A human bone lies in the dust. Someone is digging in the sacred Ojibway burial grounds. Eighteen-year-old Jenny Sinclair discovers there is a mystery brewing on Mackinac Island, hidden from the horde of tourists enjoying its pristine beauty and antiquated charms. Delighted for a summer away from her new stepmother, Jenny finds herself drawn to a bitter young man who may well be part of the danger! When they stumble upon a gold coin in the forest, part of an ancient Ojibway chieftain's treasure, Jenny finds her life is at risk, with no help in sight but her suspicious, if handsome, newfound acquaintaince!
1 JENNY’S ESCAPE
A huge white catamaran packed with tourists pulled away from the Mackinaw City pier and headed towards Mackinac Island. To the left of the boat stood the Mackinac Bridge, its impressive span linking the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan together above the waters of the Straits of Mackinac.
Jenny Sinclair and Lynn Edwards leaned on the deck rail. Jenny was thin and blonde, while Lynn had long dark hair and brown eyes. Both 18, they had recently graduated from Eagleton High School. A box Jenny was holding fell, landing at her feet. But tears were flooding her eyes, and she didn’t reach for it.
Lynn cupped her hands and yelled, “Mark, Mark. Tell Mom and Dad I’ll call.”
Jenny, however, was silent. She stared at a pair of figures standing on the pier before waving her hand in a limp salute. Then Jenny dipped her head and wiped her eyes, turning to her friend with a determined smile.
“Lynn, do you know what a ‘fudgie’ is?”
“No. But why am I getting a picture of a little piece of fudge with arms and legs?”
“My uncle says the Islanders call tourists that because they eat so much fudge.”
“Well, if we act like tourists every day for the three months we’re on the Island, we’ll be waddling fudgie blobs,” Lynn retorted, “especially me.”
Eating too much fudge, however, was last on the list of Jenny’s troubles. Her biggest concern was the loud, gum-smacking blonde who snuggled next to Jenny’s father on the pier.
“Beatrice, what an ugly name!” she said, her face clouding again.
“But she bought you a present,” Lynn said, reaching down for the box on the deck at Jenny’s feet.
“Who cares?” Jenny retorted, sniffing. “I’ll hate it anyway.”
Lynn carefully opened the box.
“Look, Jenny,” she cried. “It’s a navy sweatshirt, a good color for you. And it says ‘Mackinac Island’ on it.”
“Then you take it,” Jenny replied shortly. “I don’t want it.”
“Well, look on the bright side. You’re on summer vacation now, far away from parent problems.”
“I am happy we’re out of Eagleton,” Jenny said. “Or we’d be spending this summer like last, serving root beer and hot dogs at Sam’s. It would be just us and the hot dogs and the mosquitoes.”
“Plus the fact that Eagleton’s chief summer recreation is watching the corn grow,” Lynn chipped in.
“Boring, boring,” Jenny agreed. “But instead here we are, hurtling over the water in this beautiful boat, headed towards a magical tourist-mecca island.”
“The best part being that your uncle got us jobs on this beautiful boat,” Lynn said, “so we don’t have to sweat in some steamy fudge shop or serve lunch in a crowded cafe to grouchy tourists.”
“Yeah,” Jenny said, “too much like Sam’s.”
“Speaking of which,” Lynn said, “aren’t we supposed to pick up our uniforms on the way over? It’s Saturday today. But we have to start work Tuesday morning at 7:00 a.m. sharp.”
“You’re right. Let’s find someone in a Lake Transit uniform,” Jenny said, scanning the crowd.
Towards the center of the boat, near the cabin, Jenny saw a young man writing in a log book. And he was wearing a Lake Transit uniform.
“There’s one. Come on, Lynn,” she said, grabbing her friend’s hand and pushing her way somewhat unceremoniously through the crowd on the deck. They halted directly in front of him.
“Excuse me. We’re new employees of Lake Transit. Can we get our uniforms?”
The young man, who had curly cropped dark hair, didn’t raise his eyes from the log book for a few seconds and, when he did, he scanned Jenny’s face coldly with dark, piercing eyes.
“Names?” he asked abruptly.
