Saturday, April 14
“It says to what?” Hannah asked, looking at the row of bushes near the wall of the lodge.
“Find the keypad and you’re almost done, the code is 2-7-2-4-1,” Mack read aloud for the second time.
Sari went to the front corner of the lodge and was looking at a large boulder. “I think I found it,” she said, and she started pressing the top of the rock. The other girls watched with confusion. Finally, Sari hit the right spot, and a keypad rose out of the top of the boulder. “Tell me the code again!”
Hannah, Mack, and Brie walked over and looked at the keypad. “2-7-2-4-1,” Mack repeated. Sari carefully typed it in and without warning, a strip of land with bushes on it slid soundlessly to the side. And just like the rock wasn’t a real rock, the wall wasn’t a wall, a hidden garage door rolled up and they were looking into a small parking garage.
Straight ahead, on the wall, was a large hand-drawn arrow pointing up and to the right.
“We’re sure this lady isn’t insane? Because this would be a pretty sweet way to lure victims,” Brie said, holding her arms out to the side to stop the other girls from walking forward.
Mack laughed, a little nervously, “no she’s a teacher in my school. She’s not crazy.”
They walked into the garage and up the stairs the arrow directed them to. At the top was what looked like the front door to a house. It was painted red and had a bronze door knocker.
“Here goes nothin’,” Hannah said and she knocked.
Ann answered the door wearing an apron. “Come in! Welcome to my home!”
The girls looked at each other and then, one by one, entered the apartment. It smelled good. Hank was sitting at the kitchen island, eating cookies and smiling.
“But…what?” Mack was confused. What was this place?
“You live here?” Sari asked, sitting on a stool next to Hank and taking a cookie.
“I do! I actually,” Ann looked tentatively at Hank who nodded. “I own the lodge. I inherited it from my grandfather. I was pretending to be a guest to see how it was all going. I haven’t been back since the change in staff and the renovations.”
“But, you live here?” Hannah asked.
“Well, not all of the time. But I had this end turned into an apartment for me so I could spend a good deal of time here. What do you think?”
The girls looked around. It was similar to the suite they were staying in with their moms, but nicer. Their suite felt like a lodge, this apartment looked like a Pottery Barn catalogue.
“I have snacks, chips, crackers, dip, soda in the fridge, and cookies.” Ann waved her arms around. “How was the treasure hunt?”
“It was awesome,” Brie said. “Like, really awesome. I’m also glad you’re not going to kidnap us or anything.”
Ann busied herself with things in the refrigerator.
“Tell me all the places you went!” Hank said, taking more cookies.
The girls all sat and started snacking, taking turns telling Hank all the places inside and outside of the lodge they’d been. It took them several hours to get through all of the clues.
“So, do we get an actual treasure?” Hannah asked.
“Hannah!” Sari whispered, worried she’d offended Ann.
“Of course you get a treasure, I wouldn’t have made you work this hard for chips and dip!” Ann walked to the table that sat in front of her couch. She took four envelopes and handed one to each girl.
“We have to open them at the same time!” Hannah said.
“1, 2, 3!” Mack said, and they tore open the envelopes.
“A free week?!” Brie squealed.
“And a coupon for a free service with Sharice?!” Sari asked, her voice higher than normal.
“Yes! I want you to come back with your families this summer. You can stay for a week if you’re able.”
“It’s a really fun place in the summer,” Hank added. “You can fish, water ski, take out a boat or pontoon, or canoe, and it’s packed with people and kids. You’ll love it!”
“We should come here every year you guys!” Mack stared at the coupon. This could be their place. Just like their moms had Girls Weekends and places they returned to year after year, this could be theirs. Hannah, Brie, Sari, and hers.
“I hope you will,” Ann said.
Anna woke up in a cold sweat. She sat up in bed and looked around, panicked. The nightmare was so vivid. To be sure it was a dream, she leapt out of bed and ran downstairs, nearly stepping on Gladys where she was splayed out on the carpet. She opened the bedroom door off of the kitchen. When she saw it was empty she let out a long and haggard breath. She backed up and fell into one of the stools at the kitchen island.
She dreamt that she was watching a press conference. The police were discussing a kidnapping. The one she’d been planning in real life until everything changed this weekend. And they knew it was her. They knew she was the one who took Mack.
Her heart was thudding in her chest and her skin was still slick with sweat. She stood, shakily, and poured herself a glass of cold water. She slumped back into the chair. The dream was so real. And in it she felt alone and cold. Like she’d felt for much of her life to this point. She didn’t like it. In the few days she’d been home, at the lodge, her life had felt full and warm and good. She never wanted to feel cold and alone again.
She made a decision then. Before everyone left for home on Sunday, she would have to confront Scout. It was time to tell the truth, after all. Anna couldn’t move forward in this new life unless she put an end to the hard and uncomfortable parts of her old life.
After her heart returned to its normal beat, Anna got up and slowly walked back upstairs to her bedroom. Her phone was charging on the nightstand next to her bed. She picked it up and opened a new text message.
Ann Jones: Scout, any chance you can stop by quick before you leave the lodge tomorrow (Sun)?
She pushed send before she had the chance to chicken out. She let out a long breath and got back into bed. She felt nervous but also relief. Finally, she could stop hating Scout for what she’d done to her so many years ago. Anna knew Scout was a good person, she’d changed.
Anna shut her eyes and pulled the covers up to her chin. She was startled when her phone chirped. She grabbed for her phone and squinted at the screen.
Scout O’Leary: Yep, I want to thank you again. 10am?
Anna’s stomach filled with butterflies. This was it. Finally.
Ann Jones: Perfect!