Saturday, April 14
Mack opened her eyes and quickly scrunched them shut again. The room was filled with bright light. She felt the warmth of the sun on her face and smiled. Before this blizzard hit, Minnesota was finally feeling like spring. And while the past couple of days had been pretty, she was ready for sun, and warmth, and flip flops. When her eyes adjusted under her closed lids, Mack opened them again. She could see drips falling – the snow was already melting.
She got out of bed and went to the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth. She knew, now, that the other girls were later sleepers than she was. Mack liked a little alone time in the mornings. She got dressed and decided to go back to the restaurant to get breakfast. She might run into Ms. Jones again, which would be fun, but if not she could eat breakfast by the windows and look for bears. It would be so cool to see those baby bears again.
She could smell the bacon the minute she got into the hall. Her stomach growled in response and she quickly made her way to the restaurant. She could get used to living in this place and charging everything to the room.
Mack smiled a hello to the older woman setting hot pans of food onto the buffet and she grabbed a plate. Eggs, bacon, and berries. Perfect!
“Can I get you something to drink honey?”
“Do you have hot chocolate with whip cream?” Mack asked, hopefully.
“Of course, I’ll make it and bring it out to you.”
Mack took a table by the windows. The sun had warmed the chair and she leaned into the back of it, letting the warmth radiate into her body. When her hot chocolate came, she took it in both hands and shut her eyes. This was turning into a really good weekend. She never would have expected to have this much fun and to like the other girls so much.
Last night, they watched Footloose (their moms’ choice) and The Greatest Showman (the girls’ choice). In the basement of the lodge, on the north side of the large game room, there was an actual movie theater. The screen wasn’t quite the size of a real theater, but it was huge! They had popcorn and candy, just like you would at a normal movie, and they were up way later than usual.
Ms. Jones came too. She told them all to call her Ann. Which was weird at first, because you never get to call your teachers by their first names. But probably it was weird for her, Ann, to be called Ms. Jones when everyone else was friends.
Mack leaned closer to the window and saw that the snow was actually melting. She couldn’t see grass yet, too much had fallen over the past two days, but probably by Monday it would be like the snowstorm never happened. She smiled, wondering if she would even need a jacket to walk to the bus Monday morning.
“I believe this is for you?” The woman who worked in the kitchen, Mack could now see a nametag that said Sandy, handed her a thick creamy white envelope. On the front was her name, written in fancy script writing.
Sandy winked at Mack and went back to the kitchen. Mack tore open the top of the envelope and found an equally thick creamy note card with pink and blue edging.
Mack’s eyes grew wide. Ms. Jones, or Ann as she wanted to be called, knew Mack loved mysteries. They even talked about books last night, the girls were comparing the books they loved to read, and mysteries were something that all four girls loved. They also talked about the plans the moms had to shop today and how the girls were less interested in joining them than they were to just hang around the lodge. Mack looked at her phone, it was almost 10am. The other girls should be waking up soon.
She stuffed bacon in her mouth, ate her eggs and berries in five bites, and took her hot chocolate to go.
“I’m just not sure Hank, and the other staff, will be super excited to have four twelve-year-olds running around wild.” Grace said, sliding her jacket on.
“Mom,” Sari said, “we aren’t animals. We know how to behave.”
“Listen, let us talk to Hank and then we’ll make a decision.” Myra said. “Stay here and we’ll let you know.”
The girls looked at each other, already tasting the defeat. They were so close to an adventure but they knew there was no way the adults would let them run around the lodge looking for treasure all day.
“Oh goodness, it’s fine. There are no guests other than you and a young woman down the hall. Let them know to ask me if they get stuck on a clue!” Hank smiled and the moms looked at one another.
They wanted nothing more than to head out for a few hours to shop. This afforded them that time. And they knew their daughters were good girls, they didn’t expect them to misbehave, but it felt a little off leaving them alone.
“They will call if they need us,” Scout said, more to convince herself than the others.
Finally, they agreed to let them stay. Grace ran down to tell the girls while Hank pulled their car up from the garage. They told the girls they’d be back by 3pm at the latest. Then they drove to town to shop.
The girls were waiting for Sharice when she unlocked the salon that morning.
“Are you back for more?” she asked, opening the door.
“Nope, we’re on a treasure hunt,” said Sari.
“A treasure hunt? Now that is fun!” As Sharice turned the lights on, they all saw a creamy white envelope on the floor, as if someone slid it under the door. “I assume this is what you’re looking for?” She picked it up and handed it to Mack who immediately tore it open. Inside was another clue.
“Downstairs!” Brie yelled, as she looked over Mack’s shoulder at the note.
They shuffled out of the salon and into the restaurant, and quickly made their way down the stairs.
As they did the first night, the lights came on as soon as they got to the bottom of the stairs.
“This is a big room,” Hannah said.
“With a lot of games,” Sari continued. “Let’s spread out so we can find it faster.”
They all walked to different parts of the room.
“Remember when we thought this place seemed haunted and creepy?” Hannah called from a far corner by three dart boards. The other girls looked up from their search and she pointed. A note was stuck to one of the dart boards with a dart.
It was the first time in this short-lived treasure hunt that things seemed a little scary. And the girls loved it.
Hannah took the note down and read it again. She then passed it over to Mack, who read it and passed it to Sari, who passed it to Brie.
“The sculpted swan? What is that?” Brie asked.
Mack, Hannah, and Sari shook their heads.
Sari took the note back and read it out loud, slowly. She looked up and said “I need a snack, let’s go upstairs and think about it.”
The girls walked back up to the restaurant and filled large cups full of soda and took snacks from the buffet. They sat at a table by the windows and looked out. The day was still sunny and the snow was melting.
Each of them was thinking about what the clue could mean. Mack was looking around outside. Maybe this sculpted swan wasn’t inside the lodge, but outside. Then she stood up, suddenly.
“What’s that over there, do you see it?”
The other girls stood and tried to see what she was pointing at.
“We have to go outside,” Mack said. She walked to one of the doors that went out to the patio. She looked behind her and didn’t see any hotel staff. She turned back to the door and unlocked it.
There was a green awning that protected the ground right outside the door from snow. The girls took a few steps and Mack pointed to the south end of the lodge. There appeared to be a small sculpture garden there. A butterfly, a bear, a deer, and the very furthest one was a swan.
“Oh my gosh! How did you even see those?” Hannah asked.
“We’re going to need our boots,” Mack said, and she turned to walk back inside. “And jackets. We might be outside awhile.”
It’s time to vote which way this story will go next! Voting will be open until 5pm (CST) on Friday, May 8. A new chapter will drop on Monday, May 11!