“Jenny Sinclair and Lynn Edwards.”
He disappeared into the cabin and returned a few moments later with two plastic bags, each containing a shirt and a name label, which he thrust toward them.
“You have luggage on board?”
“Yes,” Jenny said. “We …”
“Tell Brad up there where you’re staying,” he said, jerking his thumb towards a young man in front of the cabin. “He’ll have your luggage sent there.”
The girls made the arrangements with Brad and returned to their places by the deck railing.
“Wow. Real friendly guy,” Jenny said.
“That Brad was nice, though,” Lynn observed. “Oops. Looks like we’re almost there. Let’s get our bikes and off the boat we go.”
The girls went below and stood by their bikes as the shining white boat pulled up to the pier, its upper and lower decks churning with people who pushed toward the exit, impatiently awaiting the lowering of the landing plank.
Once on the pier in the brilliant sunshine, Lynn exclaimed, “Look, Jenny, isn’t that your uncle?”
Jenny squinted her eyes. Sure enough, Uncle Fred stood by the shore, gazing at the people swarming off the boat.
“He’s looking for us, Lynn. Uncle Fred, over here, over here.”
Jenny pushed her bike towards shore, Lynn trailing, then set it down, giving her uncle a quick hug.
“I’ve been looking for you two,” Uncle Fred said, grinning. “How was your first trip across?”
“Marvelous,” Jenny said.
“Watery,” Lynn added.
“Well, now you’re stuck, you know. Three months on the Island, constantly taking tourists back and forth in a boat.”
“Beats Eagleton. Anything beats Eagleton,” Jenny said with a grimace.
Uncle Fred gave Jenny a warm, understanding look. Jenny felt close to her mother’s bachelor brother. And now he was her last link to Mom. Her mother always said Jenny and Fred looked alike. Both had fine, silky blonde hair and piercing blue eyes ever so slightly crossed so that people who talked to them felt they were being looked at and through at the same time.
Her uncle had a room on Mackinac Island in the summer and came up whenever he could get away, and it was he who had found Jenny and Lynn their jobs.
Uncle Fred’s face turned serious.
“I had hoped to spend some time with you girls and show you around Mackinac. But, unfortunately, I have urgent business in Chicago that might keep me there for a month or more.”
“You’re kidding,” Jenny said, her smile fading.
“Wish I was,” her uncle said, lightly touching Jenny’s chin. “In fact, I’m leaving here tonight for Chicago. But there have been some problems on the Island this summer I think you should know about. I know you’re not unpacked and are probably beat. But do you think you could talk to your old uncle for awhile before he leaves?”
“Sure we can. Right, Lynn?”
Lynn, perspiring from the sun, deftly pulled her thick, dark hair off her shoulders and wound it securely with a hair tie.
“Sure. But you said ‘problems’. What problems?”
“I’ll tell you more when we’re in my room, Lynn.”
Jenny was silent on their way to Uncle Fred’s boarding house, while Lynn asked him questions about the Island and their job. Her uncle had hinted in his last letter about some “strange happenings” on the Island. And after the girls settled into comfortable armchairs in Uncle Fred’s room, they asked him exactly what he meant.
“I wanted to warn you about some problems on the Island this summer which most tourists are blissfully unaware of.” Uncle Fred’s face grew solemn. “A 5-year-old girl picked up an upper arm bone of a human skeleton while playing in the woods near the center of the Island last month. When the bone was found to be over 200 years old, it started a furor. The information was published in the Island newspaper, and it incensed the Ojibway Tribal Council, who claimed the bone was from an ancient Ojibway cemetery that wasn’t receiving sufficient protection from the public. Mackinac Island, you see, has a rich Native American heritage. Many places on it are considered sacred by the Ojibways, and the Tribal Council feels these spots are not being properly preserved.”
“I think I see what you’re getting at,” Lynn broke in. “I read a book on Mackinac Island before I came here. Fort Mackinac, part of the white man’s heritage, is kept spotless and has guided tours, along with the historical houses in town. But I didn’t read much about the Native American landmarks.”
