance myself from Catherine Morland and her wild imaginings. So, basically, the first option, sans anger.
I settled at the computer and pressed the power button. The screen responded and went through the normal booting process and I started jotting notes, and thinking about the third option.
The third option would be Mom believing everything I said, and then…
What would we do after she knew? Go to the cops? Rhys was right—we needed evidence.
I typed in the password Rhys had given me, and hoped to find something that would incite a thorough investigation.
Ty Fontaine’s computer was like, the most neatly organized computer ever.
I wished he were around so that I could get file management lessons from him.
I wished he were around for a lot more than that, actually. Most of those reasons had to do with Rhys.
I clicked around the folders aimlessly, not knowing how to find stuff about caves. I even went up to the hard drive search function and typed in “caves.” A handful of results came up, but most of them were eBook files. As far as I knew, Ty hadn’t been an author, so he probably didn’t have any cave-related notes in eBook format.
I scrolled down the results list and—there.
An email.
Stuck in the Drafts folder.
I clicked on it.
It was marked with an exclamation point. I moused over the symbol, and a note popped up: File size too large.
Mary Ellen—
I know you’re on your vacation with your mother, but I have uncovered some unsettling things over the course of the last few days. I haven’t told my father about them yet—I know he’s having trouble with the investors and I don’t want to cause him more stress until I know things for certain. It seems as though we’ve had trespassers on the island, coming in through the southern sound.
As you know, when we completed work on the pavilion, we winterized it and closed it up tightly. I haven’t spent much time there since December, but Rhys told me azaleas were blooming, so I went to see them.
Upon my arrival, I found tire tracks that had torn up the new grass. They went from the beach straight to the pavilion. I managed to break in—the locks to the main doors had been changed, did you know about that?—and I found muddy footprints to the basement elevator.
I took the elevator down and found more prints and tracks. In the east-most wall, behind the shelving we put up for event storage, it appears a passage has been opened up. There is now a wide door covering the space. I reached through the shelves to the knob, but it was locked. The shelves will have to be moved for me to get at it, anyway.
I took these pictures with my phone, so they’re not great, but I’m about to go back out with the good camera to do some more exploration. After Rhys gets home from school, we’re going to talk to the police. Please call me as soon as possible to discuss.
I do hope your vacation is going well. Please tell your mother I said hello.
The photos attached were smartphone shots of nothing spectacular. I mean, there were no corpses or bloodstains or anything that screamed CRIME IS HAPPENING. The signs were much subtler: the torn-up grass outside the pavilion; several sets of footprints, dried in mud; and what looked like small tire tracks. I wasn’t sure what that would be from at first, and then I realized they were probably from a hand truck or dolly.
The last photos were of the shelves and the door they (poorly) hid. Big plastic bins had been moved out of the way to show the door.
A few things became clear to me: I needed to get into those caves, and I needed to get my own photos. I needed Mom to get home. I needed Rhys and his grandfather to be safe.
But worst of all, the date of Ty’s email was the same as the night of his car wreck. The night he died. He found out something shady was going on underneath his nose, and then he died.
I had to act fast.
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