“Precisely,” Uncle Fred said. “Yet the Ojibways lived on the Island years before any white man set foot on it. They even named it. ‘Mackinac’ is short for ‘Michilimackinac,’ which means ‘great turtle.’”
“It is shaped like a turtle, at least its hump-backed shell,” Jenny said. “We saw that on the boat coming over.”
“The trouble is,” Uncle Fred continued, “since the discovery of that bone in May, bicycles have been stolen and found smashed in the woods, rocks have been thrown at tourists through the trees and strange nighttime noises are disturbing residents who live in houses in or bordering the Island’s wooded areas. A few townspeople openly blame the Native Americans, who angrily deny it. Anyway, the situation is heating up, and I think you girls should be aware of it.”
“I hope they leave our bikes alone,” Jenny said. “Maybe we should lock them up on the bike racks in back of our boarding house.”
“That’s a good idea. But you probably don’t have too much to worry about. Most of the vandalism has occurred outside of town or at houses in secluded spots on the Island. Whoever is doing this doesn’t want to be detected.”
“And we won’t be hanging around the woods anyway. We’ll be working and having fun,” Lynn said.
“Right,” Jenny added absently, mulling over Uncle Fred’s words.
Suddenly the Island took on a darker hue away from the sunshine and fudge. Jenny shook her head as if to shake the gloomy thoughts away. After all, she reasoned, this has nothing to do with us.
“Say,” Uncle Fred said, “aren’t two of your friends from school here too?”
“Yeah, Jason and Todd,” Jenny said.
“They’ve been here a week,” Lynn added, “working at the Grand Hotel.”
“Well, I’m sure you will have a wonderful summer. And with any luck I’ll see you in a month or a month and a half at the most. Give my love to your dad and Beatrice, Jenny.”
“I will,” Jenny responded dutifully. “Take care, Uncle Fred, and thanks again.”
Jenny and Lynn found their boarding house, which was close to Uncle Fred’s, and began to unpack. Jenny walked over to the window, pushed it open and leaned out. A cool lake breeze rippled through her hair and filled the room with its fresh fragrance.
“I love that air,” she said, “no pollution.”
“Don’t lean out so far, Jenny. You’ll fall.”
Lynn pulled the sweatshirt out of the box and held it up.
“What about this sweatshirt Beatrice gave you? Can I wear it?”
The muscles in Jenny’s face tightened.
“Keep it, please. Only keep it away from me,” she murmured.
“You know, Jenny, you should give Beatrice a break,” Lynn said. “They’re just newlyweds. Your dad had his arm around her on the dock.”
“I don’t know what he sees in her, that cheap blonde,” Jenny cut in harshly. “And I don’t want to talk about them. Okay? You know it makes me depressed.”
“But, Jenny,” Lynn coaxed, “your dad looks happier than he’s been since …”
“I know, since my mom …” Jenny started, then stopped, choking back tears “… died,” she finally whispered. “But my mom was so … classy, you know. How could he replace her with … that? Do you know what he said when I asked him why he was marrying Beatrice? ‘She makes me laugh.’” Jenny snorted. “Now that’s a stupid reason to marry someone.”
“Enough of your stepmother hang-ups,” Lynn said, putting the sweatshirt in a drawer. “We should go to bed, especially if you want to go to the 9:00 o’clock service tomorrow at St. Ann’s, that church you were reading about.”
But sleep was eluding Jenny. It was past midnight as Jenny lay in bed, her mind swirling down familiar paths. “I miss you, Mom,” she murmured, tears welling in her eyes. “I wish you were here. My home is gone, ‘cause living with Beatrice and Dad would be impossible. And I feel so alone.”
Then she sighed, and her face softened. Dad did need to be happy again, like Lynn said. But why do I feel that the only way I can help is by removing my hostile self from his new married life?
Creeping out of bed so as not to wake the gently snoring Lynn, Jenny parted the curtains and leaned out the window again. The streets were silent. And Jenny could see the vast lake sparkling in the moonlight beyond the rooftops, kissed by a breeze as cool and gentle as the night itself. No wonder the Native Americans thought this Island was special. But who was smashing the bikes and throwing the rocks?